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Proper noun

  1. The Isle of Man government.

Extensive Definition

Tynwald (lang-gv Tinvaal), or more formally, the High Court of Tynwald () is the bicameral legislature of the Isle of Man. It consists of the directly elected House of Keys and the indirectly chosen Legislative Council.
The Houses sit jointly on Tynwald Day in St John's, and on other occasions in the Legislative Buildings in Douglas. Otherwise, the two Houses sit separately, with the House of Keys originating most legislation, and the Legislative Council acting as a revising chamber. It has been argued that Tynwald is in fact tricameral because in addition to the two branches sitting separately they also sit as a single body.


The name Tynwald, like the Icelandic , is derived from the Old Norse word meaning the meeting place of the assembly, the field of the thing.

Tynwald Day

When Tynwald meets annually in St John's (normally on 5 July) at an open air ceremony on Tynwald Hill, the Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man presides, unless the Queen as Lord of Mann or a member of the Royal Family representing her is present. Here, all laws are promulgated and special petitions are received.


If an Act of Tynwald is not promulgated at St John's within 18 months of passage, it becomes null and void.

Joint sittings

While Tynwald sits in Douglas, which occurs once a month from October to July, the President of Tynwald, who is chosen by the other members, presides. In the joint session:
  • Members of each house formally sign bills
  • Notice of Royal Assent from the Lord of Mann is received
  • Questions may be put to ministers
  • Special resolutions authorizing taxes are made
  • Delegated legislation made by Government departments may be approved or annulled
  • Petitions may be presented
  • Other important public business is conducted


When Tynwald votes while meeting jointly, each House votes separately. If a majority of each House approves, the motion is carried. If the Council vote ties, then the President of Tynwald casts the deciding vote in line with the majority vote of the Keys. However, if the Keys approves a motion but the Council disapproves, then the question can be put again at a different sitting. In this case, the vote is determined by a majority of all the members of Tynwald. If this occurs, the Keys, with its larger size, is likely to prevail.

Passage of legislation

Normally, both houses of Tynwald must pass a Bill before it goes to the sovereign or her representative Lieutenant Governor, representing the Lord of Mann, for Royal Assent. But if the Council rejects a bill or amends it against the Keys' wishes, the Keys has the power to repass the same bill, when the Council's approval is not required and the Bill is presented to the Lieutenant Governor for Royal Assent.
Assent is granted (or refused) following consultation with the Ministry of Justice in the UK.

History of Tynwald

Tynwald is usually said in the Isle of Man to be the oldest parliament in continuous existence in the world, having been established by 979 (though its roots may go back to the late 800s as the of Norse raiders not yet permanently resident on the island) and having continued to be held since that time without interruption.
There are other parliaments which are undoubtedly older but these have not had a continuous existence. The Icelandic was established in 930 but abolished in 1800 and not re-founded until 1845. The Faroese is believed to be the oldest of that three, established as early as in the 9th century and recorded to exist as annual assembly in the 10th century. San Marino also claims that its parliament dates to 301 AD, making it several centuries earlier than the claims of the Norse assemblies.
However, the veracity of Tynwald's claim to continuous existence as a legislative body is disputed. From the 11th to the 15th centuries, Tynwald was arguably a judicial court and did not fulfil functions of creating legislation. During the 15th and 16th centuries the process of creating legislation varied between occasions and, as noted below, Tynwald does not appear to have functioned as a single legislative body during that period either.

Medieval period

Tynwald originally comprised only the 24 Members of the House of Keys, commonly referred to as 'the Keys'. Four members were present in the Keys for each of the six sheadings of the Island. The earliest surviving record of the Keys dates to 1422, whilst the earliest record of Tynwald dates to 1077. The Keys were not originally an elected body and membership was for life. When a vacancy arose the remaining members selected the replacement member. In general, membership of the Keys passed down through the leading families on the Island.
In the 1500s the Keys met irregularly. They were akin to a jury which was summoned from time-to-time by the Lord of Mann or the deemsters when they required advice as to the law. In 1600 the Keys became a permanent body.
Until 1577, the Keys merely declared and interpreted the ancient common law when queries arose. This naturally developed into the ability to create new laws, a function that Tynwald adopted around 1610.

17th and 18th century

In October 1651, during the English Civil War, the Island fell to the Parliamentary Forces, who took over the administration of the government. During this period, Tynwald met only sporadically.
Following the restoration of the monarchy, control of the Island was returned back to the Lords of Mann. The Keys saw a reduction in their power at this point, as Tynwald was reconstituted as "the Lord [of Mann], the Governor, the principal officers and the deemsters (who constitute the Lord's Council), and by the Commons represented by their Keys."
Administration of the government was vested in a Governor, and the Lords of Mann became absentee landlords. They Keys were unhappy with the changes, and agreed to very few new laws.
In 1737, Tynwald obtained a power in addition to its monopoly on law-making - the agreement of Tynwald would be required for all taxation, in imitation of the constitutional practice of Great Britain. This was a short-lived arrangement, as in 1765 the Lord of Mann sold his rights over the Island to the British Crown.


