Positive Action Group - Possan Jantys Jarrooagh

Open, accountable government, rigorous control of public finances, and a fairer society for all.

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Open and Accountable Government

Our first aim as declared within our charter.



Freedom of Information - Consultation announced at last

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snail_billHaving delayed for over 3 years the government have at last published a draft FOI Bill and the consultation document.

There is to be an eight week public consultation period, closing on 10th September 2010. Rest assured that PAG will be going through the document with a fine toothcomb over the Summer months.

A first read indicates that it is proposed to make a charge to deal with FOI requests!

Chief Minister, Tony Brown gave a revealing interview on Manx Radio about the introduction of the legislation. It can be heard on their 'listen again' facility, but only until 19th July 2010. It lasts about 10 minutes.

Listen particularly to the excuse for the delay, since early 2007, in drafting the legislation.

Links:  Consultation launched on Freedom of Information Bill    The Draft Bill for Consultation

 

PAG submission on Tynwald Commissioner for Administration

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1. Introduction

Positive Action Group (P A G) wholeheartedly agrees with the opening remarks of the Chief Minister in the Introduction (1.1) to the consultative document, in saying;
"There is a need for the Isle of Man Government to demonstrate publicly that it requires public bodies to be open to independent scrutiny of the their administrative processes and decisions....."

P A G supports the introduction of an independent Tynwald Commissioner for Admisitration (TCA) but questions the logic of linking the proposed legislation with that of the Tynwald Auditor General Bill, believing that such a link ought to be made with the so far unfulfilled promise to introduce an Access to Information Bill as both relate to listed authorities interaction with the public.

 

Why Reform?

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We have to ask ourselves, “Does the present system truly serve the people?”

TYNWALD

Our Parliament comprises the House of Keys, the Legislative Council and Tynwald – this is when both chambers sit together.

In the Isle of Man we have what is known as a tricameral system - the three component parts are made up of:

  1. The House of Keys
  2. The Legislative Council
  3. when the two meet together as Tynwald.

Tynwald passes laws and levies taxes.

The House of Keys has 24 members - or MHK’s - elected to represent  the 15 constituencies of:

It is plain to see that voters are not treated equally. Some have three representatives others only one. This inequality is best illustrated here.

The Legislative Council has nine voting members (plus the Attorney General). However - none of the Members of Legislative Council (MLC’s) are elected by the people: eight are ‘elected’ by MHK’s (and so have a vested interest in not upsetting them); the ninth is the Bishop. This is undemocratic. Of the 33 votes in Tynwald, the nine MLC’s (27%) have no mandate from the people. When MLC’s join the Council of Ministers  they also escape scrutiny from the Keys.

GOVERNMENT

The Council of Ministers (COMIN), headed by the Chief Minister, forms the core of the executive government. There are nine departments, each headed by a Minister (and most have several ‘political members – known as Department Members’).

BUT: this, too, is undemocratic. Add up those COMIN members who are MHK’s and the departmental political members who must show loyalty to the Department and hence the Minister over it - and there is almost an inbuilt government majority in the Keys. Few Members of Tynwald take on the role of parliamentary scrutiny: and almost every Member is in Government (as Edgar Quine says: “we have a one-party state on the Isle of Man”). And voters do not elect the Chief Minister, so we also have little say in the direction of government policy.

See also Block Vote Diagram.

 

Is a Conflicts of Interests Act necessary?

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Conflicts of interest in Government and public administration has been described as “the placing of private interest ahead of public duty.” It usually involves gifts, material gain or advantage for the elected or appointed public servant or members of their family.

Attachments:
FileFile sizeDownloads
Download this file (PAG_Select_Comm_Braddan_Submission[1].pdf)Submission to the Select Committee on Braddan47 Kb2968
 

News on legislative changes

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What satisfaction there was in October 2007 when Tynwald received the Government Strategic Plan 2007 – 2011. Three items from P A G’s Charter were listed in the Legislative Programme. These were Bills for:

  • Access to Information
  • Ombudsman
  • Auditor General

All for introduction by July 2008. Great news we thought, but how naive we were as earlier on the same day a question had been asked of the Attorney General about his Chambers workload. He admitted:

‘The legislative programme contained within the Government’s Strategic Plan shows, according to my calculations, some 58 new Bills which should be introduced before July of next year. That is clearly an impossible task......... ’

Seven months have gone by without comment from the government that the proposed legislation is clearly an impossible task. The Chief Minister was asked by Peter Karran (May Tynwald) about progress of a Freedom of Information Act. In a very short exchange, with no hint of an apology Mr Brown answered:

‘As the Hon. Member knows, the Government’s Strategic Plan, received by Tynwald Court in October 2007, includes a commitment to provide the public with a statutory right of access to Government information In keeping with that commitment, an Access to Information Bill is currently in the drafting  process and is scheduled for introduction into the branches in the legislative year 2008-09, sir.’

When pressed about timescale Mr Brown said:

‘I am not able to give that undertaking at the moment, Mr Deputy President, as there is a considerable amount of work to be done on this, and also, of course, we will want to ensure, as far as we can, that the Bill, when it is presented to the House, is in fact in the format that we believe is appropriate for the Isle of Man.’

He went on to say:

‘As far as I am concerned, my administration has been as open as any, if not more open, in terms of some changes that we have made. I have nothing to hide from the public. I am quite happy that information is made available to the public. In fact, that continues to happen. We do not need legislation to make available to the public information that is right for them to see.  The legislation is important: it has been given priority by the Council of Ministers. It is a substantial piece of legislation and a lot of work is going on.’

‘There have been problems, as Hon Members know, in the changeover of staffing within HM Attorney General’s Chambers. However, the work is ongoing and, as I say, it is the intention of the Council of Ministers to hopefully introduce this Bill into the branches in the legislative year 2008-09.’

What confusion and contradiction!

A promise from Government regarded as ‘an impossible task’ by the Attorney General.

The Chief Minister saying that the legislation is not actually needed and yet at the same time regarding it as important and a priority.

We may therefore see this piece legislation sometime in the next 14 months, but that’s only “hopefully” according to Mr Brown.

We surely know what that get out clause means!

 

 


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