Bid to elect our MLCs defeated

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A BILL calling for the introduction of directly elected MLCs has been defeated in the Legislative Council.

At this week’s sitting, David Callister MLC’s Electoral Reform Bill 2011 failed to get sufficient support at the clauses stage.

The bill called for the island to be split into eight constituencies, each represented by three MHKs and one MLC, all directly elected.

Tony Wild said he supported the proposal in principle, but added: ‘I’m struggling with this legislation because to me it’s flawed.’

‘While I’m 100 per cent behind the mover’s views and belief in terms of a popularly-elected Legislative Council, I’m concerned about the fact there is no flexibility in the way the legislation has been written.’

Mr Callister’s bill calls for eight three-seat constituencies for MHKs.

But at the October Tynwald sitting, members voted in favour of the Boundary Review Committee’s recommendation that the House of Keys be divided into 12 constituencies, each returning two members.

Public consultation is under way on the boundaries of these proposed constituencies.

Alex Downie MLC voiced his opposition to the principle of directly elected MLCs, saying there were advantages of being able to work without ‘hassle from constituents’.

He said the bill would ultimately result in a unicameral system (one legislative chamber) : ‘We are seeing the demise of a well operated, tried and tested system.’

Mr Callister said there was nothing in the bill about a unicameral system.

A number of members raised their concerns about the proposed timetable and cost of elections. It is anticipated the cost of elections to the LegCo would be £170,000 in each five-year term of the Keys. Mr Downie said the expected cost of the elections was ‘ridiculous’.

Meanwhile, Dudley Butt called for the LegCo elections to take place at the same time as the Keys elections.

Juan Turner said staggering the elections meant there would be little continuity and would be ‘very difficult’ for the government to get ‘any proper work done’. But Mr Callister said if the Keys and LegCo elections took place at the same time, bills would not continue into the new parliament. The bill was defeated with three votes for, five against. Phil Braidwood, Alex Downie, Eddie Lowey, Juan Turner and Tony Wild voted against the proposal.

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