4. HOUSE OF KEYS

 

The House of Keys is the directly elected Branch of Tynwald. It has had a constant membership of twenty-four 'Keys' since about 1156, with a varying size and distribution of consistuencies. The name is thought to come from the Manx for twenty-four, kiare-as-feed.

a. The Work of the House of Keys

In order to gain a full understanding of the work of the House of Keys the information in this chapter should be read in conjunction with chapters: 5. Committees of the Legislature, 6. Business and Procedures of the Three Chambers, and 7. Making Legislation.

i. Procedure

Procedure in the House of Keys is controlled by the Speaker in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House of Keys, [1]  his or her interpretation of which is authoritative.[2]

The House of Keys normally sits alone each Tuesday from the fourth Tuesday in October to the last Tuesday in June, except for the third Tuesday in the month, when it sits in Tynwald Court.[3] All Members must attend unless leave of absence has been granted by the Speaker.[4]

Sittings take place from 10.00am until its business is concluded, usually no later than 5.30pm.[5] Additional sittings may occur under certain circumstances: because of the level of business; when specially convened due to a matter of some importance; on adjournment during a sitting of Tynwald, when they may retire to their own chamber; or after a sitting of Tynwald.[6]

Before a sitting, Members take their places and stand for the arrival of the Speaker. He or she enters preceded by a Messenger, the Chaplain, and the Secretary of the House of Keys. All may be seated after Prayers, which are said at the beginning of each sitting and usually led by the Chaplain.[7]

During the sitting the Speaker controls proceedings, calling upon Members to speak.[8] They stand to do so, and address their remarks to the Speaker. Members refer to each other by reference to the constituency that they represent and by name, or the position they hold, sometimes in Manx.[9]

At the end of a debate the Speaker puts the motion to the House.[10] The Members say firmly together either ‘Aye’ or ‘No’, and the Speaker announces the result on the basis of the oral response. Any Member may then call for a division,[11] and a count which records the way each Member has voted occurs. Since 2006 the House of Keys has used an electronic voting system whereby Members vote simultaneously by pressing a button for either ‘Aye’ or ‘No’. [12] The results show on screens in the chamber and are recorded in the Official Report. In some instances, for example elections to the Legislative Council, there is a secret ballot using ballot papers.

In some circumstances the House may resolve to sit in private when all persons, except the Members and Secretary, must leave the chamber.[13]

ii. Business of the Branch

The business to be dealt with is set out on an Order Paper.[14] These are available from midday on the previous Thursday at the Tynwald Library and the Tynwald website, and on the sitting day from the Chambers entrance lobby.

The sitting begins with up to an hour of questions, which appear on the Order Paper, having been tabled in advance by Members. The Speaker may allow supplementary Questions and Answers at his or her discretion. The time allotted for Questions is one hour. Any Questions which have not been answered orally  are answered in writing or deferred to a subsequent sitting.[15]

Question Time is broadcast by Manx Radio on 1368MW and its website. The entire sitting is also streamed live on the Tynwald website.

Much of the time of the House of Keys is occupied with consideration of draft primary legislation, Bills. Bills may originate in the House of Keys or the Legislative Council but the former is more usual. Bills are considered in four stages: first reading, second reading, clauses stage and third reading, each of which must occur at a different sitting. [16] During debates on Bills, apart from the mover of the Bill who may start the debate and reply at the end, no Member may speak more than once.[17]

An optional stage to send a Bill to a Select Committee may be invoked; the House does not have Standing Committees to which Bills are automatically referred.

iii. Records

The Speaker is assisted by the Secretary of the House of Keys. The Secretary keeps a record of the motions and any amendments moved, and whether these are approved or not. This information is issued as Votes and Proceedings.[18]

An ‘essentially verbatim’ record of the proceedings is produced by staff of the Official Report (Hansard) with the aid of voice recognition technology. As soon as sufficient text is checked and passed for publication it is made available on the Tynwald website. Eventually these are fully formatted and collated as complete sittings, then replaced on the website as Hansards. The website contains Hansards dating from 1887 to the present day.

