[From 1911 MacDonnell Inquiry]
THE PETITION OF THE HOUSE OF KEYS, 27TH FEBRUARY 1907.
To the Right Honourable HERBERT JOHN GLADSTONE,
His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Home Affairs.,
THE PETITION OF THE HOUSE OF KEYS.
Your Petitioners are the branch of the Legislature
of the Isle of Man elected by and representative of the
people and known as the House of Keys. From time
immemorial the Isle of Man has been governed accord-
ing to its own laws made and enacted by the King or
Lord and the two Houses of Parliament, viz., the
Governor and Council, and the House of Keys. These
Houses have equal powers which they exercise separately
for legislative purposes and conjointly, but as
distinct bodies, when assembled in the Tynwald Court
for executive purposes. The Manx people are proud
of their Constitution and jealous of its rights and
privileges. They wish above all to preserve and main-
tain it and to do nothing that will disturb its general scope
and character, but they are at the same time anxious
so to broaden and strengthen it as to bring its powers
more directly into line with the conditions of modern
life and the interests of the Island as it now exists.
This is the primary object of the present Petition,
and your Petitioners are encouraged by the fact that
the Imperial Government has more than once since
1866 ratified and even initiated schemes of reform
which have been directed to the same end. (See Appendix A.)
Your Petitioners would remind you that down to
forty years ago there was no popularly constituted
representative element in the Legislature of the Isle of
Man. The Council consisted of officials appointed by
the Crown and by the Bishop of the Isle, and the House
of Keys was a self-elected body in which vacancies were
filled up as they occurred by the Keys and the Governor
without any regard to the will of the people. In 1866,
partly as the result of suggestions made by the Lords
of the Treasury, the House of Keys became an elective
body, and since that time its basis of representation has
been widened, until it is elected at present on the
franchise commonly known as the Household Franchise.
But meanwhile no corresponding change has been
made in the constitution of the Legislative Council,
which still consists of officials appointed for life or
during the pleasure of the Crown and the Lord Bishop..
In order that you may see at a glance the clash of
interests which these conflicting principles occasion, we
may say that, if in the Tynwald Court, consisting of
thirty-three members In all, five of that number (being
a majority of the Council) should vote on one side of a
question, and the remaining twenty-eight (being perhaps
the Governor, the whole of the twenty-four Keys,
and the minority of the Council) should vote on the
other side, the will of the twenty-eight would be over-
ruled by the will of the five.
Your Petitioners think it is obvious that under such
circumstances the people's share in the government
may almost be a nominal one.
The proposals of the present petition are first of all
designed to obviate the evils of such a condition.
Without reference to the present holder of the office
of Lieutenant- Governor, your Petitioners also wish to
express their opinion that the powers vested in that
official are larger and more far-reaching than is consistent
with the principle of self-government under which
the Island now lives, and they desire to ask for such a
limitation of those powers as has already been made,
in a like connection, in most of the self-governing
colonies and dependencies of the Crown, the main object
of such limitation being to secure to the representatives
of the people a larger share, initiation and control of
the taxation and expenditure of the Island, subject to
the veto of the Lieutenant-Governor and the Lords of
Finally, your Petitioners are of opinion that the cost
of the administration of the Isle of Man (being about
5s. per head of the population) is out of all proper
proportion to the number of the inhabitants, and, recognising
the changes which have taken place in the conditions
of life here during the past forty years, they
believe that a large economy in the public expenditure,
without any decrease in the efficiency of the public
service, will result from the reforms they ask you to
consider under this head.
Such in general is the object of the Petition which
your petitioners now present; and, in submitting the
following plan of reform in the Constitution and
Government of the Isle of Man, they are encouraged
by your letter to the Lieutenant-Governor, dated the
1st day of February, 1906, to believe that it will receive
your earnest and favourable consideration.
PROPOSED PLAN OF REFORM.
(A.) The Lieutenant-Governor.
1. That he shall be appointed for a term of years.
2. That, in addition to his present duties of summoning
the Tynwald Court, he shall be required to
summon the Court on a petition signed by not less
than thirteen of its members.
