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Minister could have handled row better - report

Lawrie Hooper MHK
Lawrie Hooper

The health minister’s behaviour at a “fractious” meeting with a committee did not amount to bullying but he "undoubtedly" could have handled the dispute better, a report has found.

A heavily redacted independent investigation into the allegations, released via the Freedom of Information process, has found the row centred around the remit of the Health Services Consultative Committee (HSCC).

Claims were made that Lawrie Hooper MHK "launched into a rant" in a June meeting about the committee's annual report but the minister denied there was "any shouting".

The report also found he did not break the Council of Ministers code of conduct when answering questions about claims made in the committee's document in the House of Keys.

It said that Mr Hooper was "not wrong" to accuse the HSCC of "lying" in its report when answering a question in the House of Keys in October.

The minister had become "annoyed" when the committee's document stated a decision to align its reporting areas with Sir Jonathan Michael's 2019 Independent Health Review had his ministerial support, which it did not, the report said.

Mr Hooper told the investigation the HSCC's method of reporting was not compliant with the 2012 regulations and it had been turning its attention to statutory matters it did not have to address.

The investigator, Manx advocate Alan Gough, noted that the committee and the minister were "poles apart as to the function" of the body and "no-one has identified for certain" its role, therefore any meeting was going to be "challenging".

'Unlawful'

The report said that during a heated exchange Tanya August-Hanson MLC "vocally supported" the minister "to a level described as shouting" and said the HSCC had been "illegal or acting illegally", which had "caused something of a stir".

Clearing Ms August-Hanson of an allegation of bullying, the investigator said while the members of the committee had "latched on" to the use of the word "illegal" when "unlawful was what was meant"

Evidence given to the investigation by the "disgruntled" HSCC members heard the committee had felt "demeaned" at the meeting as a result of the conduct of both politicians, the report said.

The report said the ministerial code stated that an isolated incident would not amount to bullying as the behaviour must be repetitive to be considered as such.

New regulations streamlining the operation of the HSCC were backed by Tynwald in October.

In response to the report's findings, Mr Hooper said he had "maintained the things that were alleged simply weren’t true" from the outset.

However, he said he would review the report in detail to see if there were areas where things could be done "differently going forwards" and "learn from that”.

The HSCC has been contacted for a comment

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