The Deputy Clerk of the Table Office to the House of Commons Dr Robin James has completed a week-long study visit to Tynwald.
Dr James took the opportunity occasioned by the dissolution of the UK Parliament ahead of the General Election to visit the island and study the Manx parliamentary system. His programme, which was organised by the Office of the Clerk of Tynwald, included meetings with the President of Tynwald the Hon Clare Christian, the Speaker of the House of Keys, the Hon Steve Rodan SHK, Tynwald Members and senior officers. He also attended a number of committee meetings and sittings of the House of Keys and Legislative Council.
Reflecting on his visit he said: ‘It has been an extremely valuable week and fascinating to be in a parliament even older than “mine”. While Westminster and Tynwald are very different in scale, there are similarities. I was particularly interested to observe the debating process in the Legislative Council. Also, having spent more than 30 years in the House of Commons, I was struck by how a small parliament can “cut out the clutter” and provide easier and swifter access to ministers and officers and bring a personal touch to business of parliament.
‘There is real sense of democracy at work and I feel the building itself works well; from a visitor’s perspective the old and the new parts are an attractive mix. The Legislative Buildings succeed in being an intimate space but also one that is sufficiently grand for conducting parliamentary business.’
Dr James was also interested to observe the Hansard operation. ‘I was very impressed by how Hansard is raising its profile internationally and providing services to other jurisdictions, something from which I believe Westminster could learn.’
Referring to the 2016 Isle of Man General Election he observed: ‘I was most impressed that Members seeking re-election were expected to call upon every household in their constituency and that no substitute would do.’
No stranger to the Isle of Man, Dr James, whose grandparents lived at Ballakillowey, attended Tynwald Day three years ago. Through his role as British Clerk to the British-Irish Parliament he has met Mr Speaker and is acquainted with the Clerk of Tynwald Roger Phillips from his time as a House of Commons clerk.
He added: ‘I was especially delighted to be permitted to handle the Sword of State, which clearly has a role far beyond the symbolic. Interestingly though, in all my 32 years at Westminster, I have never been allowed to handle the Mace.’
For further information:
Deputy Clerk of Tynwald
Legislative Buildings, Douglas, IM1 3PW
Tel: (01624) 685500