17th August 2009
Dear Lord Wallace
It was with considerable dismay that I read your recently reported comments calling for the
constitutional relationship of the Isle of Man, and other Crown Dependencies, with the United
Kingdom to be â€œreviewedâ€. You claim that our autonomy â€œis no longer appropriateâ€, and that â€œin
terms of the contribution the Crown dependencies make to the UK, I think we definitely have to look
at that againâ€
Your hostility to the idea that the Isle of Man should be selfâ€governing, or be competent to exist as a
separate jurisdiction, has often been raised before. On the 10th March, for example, during the
debate on the Borders Bill in the Lords, you said:
â€œI have for a long time found it puzzling that we have a Government whose attitude is that any local
authority smaller than half a million people is incompetent to manage serious local services, but
accept that the Crown Dependencies three of which have populations of less than 100,000....are
somehow competent to manage a great deal of their own affairsâ€.
While your consistency is admirable, I do find it sad that as a student of history, and President of the
Liberal Democrat History Group, you should have so little appreciation of the fact that todayâ€™s
nations and communities are a product of historical circumstance â€“ in the case of the Isle of Man, we
have had a thousand years of our own tradition and independent institutions, with the worldâ€™s
oldest continuous legislature, predating Westminster. We never have been (nor ever will be) part of
the political union of nations known as the United Kingdom. It is the height of arrogance to suggest
we ought to be. Our relationship with you is through allegiance to the Monarch, Her Majesty the
Queen, Lord of Mann. Those Manx people who fought for the Crown in two world wars, and indeed
do so today, are in little doubt of the contribution which they make to the UK â€ nor are the Manx
members of the Royal British Legion, who annually raise more money per head for the Poppy Appeal
than anywhere else in Britain.
Your complaint appears to be that having not yet chosen to become a sovereign state, the Isle of
Man still looks to the United Kingdom for the conduct of its external and diplomatic relations, treatyâ€
making and defence (though no doubt you are aware that the British Government has entrusted us
with our own â€œinternational personalityâ€, with our own negotiating powers in respect of
international financial agreements). But are you aware that the Isle of Man Government actually
makes an annual contribution to the UK Exchequer for such services?
The Isle of Man does not cost the UK a penny. We pay our own way in the world â€“ every pound
spent here is raised here; no block grants, subventions, special funding from the UK, the E.U. or any
one else. By statute our Finance Minister is obliged to balance for a budget surplus â€“ this is done
consistently; with no external borrowing, and rates of taxation which actually encourage private
enterprise and wealth creation, yet this little nation can still point to first class publicly financed
services in health, education and social security.
The way we organise ourselves financially passes muster â€“ the OECD, G20 and others tell us we are
an internationally responsible jurisdiction. With such evidence that we are indeed â€œcompetent to
manage our own affairsâ€, why on earth would we want to be part of the UK? If it is a question of
good governance, it is the Isle of Man who could teach London about such things as the importance
of separating the powers of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, or about what makes for a progressive democracy â€“ having been the first national legislature to give the vote to women (1881), we were also the first in Europe to do so for people aged 16 and 17 (2006).
Of great concern is the fact that as Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Foreign Affairs in the House of Lords your clearly expressed views might be said to reflect the settled policy of your party in respect of the Isle of Man. If this is so, this is not the Liberal Party or the Liberalism I remember.
When I was at one time an active party member in the United Kingdom, Liberalism was then
renowned for its support for self-determination, for community politics, and championing the cause of Home Rule and federalism amongst the nations of the United Kingdom. I actively campaigned on these issues, both as a national youth chairman and parliamentary candidate, and was proud to do so.
Today I have the privilege to be Speaker of the House of Keys in the Isle of Man. As present occupant of this ancient post, I can tell you that such is the sturdy independence of the Manx people that we will vigorously resist any of your ideas to abolish our status as a proud selfâ€governing community in the British Isles, or incorporate us into the UK.
I would be more than pleased to meet with you in London, or even better in the Isle of Man, to
discuss these issues with you in further depth.