3. That, in addition to his present duties of summoning
the House of Keys, he shall be required to
summon the House of Keys on a petition signed by
not less than thirteen of its members.
4. That he shall be assisted by an "Executive"
(Advisory) Council in considering all questions relating
to the government and revenue of the Island.
5. That he cease to have the exclusive control of
(B.) The Legislative Council.
1. That the majority of its members shall be
directly elected by the people.
2. That the minority shall be nominated by the
3. That the term of election of the people's repre-
sentatives to the Council shall be for nine years, and.
that, as nearly as possible, one-third of the elected
members shall retire every three years.
(C.) The "Executive" (Advisory) Council.
That an -Executive" (Advisory) Council, partly
composed of the civil members of the Legislative
Council and partly of members of the House of Keys,
shall be constituted in order to advise the Lieutenant-
Governor in all matters relating to the government and
revenue of the Island.
(D.) The Tynwald Court.
1. That the consent of the Tynwald Court shall be
necessary before any alteration is made in the salaries
of insular officials and before the imposition of any
new charges for the government of the Island and for
the administration of justice.
2. That the police shall be under the control of a
Board appointed by the Tynwald Court.
(E.) The Archdeacon and the Vicar-General.
1. That the Archdeacon and the Vicar-Genera:
shall not be members of the Council.
2. That the Vicar-General shall not be paid out of
the funds of the Insular Government.
(F.) The Administration of Justice, &c.
1. That only one Deemster shall be appointed
instead of two as at present, and that, in order to
constitute a Court of Appeal of not less than three
members (including the Lieutenant-Governor, but
exclusive of the judge -whose decision is being appealed
from), an English barrister of good standing shall be
appointed when required.
2. That one stipendiary magistrate shall be ap-
pointed in the place of four High Bailiffs.
3, That the Attorney-General shall be prohibited
from private practice, and that his services shall be at
the disposal of the members of the Council and Keys
for drafting bills after their principle has been ap-
proved; that his duties shall include those of adviser
to the Government Boards; and, further, that his
duties in connection with the public charities of the
Island be performed free of cost.
4. That these reforms shall only take effect as
vacancies in the various offices occur.
REASONS FOR REFORM.
(A.) The Lieutenant-Governor.
1. " That he shall be nominated for a term
Your Petitioners would point out that the soundness
of this principle is shown by the fact that it is
now usually adopted in the appointment of Colonial
Governors, and, though they are aware of certain
advantages which may arise from the appointment of a
Governor for life, they think it is evident that great
injury, not to speak of inconvenience, may be suffered
both by the colony or dependency and by the Home
Office where an unsuitable person has been appointed.
Your Petitioners submit that this is not an incident
entirely unknown in the history of the Isle of Man,
and they urge that there would be nothing to prevent
the reappointment of a suitable Governor for a further
term whenever such a course might be deemed advisable.
2. "That, in addition to his present duties
of summoning the Tynwald Court, he shall be
required to summon the Court on a Petition
signed by not less than thirteen members.
3. - That, in addition to his present duties
of summoning the House of Keys, he shall be
required to summon the House on a Petition
signed by not less than thirteen members."
At present the Lieutenant-Governor alone has the
power of calling a meeting of the Tynwald Court or of
the House of Keys, and if from any cause he neglects
or refuses to summon the Legislature, the business of
the Isle of Man must necessarily be at a standstill.
Your Petitioners are therefore of opinion that the
Legislature itself, in either branch or both branches to-
gether, should be empowered to call a meeting when
ever required by thirteen members, a number which
(being more than one-third of the Tynwald Court and
more than one-half of the House of Keys) would
obviate any capricious exercise of the right.
4. " That he shall be assisted by an 'Executive'
(Advisory) Council in considering all
questions relative to the government and revenue
of the Island.
5. " That he shall cease to have the exclusive
control of the Police."
Your Petitioners refer you to the section headed
"Executive" (Advisory) Council for their reasons for
recommending such a Council and to the section headed
"The Tynwald Court" for their reasons for the
transfer of the Police to a public Board.
(B.) The Legislative Council.
