Is this dictatorship?

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THE public regard the government these days as a dictatorship, a backbench MHK claimed in the House of Keys.

Brenda Cannell (Douglas East) spoke out as Chief Minister Allan Bell came under fire for the decision to sack Bill Henderson as member of Treasury.

Douglas North MHK Mr Henderson lost his government job after Treasury Minister Eddie Teare claimed he could no longer trust him after he changed his mind over whether to support the government on the tuition fees policy.

Mrs Cannell said: ‘Does the Chief Minister appreciate that the public out there are regarding his government these days as a dictatorship? Not a true democracy, but a dictating government. There have been four sackings in the time of this administration.’

Those previous sackings have all take place within the Department of Education – Zac Hall and John Houghton lost their jobs as department members for failing to support the Minister over the pre-school privatisation and they were then followed by Lib Van leader Peter Karran, who was ousted for breaching rules on collective responsbility over the Pinewood deal.

Mr Teare and Mr Bell have previously told Isle of Man Newspapers that Mr Henderson’s sacking had nothing to do with collective responsibilty but about a breach of the Minister’s trust.

In the Keys, however, the Chief Minister appeared to suggest this was a matter of collective responsbility.

He told MHKs: ‘In matters of collective responsibility, the same standards are expected of a Minister in respect of their Council of Ministers participation, as are expected of a political member in respect of their departmental participation.

‘However, it is the circumstances of each case that must be considered and the intent to the person involved in any suspected breach of the Code. In any case, where a breach is suspected, the event and the evidence will be reviewed. Any mitigating circumstances will be taken into account.

‘The Code is not a rule book and while some people try to draw comparisons between certain scenarios and suggest that any penalty ought to be the same, in my experience no two issues are identical.’

Michael MHK Alfred Cannan suggested that Mr Henderson had been ‘perfectly entitled to change his mind and support his pre-declared position on university fees.’

But Mr Bell replied: ‘I think by now, the member for Michael must understand the principle of collective responsibility. Mr Henderson’s case is no different from anyone else’s.’

Mrs Beecroft queried how Mr Henderson could have ruled by collective responsibility, when he was in Treasury not Education. Mr Bell replied that he would have been covered by the same rules as the tuition fees issue was very much part of the Budget.

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