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Watterson: Investigation into conduct claims was ‘incredibly isolating’

Onchan MHK Rob Callister

Tynwald President accepts former DHSC minister's apology 

Efforts were made to ‘informally’ resolve a bullying row which saw the former health minister forced to apologise for his conduct.

The chair of the Tynwald Standards and Members’ Interests Committee, Juan Watterson, has confirmed today that the attempt failed.

Instead a ‘lengthy and painstaking process’ was started after Onchan MHK Rob Callister was sacked in November last year after three months in post as Health and Social Care Minister.

The investigation, which cost taxpayers £3,000, was led by the former House of Commons clerk, and chief officer of Jersey’s States Assembly, Dr Mark Eagan.

It found Mr Callister was found to have undermined the right to dignity at work of civil servants and found he did not act in a manner consistent with the principle of honesty.   

You can read the full report HERE.

In Tynwald today (21 March) Mr Callister apologised for acting inappropriately – an apology that was accepted by President of Tynwald Laurence Skelly:

The committee began looking into the sacking of Mr Callister after a request from the Chief Minister Alfred Cannan following his decision to dismiss him from his first ministerial job.

He’d asked it to determine if there had been any breach of standards, or the code of conduct, by Mr Callister, himself, and the DHSC’s political members Tanya August-Hanson, Joney Faragher and Michelle Haywood.

The committee found no wrongdoing by anyone except Mr Callister although did ask Dr Haywood to 'reflect on the appropriate use of language in formal settings.'

Today Dr Haywood apologised to the court for swearing saying she had also ‘relived and reflected’ on the events of September, October and November:

Required standards of conduct for Tynwald members were introduced in 2016 with politicians required to formally sign-up to them when they are sworn-in to office.

But Mr Callister’s political colleague in Onchan, Julie Edge, raised concerns that they hadn’t been implemented properly and previous concerns had been ignored.

Describing the debate over his conduct as a ‘sad day’ she said she believed he had been ‘let down’:

North Douglas MHK John Wannenburgh described Mr Callister as a ‘broken man’ saying he was ‘deeply uncomfortable’ by what he had seen and heard.

His constituency colleague David Ashford told the court there would never be ‘any winners’ from this situation and called for the evidence in the investigation to be more transparent:

South Douglas MHK Claire Christian also queried why politicians hadn’t been allowed to see more of the evidence used to determine the decisions made.

In addition she highlighted her concerns with the lack of frameworks in place to allow for ‘meaningful mediation’ and a lack of support when personal development is identified:

However current Health and Social Care Minister Lawrie Hooper said revealing the evidence from civil servants involved in the case would lead to their identification.

He claimed many were still ‘in fear’ of repercussions and consequences from Mr Callister’s time in post saying they don’t feel protected:

Douglas East MHK, and Environment, Food and Agriculture Minister, Clare Barber said it was clear that things had gone wrong and there had been ‘significant human damage’:

Whilst Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Tim Glover said he was ‘uncomfortable’ about the process he conceded it was time to move forward:

Lord Bishop Peter Eagles also contributed to the Tynwald debate telling members it would always be difficult for the ‘entirety’ of the truth to be ‘untangled’.

He told the court he had sympathy for those involved and said there were lessons to be learnt about the cost of public service:

Concluding the debate Mr Watterson said he accepted it had been a ‘remarkably difficult time’ for all involved and acknowledged that it had been ‘incredibly isolating’.

He conceded that, as politicians, regulating their own behaviour is one of the ‘hardest things’ to do but confirmed the evidence of the civil servants involved in the case couldn’t be made public:

Tynwald accepted the report compiled by the Tynwald Standards and Members’ Interests Committee and the President of Tynwald accepted Mr Callister’s apology.

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