1. - That a majority of its members shall be
directly elected by the people."
Lieutenant-Governor and eight members, viz., the
Lord Bishop, the Clerk of the Rolls, the two Deem-
sters, the Attorney-General, the Archdeacon, the
Receiver-General, and the Vicar-General, all of whorl
are nominated by the Crown, except the Vicar-General,
who is nominated by the Lord Bishop.
Theoretically, the Council has equal powers with
the Keys, but practically its powers are much greater
than those of the representative chamber. If, for
example, the Lieutenant-Governor has reason to
suppose that the majority of the Keys do not represent
the opinion of the people in opposing legislation which
the Council is wishful to enact, he can dissolve the
House and require that an appeal shall be made to the
country; but, if the Council rejects legislation passed
by the Keys, the people's representatives have no
For this evil your Petitioners see no remedy except
the one proposed, namely, that the Council shall be
partly elective, and, in order to obviate the possibility
of deadlock between the two branches of the Legislature,
they see no escape from the conclusion that the
majority of the Council should be elected by the
2. " That the minority shall be nominated
by the Crown."
Your Petitioners are of opinion that, if the
majority of the Council were elected by the people, the
minority should be nominated directly by the Crown
alone and that the present system whereby the Bishop of
the Isle nominates the Vicar-General to a seat on the
Council is in the highest degree objectionable, inasmuch
as it grants to a subject power which, apart from
the people as a whole, can only be properly exercised
by the Sovereign.
3. "That the term of the election of the
people's representatives to the Council shall be
nine years, and that, as nearly as possible, one-
third of the number shall retire every three
Your Petitioners are convinced that direct election
by the people will be more satisfactory than any system
of indirect election, and they further think that nine
years is a reasonable term (five years being the term of
the Keys), and that the retirement of the one-third of
the people's members every three years would keep the
Council in touch with popular sentiment while preserving
the stability of the Council as a whole.
(C.) " Executive " (Advisory) Council.
"That an Executive (Advisory) Council,
partly composed of the Civil Members of the
Legislative Council and partly of Members of the
House of Keys, shall be constituted in order to
advise the Lieutenant-Governor in all matters
relating to the government and revenue of the
There is at present a body in existence called the
"Executive Council," the functions of which are, how-
ever, almost entirely advisory.
The persons constituting it are such of the members
of the Legislative Council as the Lieutenant-Governor
may choose to select. But lie is in no way obliged to
consult this body, and it is evident that members
chosen in this way can hardly feel that joint sense of
responsibility, without which continuity and carefully
considered policy and efficient work cannot be
On the other hand, a properly constituted Executive
Council, appointed from time to time by the
Tynwald Court or partly elected by the Legislative
Council and partly by the Keys, would act with due
sense of responsibility to the body or bodies appointing
it, and would be subject to the salutary influence of
The appointment of such a Council would also
ensure the people's representatives having a share in the
consideration of all important questions relating to the
government and revenue of the Island.
Your Petitioners beg to state that in asking that
members of the House of Keys should be constituted
as advisers of the Lieutenant-Governor they are not
suggesting the introduction of a new principle.
in the habit of consulting the House from time to time,
and the " Council Book" in 1793 contains a record of
the Speaker and two other members of the House
having been summoned by the Lieutenant-Governor to
form part of the Executive Council.
Moreover, your Petitioners call attention to the
facts that of late years Committees of the Tynwald
Court have been appointed to advise the Lieutenant-
Governor in financial matters, and in 1905 a permanent
Committee of the Court was constituted to supervise
expenditure on public buildings. Such appointments
show that the desirability of the Lieutenant-Governor
obtaining advice from the representatives of the
people has been, to a certain extent, already recognised.
(D.) The Tynwald Court.
1. " That the consent of the Tynwald Court
shall be necessary before any alteration is made
in the salaries of the Insular officials, and before
the imposition of any new charges for the
Government of the Island and for the administration of justice."
Your Petitioners admit that to deprive the members
of the Tynwald Court of any voice with regard to the
salaries of officials is inconsistent with any just system
of representative government.