Since 2014, the proceedings of the House of Keys have been livestreamed via the Tynwald website; the audio files are published on the website soon after the sitting.

b. Members and Officers

This section outlines the roles associated with the House of Keys. Details of the current post holders may be found in chapters: 8. Members of Tynwald and 12. The Clerk of Tynwald’s Office.

i. Speaker of the House of Keys

The Speaker is the principal officer of the House, elected by the Members from amongst their number at the first sitting of the House after a General Election.[19]

The Speaker authorises the Order Paper for sittings.[20] He or she is responsible for controlling the procedure of the House and for the authoritative interpretation of its Standing Orders.[21]

The Speaker may determine the start time of sittings,[22] adjournments,[23] and, subject to certain conditions, the Speaker may summon the House of Keys to sit at any time or place.[24]

The Speaker is entitled to vote as a Member in divisions although, reflecting the impartiality of the Office, unlike the other Members present, may abstain. [25] In the case of a tied vote on a division he or she has a casting vote.[26]

In Tynwald Court, where the Speaker is not the presiding officer, he or she is free to speak and vote in the same way as any other Member of the House of Keys.

The Speaker, along with the President, signs all Resolutions of Tynwald,[27] certificates of Royal Assent for the Acts,[28] and certificates of promulgation of the acts on Tynwald Day.[29]

ii. The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker is elected by the Members from amongst their number and serves as the presiding officer in the absence of the Speaker.[30]

iii. Members

Members of the House of Keys carry out the work of the House described above and in chapter 6. The Business and Procedures of the Three Chambers. They ask and answer questions and debate legislation before voting to determine the outcome.

Members of the House of Keys are elected to represent their constituents and they are able to help them with issues where Tynwald or central government has a responsibility. In order to do this, Members may contact the relevant Department directly or via the Minister, or they may by highlight issues in the House by tabling Questions or Motions or by presenting a public petition.[31]

Most Members also have one of more roles within the Isle of Man Government. An outline of the responsibilities and rules which must be followed by a Minister or member of a government department is set out in Parts 2 and 3 of The Government Code.[32]

Members also serve on Committees of the House of Keys when elected,[33] and are responsible for nominating and electing Members of the Legislative Council.

iv. The Chaplain

The Chaplain of the House leads the Members in prayers at the beginning of each sitting.

The Chaplain is elected following nominations to and a subsequent recommendation from the Management and Members’ Standards Committee and serves for the term of the House.[34]

v. Secretary of the House & Counsel to the Speaker

The Secretary of the House and Counsel to the Speaker is appointed by the House; [35] the appointments are held concurrently with the appointment of Clerk of Tynwald. In modern times there has been a full-time appointment of an officer as the Secretary of the House. Prior to this, until 1858, a Member of the House acted as its Secretary. 1987 was the first time the appointee was also required to act as Counsel to the Speaker.

The Secretary of the House is responsible for advising the Speaker, and other members, on the business of the House and on the interpretation of its Standing Orders. He or she is also responsible for the provision of services to Members and, as Counsel to the Speaker, for advising Members on Bills which are before the House.

vi. The Deputy Secretary of the House of Keys

The Speaker appoints a Deputy Secretary to act as Secretary of the House whenever the Secretary is absent.[36]

vii. Messengers

The Messengers, appointed by the Speaker acting with the Tynwald Management Committee, carry out the duties prescribed by the Speaker. [37] Their routine duties include conveying written and oral messages between the Members and the officers of the House.

viii. Seating Plan

Members then occupy the seats allocated to the constituency that they represent.

Click here to view the most recent seating plan. 

c. Elections to the House of Keys

Elections for the twenty-four Members of the House of Keys are held every five years as provided in statute.[38] The Isle of Man Government facilitates the elections, and election information may be viewed on their website, www.gov.im/election.

