In the Chief Minister’s spirited response to the “Burning Question” we learn that minute taking in government meetings with third parties present has no hard and fast rules. In particular, Mr Houghton’s additional question is particularly revealing.
Of course, we will hear cries of not wishing to jeopardise proposed business or claims that the information is therefore confidential. There’s just one thing wrong with this: We elect these people to represent our interests. Simple as that. The electoral system empowers these people to work on our behalf. That means they are answerable to us – remember we are the shareholders of IOM plc! While there may indeed be instances where confidentiality is necessary this should not mean that minutes are not kept. For how can we hold our representatives to answer for their actions if they are given powers but the results of their actions are withheld from the public. Minutes should always be kept. This is our money they are dealing with. They have a moral responsibility to demonstrate transparently how decisions have been reached if requested to do so.
As for meetings with foreign governments it is unbelievable if minutes are not kept, as a rule. That is a simple, basic necessity and should never EVER be up for discussion. If minutes are not kept then our members are not expecting to have to answer for their actions. And if we don’t demand that they do so then we are to blame for accepting the position of serfs.
Chief Minister’s Answer:
Mr Speaker, there can be great diversity in the nature of official meetings, so much so that it would not be appropriate for this Government to have one
general policy in respect of notetaking at official meetings. It very much depends on the nature of the meeting.
All officials should actively consider record keeping in line with the guidance issued by the Chief Secretary’s Office in relation to minute taking and recording Departmental decisions. This guidance was recently updated to encompass related Tynwald decisions.
In more general discussions with a third party, which are not covered by such procedures, I would expect a discussion and agreement at the start of the meeting about the nature of the records to be kept. As a general rule, and as a good starting point for anyone contacting another organisation, it is appropriate to follow the recommendations of the Select Committee on KSF that all significant exchanges with third parties by officials of public sector organisations should be noted or recorded. This should obviously be done in a manner appropriate to the circumstances of each particular case.
I would generally support what the Chief Minister is saying, but is he aware that there is a growing policy around Government where, as he has just said, the general discussion at the start of the meeting is where a very strong hint is given for notes not to be taken, and that, of course, then negates those third parties, at some later date, from accusing those Government Departments of prevarication?
Can I ask the Chief Minister if he would kindly put a circular out to the effect that anybody meeting up with business on official business should be able to take notes?
The Chief Minister:
I am very happy to look into that, Mr Speaker. If the Hon. Member could
perhaps give me greater detail on what he is talking about, I would be very happy to follow that through and perhaps even meet the Chief Officer to pass on that message.
manxasthehills: Thanks again to WRT for supplying us with the details of answers given.