This provision was strongly objected to in 1866,
when the Manx people were in a much less advanced
state of political development than at present.
Your Petitioners submit also that the words under-
lined in the quotation from Section 3 of the Isle of
Man Customs, &c., Act, 1866 (given in Appendix B to
this Petition), appear to give to the Lords of the
Treasury a power which might be extended so as to
absorb the whole of the surplus revenue.
It has, however, never been so used, and your Petitioners
consider that the words should be expunged, as
being a needless slur on the capability of the Lieutenant-
Governor and the Tynwald Court to manage the
revenues of the Island.
2. " That the Police shall be under the control
of a Board appointed by the Tynwald Court."
At present the Police are under the sole manage-
ment of the Lieutenant-Governor, and your Petitioners
submit that the Lieutenant-Governor is not usually
chosen out of regard for his capacity for police control.
As a consequence there have, even in recent ,years,
been grave causes of discontent which the Legislature
has had no power to remedy. Inasmuch as control by
Board has already worked satisfactorily in other departments
of administration, there can be no reason to
think it would work otherwise in the case of the Police.
The responsibility of the Board to the Tynwald
Court would obviate the danger of interference by the
various localities, whilst giving to the taxpayer a voice
in the management of a department which is maintained
out of the Insular Revenue.
(E.) The Archdeacon and Vicar-General.
1. " That the Archdeacon and the Vicar-
General shall not be members of the Council."
2. " That the Vicar-General shall not be paid
out of the funds of the Insular Government."
Your Petitioners submit that the inclusion of the
Archdeacon in the Legislative Council is undesirable,
on the ground that in so small a body the Lord Bishop
alone would be a sufficient representative of the Church,
and that the presence of the Vicar-General is undesirable
for the same reason, and objectionable because, as
already urged, he is the nominee of a subject.
Your Petitioners further submit that the Vicar-
General's salary should no longer be paid out of the
Insular Revenue, because his duties in the present day
are almost entirely limited to ecclesiastical matters.
The Vicar-General was placed in the Civil List as
recently as 1846, but he then administered probate and
performed other civil offices which have since passed
out of his control.
The holding of Affiliation Courts is now his only
civil duty, and inasmuch as those Courts are held twice
a month only, when the business as a rule does not
occupy the full day, your Petitioners think the duties
pertaining to them could very properly be performed
by a Stipendiary Magistrate.
(F.) The Administration of Justice, &c.
" That only one Deemster shall be appointed
instead of two as at present, and that, in order to
constitute a Court of Appeal of not less than
three members (including the Governor, but
exclusive of the Judge whose decision is being
appealed from), an English barrister of good
standing shall from time to time be appointed
To enable you fully to apprehend this matter,
Petitioners think it necessary to append a brief account
of the Jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice (see
Your Petitioners submit that the Island does not
need three High Court Judges (the Clerk of the Rolls
and two Deemsters).
In former times the Manx people were more
litigious, and when the difficulties of travel were not
inconsiderable the necessity for two Deemsters may
But litigation has for a long time been rapidly
decreasing in the Island, and consequently the duties
of the High Court of Justice at the present time occupy
scarcely more than one day in the week of each Judge;
and on many occasions the Court does not last more
than two hours.
As regards the difficulties of travel, they have been
removed by the development of railways and tramways.
Your Petitioners are therefore of opinion that all
the judicial duties (except those of the Appeal Court to
be hereafter provided for) devolving upon the three
Judges could now be conveniently and satisfactorily
performed by two, in addition to the Lieutenant-
Governor, thus securing substantial economy in the
cost of the judicial staff of the Island.
In proof of their opinion that the efficiency of the
legal administration would in no way be diminished by
the removal of one of the Deemsters, your Petitioners
point out that recently the senior Deemster discharged
the duties of the Clerk of the Rolls as well as his own
duties for a period of six months, and, in addition to
the above, those of Deputy-Governor for a period of
about four months, without giving cause for any
dissatisfaction arising out of delay in the business of
The only objection, in your Petitioners' opinion,
that can be urged against the reduction in the number
of the Judges is that it becomes necessary to provide
another Judge for the Appeal Court, otherwise there
is only one Judge with legal training, besides the Judge
whose decision is being appealed from.
