Tynwald is being asked to again support the transfer of the island’s abattoir to the Treasury, removing it from the control of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture.

It is now over a year since the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee report, which was highly critical of the setup at the meat plant and said it should be handed over to the Treasury.

Now chaired by Rob Mercer MLC, the committee wrote to the Council of Ministers in December last year asking for an update on the transfer to the Treasury, in line with other government-owned businesses (such as the Steam Packet and Manx Radio), and when such a move would be brought to Tynwald.

In its response, the Council of Ministers said: ‘The Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture has commenced discussions with the Treasury around the transfer of DEFA shares but the key issue to address initially is the financial viability of the plant’s operation as a company.

‘The department is working with the board of directors and chair of the board to better understand the financial needs of the operation and will develop the ownership strategy in the light of this and would expect to bring this decision to Tynwald in line with the wider agricultural strategy identified in the Island Plan.’

The committee, which includes members Marlene Maska MLC and Ayre and Michael MHK Tim Johnston, said it still considers its recommendations to be important and will in November ask Tynwald to reaffirm its opinion that:

(a) the Meat Plant is a significant strategic asset for the Isle of Man which has been severely affected by a number of changes in agricultural policies and external legislative pressures over the last 15 years;

(b) putting any commercial enterprise into government ownership is a major policy decision which should be scrutinised and voted on by Tynwald;

(c) the Council of Ministers should develop a policy on government ownership for consideration in Tynwald;

(d) the equity in Isle of Man Meats Company held by Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture should be transferred to Treasury urgently; and

(e) Meat Plant governance, management, regulation, strategy and operations should be reviewed and reformed as soon as is practical.

Last year, the committee, then chaired by Douglas East MHK Clare Barber, identified several flaws in the structure of the regulation and promotion of Manx meat, questioned whether it presents value for money for the taxpayer and recommended the island’s yet to be appointed Auditor General should investigate its finances as a ‘matter of urgency’.

The report concluded by saying that Isle of Man Meats and the Meat Plant needed a clear strategy to take them forward.

This included the government using its levers to boost on island sales of Manx produce, the business becoming more transparent, and having a better strategy for by-products such as hides, bones and blood.

It said that the system could learn from the example of Isle of Man Creameries and that ‘serious considerations should be given to ways in which the successes of the Manx milk industry can be translated to the meat context’.