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Role of Tynwald

As the parliament of the Isle of Man, Tynwald makes laws, approves the spending of public money, debates important issues, and scrutinises the work of the Isle of Man Government.

What is the difference between parliament and government?

Although the work of the parliament and the government often overlaps, each has a distinct role.

The role of the Isle of Man Government is to:

  • run the Isle of Man day-to-day;
  • provide and manage public services, such as the NHS, the police, transport, and energy supply;
  • develop and implement policy.

The role of Tynwald is to:

  • represent the people of the Isle of Man;
  • provide the Government (Council of Ministers) from amongst its Members;
  • make new laws (and update old ones);
  • examine and approve Government spending;
  • scrutinise the Government's policy and its implementation.

Represent

The Members of the House of Keys are directly elected by the people of the Isle of Man to represent their interests in the parliament and the government.

Although the Members of the Legislative Council are not directly elected, they nevertheless also represent the people of the Isle of Man.

If constituents are unhappy with their MHKs' performance, they can vote to replace them at the next election. 

Provide the Government

The Chief Minister is the head of the Executive (Government).

The Chief Minister is elected by and from amongst the Members of the House of Keys to serve until the next General Election.

The Chief Minister selects Members of Tynwald to be Ministers of the Government Departments.  Together with the Chief Minister, they form the Council of Ministers.

Members of Tynwald may also serve as members of Government Departments. Exceptions are the Presiding Officers, who are barred by law, and the Lord Bishop and the Attorney-General.  However, Members are not obliged to take an executive role, and some choose not to.

If MHKs are unhappy with the Chief Minister's or Council of Ministers' performance, they can table a motion of no confidence. 

Make new laws

While new laws are often proposed by Government Departments, they do not become law until they have been examined by Tynwald and its Branches.  The main business of the House of Keys and the Legislative Council meeting separately is the consideration of primary legislation, or Bills, which is approved in a number of stages. Secondary legislation (i.e. Rules, Regulations, Orders) is considered and approved in Tynwald Court.

Examine and approve

Government spending must first be approved by Tynwald.  This is primarily done through the Budget, which is presented in Tynwald Court every February as a Motion, when it is debated and voted on. Ministers table Financial Motions if extra money is required; these are also debated and voted on.

Scrutinise

Tynwald has various means of scrutinising the work of the Government.

Questions

Members ask Questions about the work of the Government. These are usually directed to the relevant Minister, but may also be answered by Members with responsibilities in the relevant Department. Questions may be for Oral Answer or for Written Answer. There are no restrictions on the number or length of Questions.

Questions are tabled in advance and appear on the Order Paper (or, in the case of Tynwald Court, a separate Question Paper). During the sitting Members may also ask Supplementary Questions. There are no limits on the number of Questions, but the Presiding Officer ensures that any Supplementary Questions remain on topic.

There is an hour allocated for Questions at the beginning of every sitting of the House of Keys, and two and a half hours in Tynwald Court.

Motions

Members may table a Motion for debate on any topic.  This often gives Ministers the opportunity to defend and explain the policies and actions of their respective Departments. 

Committees

Much of the detailed work of Tynwald is done in Committees.

There are three Policy Review Committees, whose task it is to scrutinise the Government's implemented policies. They may examine issues on their own initiative, or have a topic referred to them by Tynwald.

Select Committees can be established to examine a particular issue.  This includes Bill Committees, which may be set up to examine a particular Bill or one (or more) of its clauses.

Committees take evidence from a variety of witnesses (i.e. members of the public, experts, civil servants), who give their views on the topic. Committees consider this evidence and then report back to Tynwald or one of its Branches, often with recommendations.  These recommendations are debated and voted on. The Government must respond to these recommendations as well.