But appeal cases are so rare (the Court having only
sat on nine days during the last five years) that your
Petitioners suggest that provision can be made to
supply the place of the third Judge by empowering the
Lieutenant-Governor to arrange that an English
Barrister of good standing should sit with the Judges
of the Appeal Court, so as to constitute a Court of
Appeal of not less than three Members, including the
Lieutenant- Governor, but exclusive of the Judge whose
decision is being appealed from.
Petitioners submit further that, in view of the
infrequent appeals, the proposed change will result in a
considerable saving of expenditure in the administration
of justice, at present amounting to over 5,0001. a
year, which is certainly an excessive sum for a population
2. - That one Stipendary Magistrate shall
be appointed in the place of four High Bailiffs."
The necessity for this change- has 'already been
admitted by the Lieutenant-Governor, who has promised
to introduce the necessary legislation to give effect
3. " That the Attorney-General shall be
prohibited from private practice, and that his
services shall be at the disposal of Members of
the Council and Keys for drafting Bills, after
leave to introduce has been given, and that his
duties shall include those of adviser to the
Government Boards; and further, that his
duties in connection with the Public Charities be
performed free of cost."
4. " That these reforms shall only take effect
as vacancies in the various offices occur."
At present the Attorney-General is allowed private
practice, but your Petitioners submit that, for many
reasons, it is proper and expedient he should be
debarred from the exercise of that privilege.
He is a member of the Legislative Council, and as
such ought to take part in its deliberations; but it has
sometimes occurred that his duty to his private clients
has so clashed with his duties to the Government that
he has had to be specially excused by the Governor, who
is therefore deprived of the benefit of his advice as the
legal representative of the Crown.
It will be obvious that in a country so small as the
Isle of Man such a clashing of interests must necessarily
occur from time to time, and that the dual position
of a public servant and private practitioner is extremely
undesirable and open to serious question.
Furthermore, your Petitioners submit that the
services of the Attorney-General (as an officer paid out
of the Insular Revenue) ought to be available for the
purposes of Government Boards. A considerable
saving would thus be effected in the charges now made
by him to them for advice.
Your Petitioners also submit that the services of the
Attorney-General should be available to the Legislature
in both branches for the drafting of Bills after their
principle had been approved, thereby removing a hardship
now experienced by members of the House of Keys
in particular, who, being without the necessary
technical knowledge, have to bear the expense of
procuring professional advice for the promotion of
Petitioners also consider that the duties of the
Attorney-General with regard to the public charities of
this Island ought to be performed free of cost,
Seeing that the Attorney-General receives 1,0001.
a year (the same amount as that given to Judges of the
High Court), a sum which is entirely out of proportion
to the present duties of the office, and that your
Petitioners do not, in view of these proposals, suggest
that the amount should be reduced, they submit that,
bearing in mind the appointment is for life, no hardship
would be incurred by the proposed changes.
Such is the plan of Reform which your Petitioners
submit for your careful consideration, being sure that,
while in the main it concerns details of administration
only and in no way affects the general scope, character,
and intention of their Constitution, it renders it more
in harmony with the circumstances of the Island at the
present day and more in accord with the principles of
representative government under which the Colonies
and Dependencies are now ruled.
Your Petitioners submit that the time has now
arrived when the Imperial Government may properly
give to the people of the Isle of Man a larger and fuller
control of Insular affairs than they have yet enjoyed.
The Manx people are now better educated than
they were forty years ago, and they have therefore a
much stronger sense of the responsibility of the
government of the Island.
Compulsory education has been in force since 1872,
and various Boards (such as School Boards, Poor Law
Boards, and Parish and Town Councils) have enabled the
inhabitants to gain knowledge and experience in the
administration of the law.
Your Petitioners remind you that the Manx people
are in the main extremely cautious, even conservative,
and they are convinced that, with the additional responsibility
which a larger extension of representative
government would give them, they would do nothing
to imperil the prosperity of the Island, but would proceed
slowly and surely in the path of progress.
