A government minister has criticised the role of the Speaker of the House of Keys as chair of the standards committee.
This comes as Julie Edge MHK, Minister for Education, Sport and Culture, has submitted a motion for the Speaker of the House of Keys to be removed from the Tynwald Standards and Members’ Interests Committee.
Ms Edge said: ‘I brought the motion forward following recent areas that I perceive as conflict as the Speaker of the House of Keys has one of the most unusual roles of any presiding officer on Earth.’
The Speaker, Juan Watterson, currently chairs the committee which deals with members’ behaviour and conduct.
Ms Edge continues: ‘What is really concerning to me is that the Speaker can then sit on or even chair committees like the Tynwald Members’ Standards committee, which decides whether politicians have acted appropriately in the work they are doing.
‘For three Tuesdays a month, the role has to be an impartial “presiding officer” in the House of Keys, being fair to Government and backbenchers, and then on the fourth Tuesday, the role gets to be political in Tynwald.
‘How can he maintain that he is politically neutral in the House of Keys a week after having challenged Government or even sided with backbenchers in Tynwald?’
Mr Watterson said: ‘After six years in office, I have never had any complaints about my lack of impartiality in the Keys.
‘If the conflict was so pervasive as suggested, I would expect this would have been tested sooner. I look forward to hearing any evidence that this is really a problem.’
The motion will be brought forward before ministers and debated before the June sitting of Tynwald, which will take place between June 20 and June 22.
Mr Watterson added: ‘There is absolutely no conflict in the Speaker chairing the Standards Committees of Keys and Tynwald, which is entirely made up of Tynwald Members.
‘Having a presiding officer chair that committee guarantees an individual with the best possible experience and understanding of parliamentary standards, which is how Speakers are selected for the job.
‘Our procedures are such that we commission independent investigations into complaints that are made, and report back to Tynwald.
‘This reduces further the scope for conflicts of interest.’
The Speaker of the House of Keys, like any other politician, does not receive any payment for chairing this or any other Tynwald committee.