Time limit experiment approved

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

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Tynwald has approved plans for an experiment to test the merits of having strict time limits on politicians’ speeches.

The proposal was put forward by Bishop Robert Paterson, to see whether it would make sittings run more efficiently.

‘I never court popularity but I have never been so popular since the time this motion was published,’ he said.

At the July sitting, statements and moving a report will be limited to 20 minutes while moving any other motion will be limited to 15 minutes.

Speaking to a motion or amendment will be restricted to 10 minutes while contributions at Question Time should be no longer than five minutes. Tynwald president Clare Christian will have discretion to allocate additional time on request.

In a speech which was well within his own time limit, he said: ‘I have chosen generous times so I can’t be accused of stifling freedom of speech.

‘At this stage it is best to conduct the test with care.’

Speaker of the House of Keys Steve Rodan was one of a number of members concerned about the impact time limits would have: ‘This chamber is the place for the exercise of democratic expression.

‘There has always been the principle generally held in this place that a member has the right to take whatever time he or she considers necessary to make their case.’

He said the presiding officer may intervene where contributions are tedious, irrelevant or repetitious, adding: ‘There are some of us who like the sound of our own voices and it’s self-indulgent to carry on. I suggest those members reflect on the impact of that self-indulgence. The most effective speeches are the short, snappy ones that make the point.’

Both Liberal Vannin members, Kate Beecroft (Douglas South) and Peter Karran (Onchan) opposed the experiment. Mr Karran said: ‘If people keep repeating mistakes we have no choice but to keep repeating the mistakes they have done.’

Glenfaba MHK David Anderson supported the experiment, saying that self-regulation doesn’t work: ‘We have some speeches with a few words changed every week.’

Tynwald’s standing orders committee will review the experiment and report back to the court in November.

The motion was passed, 14 for and seven against in the Keys, and seven for and one against in LegCo.

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