In the last sitting over which she presided before retiring as President of Tynwald the Hon Clare Christian OBE complimented students taking part in Junior Tynwald on their ‘well articulated debate’ and said it had been ‘a joy’ to witness the accomplished formulation of supplementary questions.
Organised by the Isle of Man branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in association with the Department of Education and Children the sitting was held on Monday July 18 when Year 12 students from the Island’s five state secondary schools assumed the roles of Members of the House of Keys and the Legislative Council to debate a range of topics from implications for the Isle of Man of the publication of the ‘Panama Papers’ to the legalisation of cannabis.
The motion moved by the Hon Member for Michael, Mr Alex Hind (Queen Elizabeth II High School) ‘That Junior Tynwald is of the opinion that the current abortion laws are outdated and need to be reviewed’ was carried, while an amendment to the Order Paper moved by Mr Matthew Unsworth MLC ((Castle Rushen High School) that ‘This Junior Tynwald believes that the current system of social security benefits should be substituted for an unconditional income system whereby every adult receives a set benefit amount regardless of circumstances or employment status,’ failed.
The original motion as set out on the Order Paper and moved by the Hon Member for Rushen Miss Emily Currie (Castle Rushen High School) ‘That Junior Tynwald believes that in an effort to encourage a more sustainable benefits system and to stimulate economic growth on the island, the rate of unemployment benefit should be reduced,’ failed to carry.
The sitting concluded, Madam President introduced former chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament Jordan Linden as guest speaker.
Mr Linden, who is currently a parliamentary office manager to a Member of the Scottish Parliament and also acts as parliamentary assistant in the constituency office of a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament, is an ardent campaigner for parliamentary youth engagement and believes ‘in the power of young people’s voices to influence a better tomorrow, today.’
Against the background of ‘a world filled with uncertainty’ Mr Linden spoke of ‘the global issues and challenges we face, from climate change to security’ and told his student audience that young people should have a role that would ‘not only tackle these issues but [would] also future-proof the actions we take now.’
Turning to the sitting of Junior Tynwald he said: ‘Having heard the contribution you have made, listened to the questions you have asked and the ideas and principles you have presented, I am in no doubt as to the power you all have to help make change.’
In closing he praised the Isle of Man for recognising ‘the importance of young people’s voices and view in politics’ and said: ‘Let’s not dismiss the views of our young people but embrace them and their ability to create a better and fairer future for all of us.’
Among those reflecting on their experience of Junior Tynwald was Toby Stephens from Ramsey Grammar School who
said: ‘I was surprised by how structured the procedure was,’ while Matthew Draper from Ballakermeen High School said he found it ‘an interesting opportunity to learn more about what happens in Tynwald.’ From Castle Rushen High School Emily Currie spoke of relishing the challenge to ‘think on your feet’; Josh Moore observed how participants were challenged to improvise and grew in confidence as the sitting progressed; and Alice Bell said: ‘It was good to have our voices heard’.
The Outstanding Participant Award went to Matthew Unsworth, head boy of Castle Rushen High School who had enjoyed not only learning about the working of Tynwald, the experience of ‘voting on mature issues’ and participating in ‘diverse debate’ but also the tour of the Chambers which he found had helped to clarify his understanding of Tynwald’s tricameral system.
Presenting the award Madam President complimented him on moving ‘a well argued amendment’.
CPA Isle of Man branch chairman Hon Juan Watterson MHK said: ‘It is encouraging to learn that young people of the Isle of Man have such a mature attitude to current affairs and the skill to express their views with conviction. This year’s Junior Tynwald had an additional dimension, thanks to the presence of Jordan Linden. His impassioned call to action for young people to connect with and contribute to parliamentary democracy resonates with the CPA, which recognises the importance of engaging young adults in the political process and making that process relevant to them. ‘
All photographs courtesy of Paul Dougherty, Tynwald Seneschal