Why did Chris Thomas get the chop from the Council of Ministers?

On Wednesday evening, the Isle of Man Government announced that Minister for Policy and Reform Chris Thomas had been “dismissed” from the Council of Ministers (CoMin).

The government said the issue revolves around something called collective responsibility.

Collective responsibility means that ministers have to publicly support government decisions made in CoMin. This includes voting for government motions and legislation.

They can debate and voice their opinion within CoMin.

Mr Thomas voted against the Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Town and Country Planning Procedures) Regulations 2020 on Tuesday.

He also did not vote with CoMin about border closure on 31 March.

Why does collective responsibility exist?

According to a 2014 government report on collective responsibility, it’s there “to provide certainty and cohesion to government so that the public can hold the government to account”. Essentially, to make the government’s message clear, and not cloud it by an individual’s opinions.

Collective responsibility isn’t just a Manx phenomenon, it’s in place within the UK Government’s cabinet too.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, government code says there are five: matters of conscience, a declared position, constituency matters, inconsequential matters and unresolved issues.

Ministers would need to get permission from the Chief Minister on these matters ahead of disagreeing with government publicly.

What happens now?

Well, although Mr Thomas is no longer a minister, he’s still the MHK for Douglas Central.

Chief Minister Howard Quayle will have the job of finding his replacement – no announcement on who it might be yet.

Can MHKs be sacked too?

MHKs are able to speak out against government publicly.

A few things that could see them removed from their post is getting a term in prison, being certified as incapable by a deemster, being absent without leave for three quarters of sittings in a year, bankruptcy, getting a job working in government or being elected as a commissioner.

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