Candidates for election to the House of Keys must be 18 or over and have been resident in the Island for at least five years. [39] Those wishing to stand must submit a completed nomination form, including the signatures of a proposer, a seconder and no less than 20 additional electors who support their nomination.[40]

Once the nomination date has passed, if the number of candidates in a constituency is no greater than the number of seats those nominated are elected.[41] Where there are more candidates than the number of seats an election is necessary.

i. Constituencies

While the number of MHKS representing each constituency used to be determined by population size and could vary between one and three MHKs for each constituency, in 2016 this system changed.

This was done in accordance with the Representation of the People Act, which allows for Tynwald to set up a Boundary Review Committee to investigate and recommend changes in constituency boundaries, which must then be approved by Tynwald.

The Boundary Review Committee, established in 2010, recommended that from the elections of September 2016 the constituencies be altered in order to tackle discrepancies in the number of voters per MHK.[42] The number of constituencies was reduced from 15 to 12 and each was assigned two Members. Each MHK now represents approximately 3,500 voters, a figure which must not vary by more than 15%. The names of the new constituencies were decided after a public consultation in September 2015.[43]

The constituencies and the number of MHKS representing the people in each are set in statute.[44] From the 22nd September 2016, the reformed constituencies are:

 

​Arbory, Castletown and Malew

Ayre and Michael

Douglas Central

Douglas East

Douglas North

Douglas South

G​arff​

Glenfaba and Peel

Middle

Onchan

Ramsey

Rushen

 

 

ii. Voting in General Elections

Each voter has two votes, one for each vacancy in the constituency.

Voting is by the Multiple Non-Transferable Vote system, by which the two candidates with the most votes are elected to the available seats.[45]

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) method was used from 1986 to the beginning of 1996.

iii. By-elections

Where vacancies occur in any seat, a by-election is held. A Member elected at a by-election is sworn in as above but this may take place in the Deemster’s Chambers in private. At the next sitting of the House of Keys, or a specially convened sitting, a new Member is presented to the Speaker by two current Members, ‘sponsors’. The new Member is then presented with a copy of Standing Orders of the House of Keys and required to sign the Standing Orders Book. The ‘sponsors’ then escort the new Member to his or her seat.

d. New Members of the House of Keys

No Member of the Keys shall be permitted to sit and to vote in the Keys until he or she has taken and subscribed the oaths required by law.[46] At the first gathering of the new House of Keys following a General Election, the First Deemster and Clerk of the Rolls, and the Second Deemster administer oaths to each Member.

The oaths are:

I, (full name), do swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors.

So help me God.

 

 Her Majesty’s counsel, your fellows, and your own, you shall not reveal; you shall use your best endeavours to maintain the ancient laws and customs of this Isle.

 You shall justly and truly deliver your opinion and do right in all matters which shall be put unto you, without favour or affection, affinity or consanguinity, love or fear, reward or gain, or for any hope thereof;  but in all things you shall deal uprightly and justly and do wrong to no man.

So help you God, and by the contents of this Book. 

The oaths may also be taken in Manx:

Ta mish ......... loo liorish Jee Ooilley-niartal dy bee’m firrinagh as dy feer ammyssagh da e Hooashley Reeoil y nah Ven-rein Elizabeth, chairn Vannin.

As ayns shoh dy gooin Jee lhiam.

Coyrle y Ven-rein, coyrle dty Cho-olteynyn, as dty choyrle hene cha jean oo y hoilshaghey; gys rere dty phooar nee oo cummal seose Shenn Leighyn as Cliaghtaghyn yn Ellan shoh.

Nee oo dy cairagh as dy firrinagh dty vriwnys y livrey, as cairys y yannoo ayns dy chooilley nhee hed er soiaghey kiongoyrt rhyt, gyn foayr ny kenjallys, gyn cleunys ny mooinjerys, gyn graih ny aggle, gyn leagh ny cosney ny jerkal erbee rish lheid y red shen, agh ayns dy chooilley nhee nee oo dellal dy ynrick as dy cairagh, gyn aggair y yannoo da dooinney erbee.