Moreover, in urging the claim of the people to be
represented in the Upper Branch of the Legislature
your Petitioners point out that they are contending
for a principle which has long been established in marry
other Colonies, and is to be extended even to the
newly-formed Colony of the Transvaal in a few years.
Such a principle cannot therefore, they think, be
equitably denied to the Isle of Man, which is an ancient
and ever loyal dominion of the Crown, and has had its
own forms of government from time immemorial.
Finally, your Petitioners would assure you that the
reforms asked for in this Petition are in accordance
with the wish of a large majority of the people of the
Isle of Man, who, at the last General Election, expressed
themselves in favour of the spirit and general
substance of the changes here set forth by returning
the House of Keys which (in pursuance of its mandate)
has now the honour to address you.
Your Petitioners trust that you will give this
Petition your favourable consideration, and they ask
you to receive a deputation from this House on the
subject matters thereof.
And your Petitioners ever pray, etc.
Signed on behalf of the House of Keys,
A. W. MOORE,
27th February 1907.
REFORMS SINCE 1866.
In 1872, by 35 & 36 Vic. c. 23, the Tynwald Court
gained control over the Harbour Board, obtaining the
power of vetoing the nomination of its members.
In 1880 the Imperial Government promised that,
in future, no Imperial Act which affected the Isle of
Man would be passed without informing the Lieutenant-
In 1887, by 57 Vic. c. 5, the Tynwald Court was
allowed by resolution to " impose abolish or vary " the
Customs duties subject to the approval of Parliament
or the Treasury, such change to take effect immediately
and to continue for six months, and, if Parliament be
then sitting, to the end of the session, provided the
same be not in the meantime annulled by the passing
of an Act of Parliament or a Treasury Minute.
Clause 3 of Isle of Man Customs, etc., Act, 1866
(29 Vic. c. 23).
"The Commissioners of Her Majesty's Customs
shall apply the necessary charges of collecting, recover-
ing, and accounting for the same, which charges they
are hereby authorized and directed to retain, and pay
out of the gross amount collected, notwithstanding the
provisions of the Act of the seventeenth and eighteenth
of Victoria chapter ninety-four in manner following
(that is to say) they shall thereout pay and defray the
necessary expenses attending the Government of the
Isle of Man, and the administration of Justice there,
and other charges incurred in the Isle which have here-
tofore been, or may hereafter be, deemed fit and proper
charges to be deducted from and paid out of the duties
of Customs collected in the Isle of Man, including so
much (if any) of the services which shall have been
voted by the House of Commons applicable to the Isle
of Man as the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury
shall from time to time direct: Provided that no
part of the said duties of Customs shall be applied for
or towards any of the navy services, except the salaries
and expenses of the coastguard service of the Isle
of Man, and that no part of the said duties of Customs
shall be applied for or towards any of the army
services, except the charges of the volunteers of the
Isle of Man."
In matters of civil jurisdiction the High Court of
Justice of this Island, as constituted by Act of Tynwald,
is divided into three divisions, viz., the Common
Law Division, the Chancery Division, and the Staff of
Government Division; and the Judges of the High
Court of Justice are the Lieutenant-Governor, the
Clerk of the Rolls, and the two Deemsters.
The Judges assigned to the Common Law Division
by the Lieutenant-Governor, under powers conferred
upon him by statute, are the two Deemsters; and the
Judge assigned to the Chancery Division is the Clerk
of the Rolls.
In the Staff of Government Division, which exercises
all the appellate jurisdiction in this Island, the
Court is formed of all the Judges of the High Court
of Justice, including the Lieutenant-Governor, whose
assent is required to give validity to any decision, and
in such Division no matter of appeal can be validly
heard or disposed of (except by consent of parties)
unless at least three Judges, the Lieutenant-Governor
being one, sit and hear such appeal.
In matters of Criminal Jurisdiction offences are
triable according to the matter of such offence, either
before all the Judges of the High Court of Justice,
sitting as a Court called the Court of General Gaol
Delivery, or before a Deemster.
(Signed) A. W. MOORE, Speaker.
27th February 1907.