Should MHKs and MLCs be paid to sit on committees?

Juan Watterson MHK

Juan Watterson MHK

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Should members of Tynwald get paid to sit on parliamentary committees?

Tynwald this month unanimously approved a raft of a recommendations by a select committee set up to review the committee system, including a call for the emoluments committee to look again at the question of remuneration for committee roles.

Lib Van MHK Peter Karran (Onchan) proposed an amendment that members of the Public Accounts Committee or policy review committees who should get an extra 30 or 40 per cent in recognition of their scrutiny role.

His second amendment aimed to prevent political members from having a seat on these scrutiny committees.

He said: ‘I know that we will have the diatribe in this court about how we want to save money and we are feathering our own nests, and all this sort of nonsense.

‘The fact is that what we need to do is create the independence of people not trying to be gamekeeper and poacher at the same time. As the only member in Tynwald who actually voted against the ministerial system, I thought for many years, with so many great social changes, that maybe I had got it wrong. But my concerns and reservations are coming home to roost.’

Political members of departments get an extra 30 per cent on top of their basic salary but members or chairman of Tynwald committees have never got any extra pay.

In Tynwald in 2011, the court approved the principle that if in future there was to be a full time chairman of the Policy Review Committee or Public Accounts Committee then they should not be financially worse off than if they had been a department member.

That same year a report by the emoluments committee recommended that in principle PAC and scrutiny committee members should be entitled to 30 per cent and while the chairman should get 40 per cent – the 30 per cent to be implemented immediately and the 40 per cent as soon as the public sector pay freeze ended. But the order to bring in this move did not win Tynwald approval.

The select committee concluded the committee system has operated successfully since 2011 despite the fact that the remuneration envisaged at that time has not been put in place - and the arguments for and against that remain the same. It recommended that the emoluments committee should look again at the question of remuneration for committee roles.

Juan Watterson MHK, chairman on the select committee set up to look at the committee system, said: ‘A properly functioning committee system is essential to the workings of an effective parliamentary democracy.

‘It is responsible for holding the executive to account in spending public money and contributing to the debate and generation of ideas in order to improve the island for the good of our people. So there is no doubt that the committee system is a worthwhile cause.

‘There are always things you can do to improve, but it is important to acknowledge that the system we have is working well.’

But Mr Karran’s amendments were defeated and the select committee’s report and its findings were passed unanimously.

Among its other recommendations was that PAC and policy review committees should consider publishing their plans well in advance and should consider routinely publishing written evidence as it is received rather than at end of the inquiry.

The three policy review committees came into operation in February 2012, with the job of holding government to account by investigating existing and developing policy.

They have considerable powers to request witnesses to appear and order the production of documents and papers.

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