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Navigating COVID 19 challenges Tynwald participates in CPA webinars

Tynwald has been sharing experiences of navigating challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in a series of webinars hosted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).

Tynwald’s contributions to the sessions build on its capacity-building work with the CPA, notably on public financial oversight, and its long-standing cooperative activities with other jurisdictions, most recently when collaborating with the Channel Islands in the planning stage of setting up virtual sittings in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Participation in the webinars also follows an article for the Electoral Reform Society and The Parliamentarian written by the Speaker of the House of Keys, the Hon Juan Watterson SHK, in which he reflected on the success of the first virtual sitting of Tynwald held on April 3, which he hailed at the time as ‘a positive development in meeting an urgent need’.

The webinars also come in the wake of the launch of the CPA toolkit: ‘Delivering Parliamentary Democracy during the Coronavirus pandemic’ in which reference was made to the April 3 sitting of Tynwald as an example of how parliaments were enacting emergency legislation during the pandemic.

On May 1 Mr Speaker was among expert panellists who contributed to a webinar: ‘Virtual Parliamentary Sittings during the COVID-19 pandemic’, hosted by the CPA and ParlAmericas. In his presentation Mr Speaker shared Tynwald’s experiences of using digital tools for conducting virtual sittings with a 60-strong audience of Presiding Officers, parliamentarians and clerks from 17 countries and Overseas Territories and explained that Tynwald Members had been ‘technically adept’ long before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Reflecting on the session Mr Speaker said: ‘It is always a matter of pride when the Isle of Man can be in the vanguard of innovation. Speakers and Members from the CPA and ParlAmericas showed a real interest in the developments here on the Isle of Man and asked some very detailed questions as to how they could implement solutions in their own jurisdictions. Some like Trinidad and Tobago were still operating socially distanced sittings, whilst others were facing constitutional restrictions on sitting virtually. It is gratifying that we are being held up as a good example of best practice that others are looking to learn from. This forum for the free sharing of ideas and mutual learning is at the heart of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.’

Following the webinar the organisers recognised the practical considerations Mr Speaker outlined - ‘from the technological to the political‘ - and concluded: ‘This information will help parliaments assess the tools that are available to them for improving their functioning in the context of a crisis.’

On Tuesday May 5 and Wednesday May 6 the Deputy Clerk of Tynwald Jonathan King participated in CPA-hosted webinars on: ‘Delivering Parliamentary Democracy during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A virtual briefing for Commonwealth clerks and parliamentary staff’ in which he was joined by more than 80 CPA regional representatives to whom he outlined how Tynwald had implemented virtual sittings and was continuing to conduct parliamentary business.
The virtual briefing on May 5 was attended by 83 parliamentary staff from the CPA Africa, British Islands and Mediterranean (BIM), Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic (CAA) and Canada Regions; the session on May 6 by 81 participants from the CPA Asia, Australia, India, Pacific and South-East Asia Regions.

Following the briefings, the organisers thanked Mr King for his insights from the perspective of a small legislature which would help parliamentarians ‘navigate their way through the crisis’.

Tynwald’s transition to virtual parliamentary proceedings was also the subject of a CPA webcast with the President of Tynwald, the Hon Steve Rodan OBE MLC, Mr Speaker and Third Clerk of Tynwald Joann Corkish, led by CPA UK chief executive Jon Davies. During the interviews Mrs Corkish said that being able to draw on technology already in place had meant a digital solution could be reached swiftly and cost-effectively. Mr President said that the ‘formality of debate’ was being maintained and that Members’ contributions tended to be shorter, which had led to ‘fewer flights of oratory’, while Mr Speaker emphasised the importance of considering the ‘visibility of scrutiny’ element in virtual proceedings and he praised the ‘can-do’ attitude of Tynwald’s staff, officers and Members and their collective willingness to ensure the continuity of parliamentary business during the emergency situation.’


The May 1 CPA/ParlAmericas webinar can be viewed on YouTube at

The May 5 and May 6 CPA webinars can be viewed at
The CPA webcast can be viewed at

Published - 26/05/2020