From the Isle of Man to worldwide


Articles from the Isle of ManPart 2 of 2

By John K Qualtrough of Port St Mary Isle of Man

Please Note: This is a follow-up article from the February 2002 Newsletter where John provided us with an insight into the Manx Parliament "The House of Keys"

As parliamentary democracy developed the need of a spokesman of the parliament emerged and the role of that spokesman developed as Mr Speaker. From the beginning this office holder had to represent the views and convictions of the House of Keys particularly to the Lord of Man., his Lieutenant Governor and Governor’s Council known as the Legislative Council, the Upper House. At times the Lieutenant Governor was extremely authoritarian and the challenge to his rule was fraught with danger, particularly when the House of Keys were trying to establish the paramount rights and privileges of their parliament .

As the influence of the Westminster Parliament has always had a great effect on the affairs of the Isle of Man, it is inevitable that the development of the historic office of Speaker closely paralleled the development of the British Parliament. The robes that are worn by the Speaker of the House of Keys are similar to those worn by the occupant of the Chair of the House of Commons.

The holder of this office is accorded due precedence in public life similar to that granted to the Speaker of the House of Commons. In England the Speaker of the House of Commons ranks high in order of precedence just after the Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the House of Lords. The only commoner to rank above him is the Prime Minister.

Here on the Isle of Man the Speaker is the principal officer of the House of Keys. He is elected by the Members at the first sitting of the House after a General Election. From earliest times Mr Speaker has been the spokesman of the House and the defender of its privileges. As the presiding officer of the House he remains impartial. He is responsible for controlling the procedure of the House and for authoritative interpretation of its standing orders. In the case of a tied vote on a division he has the casting vote.

Mr Speaker also has extensive powers and duties in respect of the business of the House. He determines, for example, which Member will take a Bill through the House, although in recent times he makes his decision after consultation with the Minister of eh Department from which the Bill emanates.

Mr Speaker also has some other unusual rights. In addition to his casting vote, he is entitled to vote as a member in divisions and usually does so. He is also entitled to participate in debate, but in the interest of maintaining the impartiality of the Office of Speaker this right is rarely exercised. It is obvious that in a small legislature the removal of Mr Speaker from the sphere of party politics in the interest of impartiality has some serious objections. Apart from the fact that party government does not exist in the Isle of Man, the constituency which the Speaker of the House of Keys represents could be considered disenfranchised on issues which vitally concern them.

Clearly the appointment of Speaker is an important one and the person to be appointed must be a man of integrity and well respected by his fellow members if his role is to continue to provide an integral and essential part of the parliamentary system and without his effective functioning as an impartial but authoritative Chairman the machinery of representative government is hampered and impaired.

It is interesting to note that in many federal and state legislatures throughout the world, most of which have no tangible link with British democracy, those legislatures have all adopted the office of Speaker.

So much for the role of Speaker. What about the individuals who have held that office, and in particular those who have a Qualtrough connection. When we look at the list of Speakers we find two who have a connection and both of them have direct links to Article 27 at the Qualtrough website ("Ned Beg and Joe Bill Joe" – Go to , click on Family History Link, then Magazine articles, then scroll to Article 27).

The first member of the Qualtrough Family to hold this High Office was Joseph Davidson Qualtrough (1885-1960) . Joseph was the grandson of "Joe Bill Joe". See Article 10, again at the Qualtrough website (Follow the above instructions.) It is hopeful that in the future we will receive a biography on Joseph. Sir Joseph Davidson Qualtrough, a very distinguished parliamentarian, was Speaker from 1937 – 1960.

The second Qualtrough descendant to hold this Office was John David Qualtrough Cannan. David Cannan is the great grandson of "Ned Beg". Mr Cannan is one of the shortest holders of this High Office having held it from 2000 to 2001.

In a book called "The Tynwald Companion" there is a section giving a short biographic account of members and Officers of Tynwald. In the 1993 edition we discover that John David Qualtrough Cannan MHK was born 24 August 1936 in Kirk Michael, Isle of Man, son of Rev. Canon Charles Alfred Cannan (Chaplain of the House of Keys 1924-29),; educated at King William’s College at Castletown, IOM; married in 1966 to Patricia Mary, daughter of Bernard and Jean Roberts of Taranaki, New Zealand. They have 3 sons and 1 daughter.

His career commenced with employment in Martins Bank 1953-54; National Service Royal Artillery 1954-56; 1956-67 career in tea and rubber Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) 1958-61, Malaya (now Malaysia) 1961-67; business interest in Berkshire 1967-79.

Mr Cannan commenced his public service whilst living in England where he was Conservative Member of Bradfield District Council 1970-74, and a member of Theale Parish Council 1970-78. By 1981 he tried to commence his career in public service in the Isle of Man where he contested the Sheading of Ayre. On this occasion he was unsuccessful. However in 1982, he stood as an Independent candidate for the Sheading of Michael and was duly elected, and has continued to represent that constituency ever since.

His interests are listed as gardening, bee-keeping and Manx History.

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