Tynwald time limit trial to cut out the waffle

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

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Time limited speeches at this month’s Tynwald sitting meant members’ contributions were more carefully thought through and argued more clearly.

That’s the verdict of Bishop Robert Paterson, who proposed the idea to see whether it would make sittings run more efficiently.

Tynwald’s standing orders committee, chaired by Speaker of the House of Keys Steve Rodan, will review the experiment and report back to the court by November.

‘Only one speaker got within a minute of the time limit and no speaker went over. I was quite pleased about that.

‘Some of the speeches in favour of motions were more tightly argued than they usually are. Members had thought through what they wanted to say a bit more carefully and didn’t waffle. The arguments were more clear.’

Statements and moving a report were limited to 20 minutes while moving any other motion was limited to 15 minutes. Speaking to a motion or amendment was restricted to 10 minutes while contributions at Question Time couldn’t exceed five minutes.

Tynwald president Clare Christian had discretion to allocate additional time on request.

Bishop Robert said some of the limits could have been shorter – and that there should have been time limits on questions to Ministers’ statement.

Mr Rodan said it was ‘very hard’ to judge what impact setting limits had on speeches: ‘It is possible members tailored their contribution knowing there was a limit but on the other hand members seemed to speak as long as they normally would.

‘It will be quite hard to judge whether it will be made a permanent arrangements.’

He said one of the issues the committee would consider was whether a longer trial was needed.

When the trial was proposed Mr Rodan said he believed that where most members were independent, it was an important principle that they be allowed to speak as long as they need.

But he said it was often the case that the most effective contributions were concise.

Liberal Vannin MHK Peter Karran stood by his view that placing time limits on members undermined democracy and could set a dangerous precedent.

When asked how he thought the experiment went, Mr Karran said: ‘I think it had no effect as far as members are concerned. But it is a dangerous precedent because there are so few members who will stand up and say it how it is.’

He said he would oppose any move to condition or restrict members so they become less effective.

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