Ambitious legislative timetable has holes

Tuesday 22nd October 2019 4:55 am
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House of Keys

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The government’s pledge to process double the usual amount of legislation in the coming year will start in earnest today with the return of the House of Keys.

Following a summer recess that we are repeatedly told is not too long and then a double helping of Tynwald sittings, the House of Keys sits for the first time since June.

In his state of the nation address last week, Chief Minister Howard Quayle referred to a programme of 33 bills scheduled for the coming 2018/19 session. A quick glance at the order paper shows the Council of Ministers is starting as it hopefully means to go on.

Three pieces of legislation will receive their formal introduction with first readings: The Children and Young Persons (Amendment) Bill, the Domestic Abuse Bill and the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Bill. Many would argue that these pieces of legislation are long overdue.

They will not be debated today, that comes at a later stage in the scrutiny process, with the second reading and clauses stages the crucial points of a bill’s passage in the Keys.

But there are also some notable absences from the agenda. Unsurprisingly, the troubled Education Bill does not yet make its first appearance. But we are told it will at some stage when no doubt minister Graham Cregeen will charm home educators and teacher unions alike.

Also conspicuous by its absence is the Communications Bill, the Lord Lucan of the legislative programme. It was awol from the final sitting from the Keys in the last term, too. MHKs have still to consider amendments made to the bill by the Legislative Council.

Suspicious minds wonder if part of the problem is a LegCo amendment that would make the chairmanship of the Communications Commission a non-political appointment. When the bill didn’t appear on the Keys agenda in the summer, we were told there was no conspiracy and it would be there in October.

Should we expect to see it next week?

Back to what is on the agenda and two further bills are due a second reading, the Public Sector Pensions (Amendment) Bill and the Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Bill.

The latter could have far-reaching ramifications on the judicial process, as it provides for a ban on the naming of defendants in sex offence cases, unless and only when they are convicted.

It would also outlaw ’upskirting’ - taking a photograph underneath someone’s clothes without consent.

Upskirting

The Property Services Charges (Amendment) Bill is down for consideration of its clauses while Martyn Perkins (Garff) will seek leave to introduce a bill to amend the laws relating to consent on organ donation.

Question time covers issues including digital exclusion, emergency funding for flood victims, medicine supplies after Brexit, erosion of lanes and footpaths and whether the Manx Electric Railway could be made a single track operation to leave space for a walking and cycling route.

The Legislative Council is also back in action and not just to organise a search party for the Communications Bill.

The MLCs will take a look at the Regulation of Care (Amendment) Bill and deal with questions about the legislative programme, which brings us kind of full circle from where we started.

But the most intriguing item is a motion by Tanya August-Hanson seeking to leave to introduce legislation that would remove the right of the Attorney General to move a motion or amendment in the LegCo or Tynwald.

Because we couldn’t have unelected members of Tynwald doing anything like that, could we? Oh, hang on â?¦

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