Isle of Man News - POSTED Wed 20-05-2015

War Memorials Bill moves to Keys

by MT

Rushen MHK Juan Watterson will be introducing a Bill into the House of Keys in the coming weeks that will provide the first statutory protection for war memorials.

The main proposed reforms of this brief bill include:

• Placing a duty of care on the owner of a war memorial to maintain it
• Giving Council of Ministers enforcement powers to ensure war memorials are maintained

The reasons for moving the bill are:

• there is no compulsion for anyone to preserve the memorials we have. Most local authorities act in good faith and use the powers in the 1927 Act to preserve their memorials, but if one fell into disrepair there would be no compulsion to maintain or restore it. This Bill would seek to place an obligation on the landowner, local authority or church where the memorial was sited to maintain it.
• In providing this special status, the Bill provides for Council of Ministers to have some powers in this regard, although there would be the possibility of delegating them to the War Memorials Preservation Committee. This would include the power to approve erection of a new war memorial, the power to vest a memorial in a local authority where ownership was unknown or as in many cases owned collectively by the community. It also requires Council of Ministers to maintain a register of war memorials.

Following consultation with Local Authorities, Church authorities and other interested parties such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and War Memorials Trust. This has led to a number of changes from the first draft, including:

• Exemption for faculty jurisdiction, recognising that the Church of England and other Church bodies have suitable protection
• Requirement for Council of Ministers to maintain & publish a public register of war memorials, so that there is certainty as to what is and what is not a war memorial
• Allows Council of Ministers to treat war memorials as if they were registered buildings in order to ensure that there is a known system and proper sanctions in place.

If the Bill progresses through the House of Keys, it is the intention to publish and consult on the draft register of war memorials, the rules which Council of Ministers will apply for applications, and draft an order to apply the relevant sections of the Town and Country Planning Act.

Juan Watterson, who has created the document and will be bringing the Bill to the House of Keys added, “We are in the midst of 100th anniversary commemorations of events during the First World War. This tragic episode in the history of humanity made a massive impression across the globe, including, possible even especially, the Isle of Man.

“We are all aware and proud of the fact that more Manxmen per thousand put themselves forward for service than any county of England.

“The names of those who fell are recorded on our Island’s War memorials, there are around 170 such memorials around the Island, not just parish obelisks, but plaques buildings, books, windows and organs all sacred to the memory of those who paid the highest price for our freedom.

“I am proud to be the current chairman of the Government’s War Memorials Preservation Committee. Almost all of the memorials around the Island were erected or funded by public subscription – demonstrating the outpouring of public of feeling that existed at that time. Many were supported by war memorial committees that retained funds for the upkeep of the memorials, and this was supplemented by legislation in 1927 allowing local authorities to spend ratepayers money on maintaining memorials.

“We move on, and the Second World War brought further memorials. However, sadly due to the passage of time, the loss of interest, the shame perhaps of war that society went through, none of these war memorial committees exist. Indeed, your committee has noted that some memorials are in desperate need of repair or maintenance and there has been no “owner” per se to care for it.

“I have therefore sought leave of the House to introduce a Bill to make provision fit for the future and to ensure that the memory of those who died continues to be preserved beyond the lifetimes of those who remember them.”

In my research in preparing this Bill, I cannot find another country that has placed a duty on a group to maintain memorials. I can only hope that if passed, this will be the standard for other countries going forward. And what better time to do so?”

Copies of the document can be obtained from the Tynwald Library, or Juan Watterson MHK at Legislative Buildings, Douglas, IM1 3PW or at juan.watterson@gov.im.  Contact 01624651517.

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