Foreign trips: just a jolly or protecting independence?

Parliamentary trips have been taken to a range of places around the world, including the Caribbean, above, Sri Lanka, the Falklands and South Africa

Parliamentary trips have been taken to a range of places around the world, including the Caribbean, above, Sri Lanka, the Falklands and South Africa

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Thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash has been spent in the last three years on parliamentary trips abroad to destinations including the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, the Falklands and South Africa.

Speaker Steve Rodan defended the expenditure, claiming the visits helped protect our independence and status.

Leonard Singer MHK

Leonard Singer MHK

Details of the cost of the off-island visits by parliamentarians between January 2011 and September this year, including Commonwealth Parliamentary Association trips, were given in a written reply to a House of Keys question from John Houghton (Douglas North).

They show that during that time Mr Speaker had visited Trinidad and Tobago, Sri Lanka and New Zealand as well as less exotic locations like Glasgow, Derry and Dublin.

The single most expensive trip was a visit to the Falklands by Tony Wild MLC, Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK and clerk of Tynwald Roger Phillips on February last year at a total cost of more than £15,800.

A visit to South Africa between the end of August and early September last year by Leonard Singer MHK, Alex Downie MLC and Tynwald clerk Mr Phillips cost a further £9,100.

Steve Rodan SHK

Steve Rodan SHK

But there were reimbursements by the CPA of £3,731 in 2012-13, £4,864 in 2013-14 and £5,229 in 2014-15.

Mr Rodan said there is no specific budget for these visit but they are listed as supplies and services for the legislature in the Budget Pink Book each year and there had been a surplus each year.

He said: ‘The value or benefit gained from these visits cannot be gauged monetarily.

‘However, the Isle of Man continues to function as a Crown Dependency with a great deal of independence. In order to protect our independence and status, we must meet with the outside world and be aware of external factors which could harm us. These visits help us to prepare for events which can be better anticipated through such visits.’

Alex Downie MLC

Alex Downie MLC

The Pink Book shows the budget for supplies and services has risen from an actual figures of £409,322 in 2012-13 to estimates of £501,714 in 2013-14 and £499,291 this current financial year.

Mr Phillips told the Manx Independent: ‘The visits are funded from the Tynwald annual budget. There is a small membership fee for the CPA, payable by members of Tynwald. Most, but not all, members of Tynwald belong to the CPA.

‘The CPA reimburses small jurisdictions in order to enable as many to take part as possible.’

Mr Rodan pointed out external activities are by no means one way and the island had hosted scores of visits, many to see how the world’s continuous parliament works.

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