All seven candidates for the Legislative Council who took part in a public hustings have supported reforms to the role.
The hustings was organised the Liberal Vannin Party at the Manx Blind Welfare Centre in Onchan.
There are nine candidates for LegCo, four of which will be chosen by MHKs on Thursday this week to serve a five year term, having faced no public vote or major scrutiny, bagging themselves a potential salary of £61,455.
The perspective law makers are Carole Lillywhite, Danielle Bell, Dr Michelle Haywood, Haafizah Hoosen, Peter Greenhill, Robert Mercer, Zahed Miah and sitting MLCs Kerry Sharpe and Bill Henderson. Mrs Lillywhite and Dr Haywood were unable to attend the hustings due to prior engagements.
Tim Crookall withdrew his nomination and looks set to stand in next year’s general election in an attempt to regain his former Peel seat from either Infrastructure Minister Ray Harmer or Environment Minister Geoffrey Boot.
Whenever the Legislative Council is discussed, reform is often a topic of discussion and Monday night was no different as the panel of seven, were asked if LegCo is outdated and if they would support a publicly elected second chamber?
Bill Henderson, who at the start of the night introduced himself as ’the continuity candidate’ said that ’there have been a lot of changes over the last few years’ such as LegCo only being selected by the House of Keys which he argued ’makes it more democratic, in a way’.
Mr Henderson, who unsurprisingly doesn’t think the role is outdated, added that while he ’likes the sound of a LegCo election’ the Lisvane report into Tynwald recommended not changing the way LegCo is appointed.
Ms Hoosen said that LegCo ’needs to be more engaged’ with the public. She added: ’I think the role, as I see it, is needed and that’s why I’m standing.
’If we were electing LegCo, then we would need to look at the whole structure of Tynwald.’
Mr Greenhill said he was ’open to any ideas that would improve the system, including an election’. However, he said that LegCo has to ’be made up of a mix of people who are best suited at that time’.
Mr Miah said that as the Keys are elected, they have the rule to overrule LegCo and he agrees with that principle, he added ’at the moment, I’d welcome any change’.
However, he said: ’Any changes must only be made, if they would improve the system and make it better.’
Mrs Bell was the only candidate to tell the public that she thinks ’it is not appropriate’ for LegCo to be elected. She said that doing so would risk the supremacy of the Keys with LegCo members potentially having a larger mandate than ministers and MHKs.
However, she did voice her support for LegCo, and candidates for it, to face the public more often.
Mr Mercer said that he would fully support an elected LegCo and would stand for it. He also believes that having two separate chambers and having them meet in Tynwald is ’sensible’.
He added: ’As long as there is no confusion over the roles of LegCo and the House of Keys, then the vote issue goes away.’ He said that the role of LegCo to challenge the government creates a ’healthy democracy’.
Mrs Sharpe said that LegCo is ’like a surveyor’, checking over a house before someone buys it but recognises why it ’may not seem democratic’.
She suggested that instead of an election, LegCo could be selected by way an ’interview panel’ to ensure a wide range of people were selected.
However, the responses were not universally popular with the members of the public who attended. One man said: ’The rest of us have managed to elect MHKs, why aren’t we trusted to vote in the upper chamber?
’There is no risk of the Keys not overruling LegCo if it chooses as it will always have many more members.’
The emoluments committee, which looked at politicians’ pay, recommended in January that MLCs’ basic pay should rise to £61,455 and not be entitled to any further money for departmental roles unless they were appointed as a minister.