Legislation to be reviewed after Sefton loans controversy

John Shimmin

John Shimmin

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John Shimmin had ‘done the honourable thing’ by resigning as Minister, the Chief Minister insists.

And following the legal opinion that two loans to the Sefton Group were made by the Department of Economic Development without the necessary legal powers, Allan Bell said the Council of Ministers would now be reviewing the legislation to ‘make sure there is clarity for the future’.

He said the implications of the legal opinion by UK barrister Richard Moules would be considered over the next week or two, as would the outcome of last week’s emergency debate in Tynwald and also the question over who would replace Mr Shimmin as Minister.

Mr Bell said he had ‘reluctantly’ accepted the resignation having canvassed the opinion of the island’s business community and gauged the possible impact on confidence in the economy.

‘As you would expect from Mr Shimmin he has done the honourable thing. He was determined he would carry out his pledge to fall on his sword if he was found to have anything wrong.’

Mr Shimmin told iomtoday: ‘It was a privilege to serve as a Minister of DED and I will be forever grateful of the support I received from my staff, colleagues and the business community.’

The Chief Minister said he had received Mr Shimmin’s email tendering his resignation at 8am on Tuesday, very shortly before he was due to board a plane to attend a meeting in London with the Chinese Prime Minister.

He said: ‘I had less than two hours to consider the whole thing - that was the reason why I was initially reluctant to accept his resignation.

‘Because DED is such an important arm of government, I needed to be sure the resignation didn’t have an effect on confidence in the business community at a critical time.

‘In collaboration with the Treasury Minister I was able to gauge the views of the business community while I was away. They were very sad to see him go but they felt there was enough momentum in the economy for us to undertake that change.’

He added: ‘It’s very disappointing because I am absolutely convinced that the proposal by the department and Mr Shimmin was done in good faith with the best interests of the Isle of Man and particularly the economy in mind, protecting 300 jobs and the welfare of many small suppliers.

‘It’s been a difficult week - to lose a Minister at any time is disappointing but to lose one who is absolutely dedicated to the best interests of the Isle of Man is doubly disappointing.’

Mr Bell pointed out that Mr Moules’ legal opinion was just that - a legal opinion. Government was prepared to accept that opinion and would now explore the options, he said.

Asked whether that would mean the Sefton Group having to pay back the outstanding money early, he said: ‘We have to consider all the implications.’

He added: ‘We are going to take the necessary steps to review the legislation to make sure there is clarity for the future.’

And regarding Mr Shimmin’s successor, Mr Bell said: ‘It will take a few days to decide what I’m going to do. It’s a very important job and a very critical time.’

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