Following the revestment of the Lordship of Mann into the British Crown in 1765, the British government assumed all powers to impose and collect taxes. Tynwald was left with no money to spend, and little power, although they were still able to bring about social change by the repeal in 1771 of restrictive labour legislation.
Therefore, the Keys asked the British government to dissolve Tynwald, and assent to legislation for a new elected parliament, which they hoped would have a stronger voice to challenge the new government of the Island, based in distant Whitehall. To this end, the Keys organised a petition of 800 signatures, which was presented to the British government.
A Royal Commission was appointed in 1791, but it wasn't until 1866 that Tynwald finally passed legislation that would see its members elected for the first time. It should also be noted that before 1866, Tynwald's primary business had been operating as the Island's court of appeal. The House of Keys Election Act 1866 removed this judicial power to a separate court.

Royal Commission on the Isle of Man

In 1791 a Royal Commission on the Isle of Man was formed to examine the governance and finances of the island.
The Commissioners reported back to Whitehall in 1792, stating that "The laws and ordinances that were enacted during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries appear by the Manks Statute Book to have been prescribed by such different powers, or combination of powers, that as precedents of the exercise of legislative authority they can have but little weight." The Commission noted that only subsequent to this period was the practice of the Council and twenty-four Keys meeting together to enact legislation established as 'the more regular mode of legislating'.
The Royal Commission also noted that the earliest insular Manx laws on record dated from 1417 (the first Act on record being a restriction of the powers of the church to offer sanctuary) – this was after the arrival of the Stanley family as Lords of Man. It also noted that the comprehensive Manx Statute Book dated from the year 1422 onwards. Note that these were not necessarily the earliest laws passed, but those prior to this date were not recorded as Acts of Tynwald. Comparison can be made with other Parliaments in the British Isles of a similar period; the oldest recorded English Act was from 1229, Scotland 1424, and Ireland 1216 – although again there were prior laws that are now merely part of the unwritten common law of each country.
The opening statement of the Statute Book was ''"Divers Ordinances, Statutes, and Customs, presented, reputed, and used for Laws in the Land of Mann, that were ratified, approved, and confirmed, as well by the Honourable Sir John Stanley, Knight, King and Lord of the same Land, and divers others his Predecessors, as by all Barons, Deemsters, Officers, Tenants, Inhabitants, and Commons of the same Land where the Lord's Right is declared in the following Words"'' ('divers' is an archaic word means 'various')
Furthermore, the Commissioners' report noted that prior to the revestment, no 'minutes or journals' of the proceedings of the Council or the House of Keys had been kept.
…in respect to government and laws, the Manks appear, in all ages to have been a distinct people, and in some degree an independent, or not annexed to any other kingdom… The people, however, beyond all written record, have clearly within claimed and enjoyed the right and privilege of being governed and regulated by laws of their own making, or consented to by themselves, or by their constitutional representative…
To maintain this independence of the Legislature, is held to be the first duty of every Manxman… they dread therefore and must ever dread, the interference in their internal concerns, or even a precedent being made for such interference from any other legislature on earth; even the British… Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for the Isle of Man - 1792


  • The Land of Home Rule. Spencer Walpole, 1893

Members' salaries and expenses

The salaries and expenses payable to members of the Tynwald (as of 2006-04-01) are listed in the table below.

Proposed changes to Tynwald

As of 2007, the Island's system of government is under review – there are plans to transform the Legislative Council into a directly-elected chamber, echoing the push for reform in the UK's House of Lords and the abolition of indirectly elected Conseillers in Guernsey. To date, no legislation has successfully passed through the House of Keys.

Millennium Way

The Millennium Way long distance footpath was opened in 1979 to commemorate the millennium year of Tynwald.


External links

  • Tynwald - The Parliament of the Isle of Man
Tynwald in Welsh: Tynwald
Tynwald in German: Tynwald
Tynwald in Esperanto: Tynwald
Tynwald in French: Tynwald
Tynwald in Irish: Tinbheal
Tynwald in Manx: Tinvaal
Tynwald in Italian: Tynwald
Tynwald in Norwegian Nynorsk: Tynwald
Tynwald in Polish: Tynwald
Tynwald in Russian: Тинвальд
Tynwald in Simple English: Tynwald
Tynwald in Ukrainian: Тінвальд
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