The Chief Registrar attends, bringing the Liber Juramentorum, or Book of Oaths, which each Member signs. The Deemsters also sign to attest that the oaths have been administered and the signatures added.

i. Election of the Speaker of the House of Keys

After new Members have been sworn in, the first business of the new House is to elect a Member to be Speaker of the House of Keys.

Either immediately following the swearing in, or as soon as may be arranged, the House is convened, and the Secretary calls for nominations for appointment of an Acting Speaker to conduct the process of electing the Speaker.[47]

The Acting Speaker calls for nominations and candidates are proposed and seconded. If there is only one candidate, then that Member is escorted, without the question being put, to the Speaker’s chair. [48] If more than one Member is nominated, then the Acting Speaker proceeds to take the votes of Members by ballot. The Member with the most votes is declared elected. If there is no clear majority, then the process of nominations and voting is repeated until it is successful in electing a Member to the position. [49] The successful Member is escorted to the Speaker’s chair, who then conducts such other business that is usual for the first sitting of the House of Keys.

This process is repeated whenever a vacancy in the office occurs. If this happened when a Deputy Speaker were in office then no Acting Speaker would be required. [50]

The Speaker's first duty, once elected, is to call Members to receive a copy of the Standing Orders of the House of Keys from the Secretary of the House, and to have the Members sign the Standing Orders Book.

ii. Election of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Keys

At the sitting following that at which the Speaker is elected, the House of Keys elects a Deputy Speaker to substitute in the event of any absence of the Speaker.

e. Elections to the Legislative Council

Whenever a vacancy arises, the Speaker of the House of Keys invites Members to nominate candidates. The election procedure is laid down in the Isle of Man Constitution (Elections to Council) Act 1971 and in the Standing Orders of the House of Keys.[51] A candidate must be a resident of the Island, over the age of 21, and not subject to any legal incapacity.[52] This may include persons who have just completed a term of office. Serving Members of the House of Keys are sometimes elected to the Legislative Council.

Members may propose candidates in writing to the Secretary of the House of Keys for up to one month after being invited to do so.[53]

The proposal is accompanied by particulars in writing of -

(a)        the qualifications and experience of the candidate, and

(b)       the reasons why the proposer considers the candidate to be suitable to be a member of the Council.[54]

The sitting at which the election is held is not less than fourteen days after the end of the period for making proposals, but as soon as practicable thereafter.[55]

No person is elected by the House of Keys unless at least thirteen votes are recorded in his or her favour following a secret ballot.[56] Once a round of elections has started that round of elections must be completed on that day, or may be adjourned to the next day once only.[57] No other business can be taken on these days until the round of elections is completed.[58]

Each Member votes either for one or more candidates up to the number of vacancies to be filled.[59] There is also the option of voting for no candidates.[60] A voting paper is spoilt if a Member votes for too many candidates.[61]

If one or more vacancies remain after voting has taken place, the Speaker may ask for additional nominations of persons from the Members present and these nominees will then be included in the next round of voting.[62] If the vacancies cannot be filled after successive rounds of voting the Speaker will call for fresh nominations and there will be a further month for these to be made in writing, followed by voting.[63] The process is repeated as many times as it takes to fill all the vacancies.

