Earlier this year in June there was a lengthy debate in the Tynwald Court (both Houses together), when a motion from a member of the House of Keys was debated at length to remove the bishop from the Legislative Council, alongside an amendment to the motion to only remove the bishop’s voting power. Both chambers of Tynwald rejected the motion to remove the Bishop altogether, by 8-16 in the House of Keys and 0-8 in the Legislative Council. At the time Sarah Maltby MHK, who seconded the motion and introduced the amendment to remove the voting rights, said: “with the Bishop’s time within the Chamber coming to an end, I do feel it is probably necessary to test the will of Tynwald on this matter.” [Hansard, 20/6/23]
Her amendment to only remove the bishop’s voting rights was backed by the House of Keys 14-10, but rejected in the Legislative Council 0-8, and because of that was rejected overall by Tynwald.
It is the majority in the House of Keys for removal of voting rights that has prompted Lawrie Hooper to return to the issue again by bringing his Bill before the House of Keys.
This extract from the Keys Order Papers for 5 December 2023 say:
The ISLE OF MAN CONSTITUTION BILL 2023
A BILL to provide that the Lord Bishop shall remain a member of Tynwald and
the Council but shall cease to have voting rights in Tynwald or in the Council BE IT ENACTED by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Council and Keys in Tynwald assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—
1 Short title
The short title of this Act is the Isle of Man Constitution Act 2023.
2 Citation and construction
This Act shall be construed as one with the Isle of Man Constitution Acts 1919 to 7 1971, and those Acts and this Act may together be cited as the Isle of Man 8 Constitution Acts 1919 to 2023.
3 Bishop not to vote in Tynwald or the Council
(1) The Bishop shall cease to have the right to vote either in Tynwald or in the Council, but shall continue to be a member of both bodies with the same right to speak in both bodies as before this Act.
(2) The presence of the Bishop at a sitting of Tynwald or of the Council shall not reckon towards the constitution of a quorum of either body
This is very disappointing so soon after the last debate and indeed if it is been brought as Constitutional Reform why it is not part of a much larger motion that considers other ex-officio roles that hold voting rights?
The Church of England is presently in the process of appointing a new Bishop and the Crown Nominations Commission meets in January to progress this. The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell chairs the commission and has expressed his gravest concerns about this present motion.
For the Bishop to have a voice without a vote feels strange.
Calls for the Bishop to lose their vote in Tynwald have been a regular feature of Manx life for a very long time, certainly since the early 1960’s.
For the Bishop to lose the vote would be a very sad day for all the faith communities of the Island. For Christians, one person unites the traditions, and assures members of other faith communities that their wellbeing and the thriving of the whole Island community have been taken into account. The Bishop’s voice and vote are guided by ethical principles. Some – occasionally many – may not agree, but they can be assured that this voice and vote are not influenced by anyone or anything else.
In terms of tradition, it’s well worth noting that of the three presiding officers on Tynwald Day, the Lieutenant Governor, the President and the Lord Bishop, the Bishop is the only one who occupies an office that has been there since the earliest times.
What can be done?
This motion returns for further debate on Tuesday 19 December and in the meantime you can contact your local members of Tynwald, and ask them to please think very carefully before they undo something that is of such value to the Island.
The MHKs who voted against it were:
Mr Callister, Mr Cannan, Mrs Christian, Mr Glover, Ms Lord-Brennan, Mr Moorhouse, Mr Smith, Mr Thomas, Mr Wannenburgh.
The MHKs who voted for it were:
Mrs Corlett, Dr Allinson, Mr Ashford, Mrs Barber, Mrs Caine, Mr Crookall, Ms Faragher, Dr Haywood, Mr Hooper, Mr Johnston, Mrs Maltby, Mr Peters, Mrs Poole-Wilson, Mr Speaker
Your MHK can be contacted by following the following link:
Once on that webpage you can hover on the photograph of the member and by clicking on the photo it will take you to a further page with detailed contact details.
Additionally, Tynwald Members 2023 PDF has all the contact details required.
As a matter of urgency please do consider making contact and voicing your opinion to your democratically elected member.