A trio of MHKs in three-seat constituencies were accused of trying to sabotage proposals for parliamentary boundary change – their antics branded a ‘farce’ by one backbencher.
Plans to replace the current mix of one, two and three-seat constituencies with 12 two-seat constituencies moved a step closer after the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill passed its clauses stage after a three hour debate in the House of Keys.
A raft of amendments had been tabled by Rushen MHKs Juan Watterson and Phil Gawne and Onchan Lib Van MHK Peter Karran.
In 20 pages of tabled amendments Mr Watterson suggested every different type of alternative including four six-seat constituencies, six four-seat, eight three-seat, three eight-seat and even two 12-seat constituencies or 24 members elected on an all-island basis.
Middle MHK Howard Quayle said: ‘I really feel these amendments are all long-grass, wrecking motions. This is a total farce – I’m ashamed by the antics of these members. I blame the Chief Minister for allowing two Ministers too much time to come up with waste and wrecking motions.’
Home Affairs Minister Mr Watterson’s amendments also included provision for the registration of political parties and donations.
He told MHKs: ‘I would like to dispel the myth that I’m seeking to delay the Bill. I want to bring openness and transparency in political parties and donations.’
Mr Watterson said he had set out all the options for members to reflect on and did not intend to dwell on the pros and cons of each alternative. He said three-seat constituencies like Rushen ‘worked well’, while the six four-seat option had been used as a springboard for LegCo reform.
Four six-seat constituencies would give a more regional approach to politics, three eight-seats would essentially mean Douglas, North and South while two 12-seats was something of a ‘wild card which doesn’t ever seem to have been a consideration’.
Mover of the Bill, Health Minister David Anderson said this was attempt to ‘muddy the waters’ and undermine the Bill. He pointed out that a second Bill would shortly go out for consultation on the issue of political party registration.
Chief Minister Allan Bell urged the Keys not be sidetracked by this ‘smokescreen’. He branded it as a ‘red herring’ which was designed to ‘undermine and destroy the 12 two-seat constituency concept’.
He said that one of Mr Gawne’s amendments to consult everybody affected by the boundary changes was in effect a call for a referendum. ‘There’s no other way of looking at it,’ he insisted.
Mr Gawne said he believed six four-seat constituencies was the most sensible way forward but this should be introduced in time for the 2021 general election alongside a single transferable voting system. ‘Please stop questioning my motivation,’ he told MHKs.