Isle of Man Examiner letters, June 7, 2016

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DHSC immune to investigation

In today’s letter I reveal how the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was unable to carry out any investigation of the financial and other affairs of the Department of Social Care (DHSC) for a continuous period of 15 months because the PAC was inquorate [unable to proceed because not enough members were present] in relation to DHSC business.

The information came to me by way of a copy of an Information Paper issued on behalf of the PAC by Dr Jonathon King, dated May 12.

The paper is headed ‘Limitations on the Committee’s ability to function arising from conflict of interest affecting Members, 2nd April 2014 to May 2016’. Charts were attached to the paper showing the number of occasions when the PAC was inquorate.

I don’t intend to comment on the reasons why the PAC was inquorate during the period referred to, but I have written to the Clerk of Tynwald, Roger Phillips expressing my alarm at the number of times when the PAC was inquorate. I expressed the opinion also that it was an absolute disgrace that during a continuous period of 15 months the DHSC was immune from any investigation by the PAC.

The charts show also that the PAC had been inquorate for 13 out of the24 months covered by the charts in relation to the business of the Manx Utilities Authority.

Hopefully, your readers will agree with me that it is alarming that during the period referred to no one in government or in Tynwald took any steps to correct this situation, which has resulted in two major government bodies being immune from investigation for lengthy periods.

What this means is that the PAC has failed in its duty to Tynwald to carry out the remit bestowed upon it by Tynwald which (inter alia) is to –

(a) (i) consider any papers on public expenditure and estimates presented to Tynwald as may seem fit to the Committee;

(ii) examine the form of any papers on public expenditure and estimates presented to Tynwald as may seem fit to the Committee;

(iii) consider any financial matter relating to a Government Department or statutory body as may seem fit to the Committee;

(iv) consider such matters as the Committee may think fit in order to scrutinise the efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation of Government policy.

In relation to the DHSC in particular, how could the PAC possibly have known during the 15 month period referred to, how efficient and effective the DHSC was in its implementation of government policy?

Maybe the members of the PAC just turn up for the coffee and biscuits.

What action will Tynwald now take against the members of the PAC for failing to carry out their remit?

I wait with interest the reply which Roger Phillips has advised me will be from Dr King.

Trevor Cowin, Peel.

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Let mums feed where they wish

My son came back from the Isle of Man with your paper which reported on the young mum’s breastfeeding in public. I think it perfectly right and proper that our babies should be fed as and when they need it. Most mums are only putting their children first as they should, and usually try to cover up.

Do we make the same fuss about all the attention-seeking so-called celebrities (and ordinary people) who go about in various states of nakedness or is it another case of hypocrisy – one rule for one clan and another for another?

Mo Bentley, Hesketh Bank, Lancashire

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Island has special place in my heart

I’m visiting from Canada for the TT. I have enjoyed sitting down near the road with my first cup of coffee watching the early morning riders doing their obligatory lap before stopping somewhere for breakfast.

I am staying with the Kermode family who show typical Manx hospitality to visitors.

This is my third visit to the TT and your very special place has a spot reserved for it very near to my heart.

Alwyn Gill, Edmonton, Canada.

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Church needs to help reputation

It is about 12 months since it first became a matter of public knowledge that a serious breakdown had occurred in the Christian relationship between the present Bishop of Sodor and Man and the then Vicar of Arbory and Castletown and Canon Theologian for the Diocese [Reverend Jules Gomes].

Readers will doubtless recall that the said Canon subsequently presented a Petition for Redress of Grievance at the Tynwald Ceremony at St John’s in July 2015 asking for a select committee of Tynwald to be established to investigate allegations about inappropriate conduct by the Bishop towards him. As I recall, a select committee was subsequently appointed by Tynwald and had been expected to begin taking evidence in October 2015 but this was then blocked when the Bishop and the Archdeacon initiated disciplinary proceedings against the Canon under the Clergy Discipline Measure.

The deteriorating relationship then caused Canon Gomes to resign as Canon and Vicar of Castletown and Arbory in December 2015.

There is a convention in matters relating to employment issues and discipline that, normally, no public comment is made and differences are dealt with internally. However, this ‘case’ is very different because the two parties have both issued public statements and evidence of their on-going spat is continuing to appear in the local newspapers – see the Bishop’s letter in the Manx Independent of May 12 and the Reverend Dr Gomes’s letter in the Isle of Man Examiner of the May 17.

Moreover, the Church of England (and the Roman Catholic Church) has been heavily and rightly criticised in the media for attempting to sweep past allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the clergy ‘under the carpet’ in the hope that they will simply go away and be forgotten. The Church needs to learn from past mistakes and mishandling of complaints and show itself to be completely open and transparent. It follows that the public on this island has a right to be reassured that the allegations are being thoroughly examined by a suitably qualified person, independent of diocese and told whether its most senior cleric has conducted himself in a manner entirely befitting his high and respected office.

So, the public should be given the answers to the following questions:

1. Who has been appointed to investigate the serious allegations made against the Bishop?

2. By whom has this person been so appointed?

3. What qualifications to conduct such an investigation does this person possess?

4. To what extent is this person truly independent of the Diocese?

5. Will this person be taking evidence from all those who might be able to assist in securing a just outcome for both parties?

6. What stage has this person’s investigation reached?

7. When is it expected that this person’s report will be finalised and presented for consideration?

8. To whom will this person be submitting a report on the findings of the investigation with recommendation?

9. Will the public be informed of the outcome in due course?

Only when these (and possibly other) questions have been answered can there be any hope of restoring severely-damaged reputations and restoring confidence in the Anglican Church in the Isle of Man.

Name and address supplied.

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