Successful candidates are informed by the Speaker within three days of the election.[64] No person is deemed to be an elected Member of the Legislative Council unless he or she has:

  • within fourteen days of election, signified in writing to the Speaker of the House of Keys his/her willingness to accept such office, and
  • within the said fourteen days, given to the Speaker an address to which all communications may be sent, and
  • received from the Speaker a formal warrant certifying his/her election as a Member of the Legislative Council.[65]

It is the duty of the Speaker, on receiving the acceptance and address of the successful nominee, to have the formal warrant delivered to the person elected and the acceptance delivered to the President of Tynwald.[66]

 


 

[1] Available from the Tynwald Library and www.tynwald.org.im

[2] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.21

[3] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 1.1(1)-(2)

[4] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.1

[5] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 1.2

[6] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 1.1(3)–(5), 3.21

[7] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.2

[8] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.23, 3.24(1)

[9] See chapter 21. Terms and Expressions in the Manx Language

[10] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.17

[11] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.18

[12] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 11.5A

[13] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.37(2), 3.38

[14] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 2.1

[15] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 2.2 and 3.3–3.10

[16] See chapter 7. Making Legislation

[17] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.27(1)

[18] Available from the Tynwald Library and www.tynwald.org.im

[19] See d.i. Election of the Speaker of the House of Keys

[20] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 2.1 (1)–(2)

[21] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.31

[22] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 1.2(1)

[23] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 1.1(3) and 1.4

[24] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 1.1(4)-(5)

[25] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.18(1)

[26] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.18(5)

[27] Standing Orders of Tynwald, 10.8

[28] Standing Orders of Tynwald, 10.7

[29] Standing Orders of Tynwald, 2.1(5)

[30] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 9.2

[31] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 7.1 and 7.2-7.6

[32]www.gov.im/lib/docs/cso/corporate/Standards_Conduct/thegovernmentcode.pdf

[33] See chapter 5.Committees of the Legislature

[34] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 9.4.1-9.4.2

[35] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 9.3.1-9.3.2

[36] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 9.3.4

[37] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 3.39 and 9.5.1

[38] Representation of the People Act 1995, as amended by Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2006, section 1(a) and (b) and section 2

[39] Representation of the People Act 1995, section 1

[40] Representation of the People Act 1995, Schedule 2; 6-8

[41] Representation of the People Act 1995, Schedule 2; 15(2)

[42] www.gov.im/about-the-government/offices/cabinet-office/boundary-review-committee-2010-13/ 

[43] Constituency maps can be found on https://www.gov.im/categories/home-and-neighbourhood/elections-and-voting/constituency-map/  

[44] Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2015, section 8

[45] Also known as plurality-at-large voting or the block vote, this system is similar to First-Past-The-Post but applies specifically to multiple member constituencies. For more information, see: http://www.electorial-reform.org.uk/block-vote.

[46] Representation of the People Act 1995, s 8

[47] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 9.1.1 (1)–(2)

[48] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 9.1.1 (5)–(6)

[49] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 9.1.1 (7)–(9)

[50] Standing Orders of the House of Keys, 9.1.1(1)

[51] 1971 Act, s. 2; Standing Orders of the House of Keys 8.1-8.5

[52] Standing Orders of the House of Keys 8.2(4
 
[53] 1971 Act, s. 2 (1C)
 
[54] 1971 Act, s. 2 (1D)
 
[55] 1971 Act, s. 2
 
[56] 1971 Act, s.2(2); Standing Orders of the House of Keys 8.3 (7)
 
[57] 1971 Act, s.2 (1F)(b) and (c)
 
[58] 1971 Act, s.2 (1F)(d)
 
[59] 1971 Act, s.2 (1G)(a)
 
[60] 1971 Act, s.2 (1G)(b)
 
[61] 1971 Act, s.2 (1H)
 
[62] 1971 Act, s.2 (1K)
 
[63] See Elections to Legislative Council-Guidance Note Issued by the Speaker (http://www.tynwald.org.im/business/sto/Documents/20121217LegCoElectionNote.pdf), paragraph 25. 
 
[64] Standing Orders of the House of Keys 8.4; Isle of Man Constitution Amendment Act 1919, s. 20
 
[65] Standing Orders of the House of Keys 8.5(1)
 
[66] Standing Orders of the House of Keys 8.5 (2); Isle of Man Constitution Amendment Act 1919 s.21