November has certainly been the busiest month for a while.
One of the most significant economic announcements this month related to the National Income data:
One aspect of the data which concerned me was the labelling the economy as being in recession, given that one of the Island’s most impressive USPs is probably: The country in the world with the longest continuous period of economic growth in recorded history.
Given that a recession is usually defined as: Two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, I wanted to delve a little deeper. Unfortunately, the additional data was not available.
Another key aspect of the data was the Offshore Life Insurance sector regaining its position as the largest contributor to the Island’s National Income. I asked questions related to both areas (see below) and arranged for a presentation by the Life Insurance Industry to be given to Members of Tynwald to help raise awareness of this incredible sector of the economy. This hopefully increased the profile of one of the most important income generators and employers on the Island.
Tynwald 21st November: The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Minister for Policy and Reform – Whether the data in the Cabinet Office report on National Income 2015/16 [GD No 2017/0057] refer to calendar years or tax years?
If he will provide quarterly national income figures for the year 2015/16 to date?
House of Keys 7th November: The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Minister for Economic Development: What assessment he has made of the pressures faced by the offshore life insurance sector in trying to recruit staff; and what plans he has to alleviate that pressure through a work permit exemption or by other means?
When his Department was last involved in promoting the offshore life insurance sector internationally?
House of Keys 7th November: The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Chairman of the Post Office – What plans she has to review the decision to cease the morning postal collection service in Arbory?
There have been growing concerns about the changes at Isle of Man Post over recent months. This question enabled Graham and I to work together on Keys with regard to this concern, as the only remaining early morning collections will take place in Castletown and the Sorting Office in Ballasalla, the Chairlady said she would look at this. Possibly, the best example of two constituency MHKs working together in this Parliament to raise a constituency based issue.
In the House of Keys on 14th November: The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Minister for Economic Development – If he will give an update on the Airport Gateway development?
This was a Manifesto pledge; it must be a priority to get things moving at the Airport Gateway. I asked The Treasury Minister a similar question before the summer recess. The impact of these questions is that the topic remains alive and hopefully the two answers will turn out to be correct, and the suggestions that something will happen soon, is encouraging. This location has to be the perfect place for business and hopefully the momentum will build in 2018. It was encouraging when Graham supported me in the questioning of the Minister on this development.
A supplementary question I asked at the sitting siting of Keys on 7th November, enquiring about the heritage sites in Malew and Castletown being closed for 133 days each year did spark a positive conversation. Hopefully, there will be some movement here because at a time Castletown is transforming these historical gems should be assisting in the turnaround.
At the Department of Infrastructure Monthly Meeting I asked for an update on the Clagh Vane redevelopment and I received confirmation that it would be completed within 18 months.
This month, I was able to attend the Commissioners meeting at Arbory, Castletown and Malew. It is interesting to see how different these meeting are, despite each of them carrying out similar tasks. I find these meetings tremendously useful as they often allow me to have a new perspective on key aspects in each area. Hopefully, I will be able to write in more detail about the results of what was discussed soon.
Vision 9 Report:
Politically the biggest story in November, from my perspective was the issuing of the Vision 9 Report. The production of this document was incredibly challenging on occasions, but being given the chance to be able to focus on and question the key players about specific happenings and the intricate workings of government would be difficult to put into words. Seeing how things can actually be left to evolve in the real world was incredibly enlightening and on occasions ’jaw dropping’!
It is certainly worth having a look at the report ahead of the Tynwald debate in January. http://www.tynwald.org.im/…/Tynwald…/2017-PP-0154(1).pdf
A recurring issue this month has related to the environment, from a commercial perspective the Meat Plant remains a concern, I have spoken to Minister Boot about the issues and he appears optimistic about a way forward, a solution needs to be identified soon. Many constituents have raised concerns about the protection of animals and how UK councils are now able to offer very in-depth analytical materials about land use. This led me to ask these questions:
House of Keys 21st November: 11. The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture – If he will arrange for data to be analysed and maps produced showing how much of the Island falls into the categories: (a) farmland; (b) natural; (c) built on; and (d) green urban?
7. The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture – If he will make a statement on the progress with preparation of the Animal Welfare Bill?
I have not written about the written questions which I have asked before. They are useful, in that they can produce more detailed answers and are useful for gathering and checking information prior to an oral. This month I asked the following:
House of Keys 7th November: Question 1. The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Treasury Minister – What the impact will be of a 0.25% increase in the Bank of England bank rate on Isle of Man Government loan repayments; what proportion of Isle of Man Government bank borrowing is on (a) fixed and (b) variable rates; and what total bank borrowing was on November 1st 2017?
House of Keys 28th November: 2. The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Chief Minister – What was the date of the last Regeneration scheme meeting that was attended by the Chief Minister?
8. The Hon. Member for Arbory, Castletown and Malew (Mr Moorhouse) to ask the Minister for Policy and Reform – How many (a) individuals; and (b) organisations responded to each of the last ten government consultations and for how many days each was open?
The Question directed to the Chief Minister has enabled us to open dialogue about Castletown Square and he has requested further information on this from me, which is a good sign.
Having had my first Christmas lunch, I have sat in the Santa Sleigh outside Castletown Town Hall. You must do this. Certainly the best selfie location on the Island! I have also attended Christmas Fairs in Ballasalla and Castletown. In Ballasalla on Friday night it was probably Santa’s first outing of the season. I am sure there will be many more!
It seemed almost ironic when less than 10 days after placing the Vision 9 Report before Tynwald ahead of the January Debate social media seemed to explode.
I had asked the Chief Minister a supplementary question about the control of materials National Importance to ensure the correct message gets across. Unfortunately, I became the first pantomime villain of 2017 as my question was interpreted by some as press freedoms being under threat.
Given the divergence between what was being written and what was said, I decided to stand well back. In some respects this option was frustrating, but Press freedoms must be protected. The incident does go to show how easy it can be for materials to be misinterpreted.
The coming weekend will see Santa potentially visiting both Castletown and Ballabeg, hopefully signalling a happy ending to the year for everyone!