Thursday, 13 December 2012

Times: Cohabitation among 15 Bills put on hold
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 by Christian Peregin

Cohabitants and whistleblowers will have to wait until the next legislature for the legal protection they have been promised for years, due to the outcome of last night’s failed Budget vote.

The Bills to regulate cohabitation and grant protection to whistleblowers are among 15 legislative changes, which will be dropped due to the expected dissolution of Parliament.

Among Parliament’s unfinished business is also the ratification of the European Fiscal Compact agreed upon in March. The treaty, which introduces the imposition of balanced budgets on member states, will enter into force on January 1, provided 12 eurozone countries ratify it. So far, only 10 countries have done so.

Nationalist MP Franco Debono yesterday voted with the Opposition against the Budget presented by the Government last month, triggering the end of this legislature.

This means all the business pending before Parliament will now be dropped; ironically, even the motion moved by Dr Debono regarding the justice sector.

The Government chosen at the next general election will now have to decide what business to carry forward from the 11th legislature to the 12th.

Among the Bills in the balance is one proposing better financial conditions for the judiciary through a reform of their pension system, which was criticised by the Labour Party.

There is also a related amendment to the Constitution, which would raise the retirement age of the judiciary to 68 from 65, which the Opposition had supported.

Bills amending the Acts relating to cultural heritage, the financial services sector and the Central Bank of Malta will also be dropped, along with proposed regulation for architects, lawyers and counsellors.

Bundled changes to the Civil Code and the Criminal Code, mostly the work of former Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici, will also be discarded. Dr Mifsud Bonnici had been voted out of Cabinet by the Opposition, with the support of Dr Debono.

Lastly, a detailed Bill intended to set up a centralised registry – proposed by Dr Debono’s nemesis Transport Minister Austin Gatt – is another initiative that will be shelved, even though it had reached the final committee stage of the parliamentary process.

Meanwhile, a set of laws meant to be spearheaded by Dr Gatt will now never see the light of day, including those introducing a set of digital rights.

These were proposed in a White Paper last October in response to the EU-wide Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (Acta), which was dropped following international controversy.

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