Friday, 5 October 2012

Independent: JPO satisfied with the parliamentary agenda
5 October 2012 by Keith Micallef

Independent MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando yesterday expressed his satisfaction that the Embryo Protection Bill and the Cohabitation bill, which have been in the pipeline for years, will finally be debated in parliament later this month. At least nine sittings will be dedicated to these two bills, which are set to be debated from 15 October onwards.

The former PN MP was speaking to The Malta Independent at the end of the House Business Committee yesterday afternoon, during which government and opposition failed to agree on a date to hold the debate on the privatisation of public car parks.

This debate was requested last week by the opposition MP Joe Sammut who tabled a motion on the issue following the negative reaction from the public as well as from several government MPs including Franco Debono and to a lesser degree, the party whip David Agius.

Though Dr Pullicino Orlando was also critical on this privatisation plan, he remarked that issues such as IVF and cohabitation are more urgent, once the government decided to suspend the tendering process.

Meanwhile, during the meeting, the deputy prime minister, who is also the leader of the House, said that the government is planning to debate the opposition motion on 12 November.

He reiterated that this motion is no longer urgent but opposition whip Joe Mizzi and deputy leader Anġlu Farrugia both objected strongly saying that it is still highly relevant once there was a majority in the house who had shared their position.

During the previous committee meeting held on Monday, government MP Franco Debono and Dr Pullicino Orlando had declared that this motion had to be debated urgently.

Dr Farrugia yesterday remarked that the no-confidence motion against the transport minister further enforced the opposition’s claim that this motion is of urgent importance. Consequently he proposed holding the debate next week, possibly later than Wednesday when no parliamentary sittings are normally scheduled.

Prior to this, the speaker had suspended the meeting for about 15 minutes, saying that he would suggest an alternative in a bid to find a compromise. However, both sides refused his proposal of holding the debate at the end of the month. As a result, no agreement was reached and the committee adjourned for another date which has not yet been decided. In the meantime, the Speaker said he will sustain his efforts to find a solution for this impasse.

During the meeting, it was decided that stability treaty will be put to the vote on 9 October. However, this could have to be postponed to a later date, since the opposition requested to scrutinise every clause of this treaty prior to the vote.

At the start of the meeting, Dr Borg proposed that parliament debates the amendments for the civil code concerning guardianship of disabled people. The opposition replied that the government should have moved these amendments before, raising doubts about the real motives behind this sudden urgency. Dr Farrugia added that it would be disgraceful if the government tries to gain time by resorting to such tactics.

He remarked that the government is trying to impose an agenda even though it does not enjoy the backing of the majority of the House.

At one point Dr Pullicino Orlando suggested to debate the opposition motion before the budget, arguing that if this results in the ousting of the transport minister, the government might be in a position to muster a majority and approve next year’s budget after all.

On Monday Dr Debono declared that unless Dr Gatt resigns, he will vote against the budget thus sounding the death knell to the government. Neither Dr Debono not Dr Gatt have budged from their positions since then.

Meanwhile, the speaker replied that Dr Debono had not tabled a separate no-confidence motion in Dr Gatt and thus Dr Pullicino Orlando’s argument was no longer valid. However he tabled a separate no-confidence motion.

At the start of the meeting Dr Debono thanked the Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy leader of the opposition for condemning the death threats he received in recent days via an SMS.

Dr Debono walked out of the committee meeting claiming that he was not being given the chance to make his point.

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