After the exciting January edition of Tynwald, it’s back to Upstairs Downstairs this week as MHKs and MLCs have busy order papers.

Question Time

Starting with questions, Claire Chirstian has an urgent question on domestic abuse during lockdown. In response to this, Justice and Home Affairs Minister Graham Cregeen has written to Mrs Christian and outlined how his answer to a similar question in Tynwald last week may have provided answers she is seeking. 

He said: ‘Since the current lockdown started there have been 14 domestic incidents reported to the Police which is lower than the same time period last year. Of course these are reported incidents and there will be other incidents taking place which are not reported. My dept has established a working group consisting of the Constabulary, Public Health, and DHSC colleagues. They have also invited third/voluntary sector colleagues along to be a part of the group. The group is actively working to put measures in place to support people who may be at risk of domestic abuse. The working group coordinates a cross Government approach from all Departments who have responsibility for vulnerability, be it children or adults, to ensure they are able to offer support, especially in high risk cases.’

The Keys is then dominated by two MHKs as Chris Thomas and Jason Moorehouse tabling nine of the 11 oral questions, with only Ann Corlett getting a look in with the others. Mrs Corlett’s questions focus on the matter of homelessness during the lockdown and planning applications, whereas Mr Thomas and Mr Moorhouse look at issues surrounding land reviews, school provision, housing standards, equality on public transport, vehicle tax refunds for diggers, gas and how many occasions in 2020 local authorities, businesses and individuals were contacted about people potentially confusing their private Post Boxes for genuine Isle of Man Post ones?

Looking at the written questions, those two are at it again as only Mrs Christian’s constituency colleague Paul Quine breaks up the Thomas, Moorhouse bromance as he asks what plans the Treasury has considered for a National Insurance Holiday for businesses with a reduced turnover as a result of Covid-19?

Bills

From there, the Keys will give a first reading to the International Cooperation (Protection from Liability) Bill 2021 before the Beneficial Ownership (Amendment) Bill, Companies (Amendment) Bill and Gas Regulation (Amendment) Bill, all go through their clauses stage, giving MHKs the chance to amend the legislation. 

The beneficial ownership Bill concerns the matter of a public register of beneficial ownership of companies, which the gov has made a pledge to make public by 2023. 

The biggest change the Gas Bill makes is that the Communications Commission will be able to make regulations that set the parameters within which a public gas supplier may fix tariffs for the supply of gas by it to customers. The Commission will also be able to establish categories of customers and set bespoke parameters for each established category.

If this passes, Policy and Reform Minister Ray Harmer will also attempt to take the third reading of this Bill tomorrow, thereby completing its journey through the Keys and sending it up to LegCo.

LegCo

Upstairs, although actually also meeting virtually so they could be sitting in any room, MLCs also have a busy day as they look at the Medicines Bill, Humans Tissue & Organ Donation Bill, Statute Law Revision Bill and Council of Ministers (Amendment) Bill.

The second and fourth are arguably the most eye catching. The Human Tissue & Organ Donation, set for its second reading and consideration of clauses will introduce “opt out” organ donation laws for the island, essentially we are all on the register to donate our organs when we die, unless we specifically state we don’t want to be.

The Council of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, which will receive just its first reading before LegCo, will see a simple majority of MHKs (13) be able to remove a sitting Chief Minister as opposed to the current law which says 2/3rds (16) are required to vote in favour of a no confidence motion.

The only Chief Min not to see out a full term, so far, is Richard Corkill who resigned in December 2004. 

The much anticipated Justice Reform Bill will also receive its first reading after amendments were made in Keys.