Besieged Economic Development Minister Laurence Skelly MHK insists his hands are tied over what he can say about the collapse of the Vision Nine deal, in the light of likely legal action.
Handling of the TT promoter contract has descended into farce as the government refused to be drawn into debating a matter which it says is now sub judice, when an issue cannot be publicly discussed while under consideration by a court.
Backbench MHK Chris Robertshaw tabled a motion of urgent importance in the House of Keys this week.
Mr Robertshaw asked why members had not been informed about the concerns of departments when the Vision Nine deal was brought to the April Tynwald for approval.
He also asked why there had been a ‘embarrassing’ delay between the Council of Ministers voting to discontinue the tender and informing Vision Nine. And he queried why the DED had stated that the matter was sub judice, when ‘clearly at this stage it is not’.
He questioned why government departments ‘simply cannot get their act together’ but added: ‘I do hope that when we come to look at this matter we do not choose to scapegoat either a Minister or a chief executive, but are more honest in our appraisal of why on earth we are making these sorts of mistakes.’
The DED Minister has referred the matter to Tynwald’s economic policy review committee.
We posed a series of questions to Mr Skelly, which we believe can be answered without undermining the government’s position in any future legal action.
1) How would you say DED has handled the tender process and the announcement that it is to be discontinued?
He replied: ‘We cannot comment as we have been advised by the Acting Attorney General that specific detail regarding the case could fall into the area of sub-judice.’
2) Why was Vision Nine not told of the decision sooner, ie straight after the CoMin vote?
Mr Skelly said: ‘Vision Nine were formally advised of the decision at the earliest opportunity on November 28 2016.’
3) Could this situation have an impact on the island’s reputation as a place to do business, and on the DED’s ability to encourage investment to the island?
Mr Skelly said: ‘The department is working to ensure that this will be maintained with a series of initiatives that are designed to make the Isle of Man an attractive location for relevant businesses. The department is confident that this growth and investment will be maintained.’
4) DED has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently – The Jacksons, Tom Jones and now this. Have you considered resigning over this matter? Should the position of senior officials within the department by reviewed? In short, should heads roll?
Mr Skelly replied: ‘I have already advised that the matter has been referred to the economic policy review committee. Other comment would therefore be inappropriate at this time.’
5) Do you still believe that bringing in a private promoter for the TT is the right way forward?
Mr Skelly said: ‘A review of the delivery of the TT and Classic TT will be undertaken but the delivery of the 2017 TT Races and Classic TT Races is on schedule to be delivered as usual under the existing structure and by the existing team following our decision in August that the Isle of Man Government would remain the promoter for both events – a decision which was notified to Vision Nine at the time.’
6) Was it DED’s intention to complete this tender and did DED have the authority to do so?
Mr Skelly said: ‘We are unable to comment as these are matters that have been raised by Vision Nine’s lawyers in their notified claim against DED.’
7) What assurances can you give for TT 2017 and beyond?
Mr Skelly said: ‘TT and Classic TT 2017 will be delivered by the existing experienced team and under the existing structure that has successfully delivered recent events. Both events are operating to the usual delivery plan.’