'Procedural motion does not hinder MPs'
Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg told Parliament yesterday that the Prime Minister's procedural motion would not stop MPs from voicing their opinions, nor did it block them from voting as they wished when a division was called.
Speaking during the debate on the motion, Dr Borg said the government had ensured that even when a decision was deferred to a Wednesday morning, because of a division, it had stipulated that this would never be postponed by more than a week.
Naturally, he said, when there was no division, the process would work as usual.
Continuing from where he had left off on Tuesday, Dr Borg said the premise that decisions might as well be taken on a monthly basis did not hold water. After all, the government's aim was to take decisions as quickly as possible, and that was why it had set the one-week limit.
When there was disagreement on a clause in a Bill in committee stage, the committee passed on to the next clause so that the work could continue. The present motion provided that if there were any disagreements, the relative vote would be taken on the following Wednesday. This also happened at the European Parliament, he said, but there members waited a whole month. This was not what the government was proposing.
Franco Debono (PN) said he disagreed with opposition claims that the PN was in a state of panic. The government had, after all, debated all the motions they had presented for debate.
The people had entrusted the PN with a mandate, and the government wanted to ensure that it fulfilled what was expected of it. Parliamentary life had changed drastically over the past 10 years, and if then Deputy Prime Minister Guido DeMarco had been speaking today instead of in 1997, he might have spoken differently.
This motion was necessary to set up a way for Parliament to work and allow all MPs to attend overseas fora to fulfil their responsibilities. Parliament had the power to regulate its own procedures, he said, and it was time to examine and update the standing orders.
Joseph Falzon (PN) said this was a debate in which both sides were showing what level of political maturity they wanted to see in Parliament and how much they respected the institution. But this could not come about without mutual respect of one another and of the electorate.
Political maturity recognised that there was a government with the onus of managing the country, including the fullest possible participation in European institutions. This was the only way the government could satisfactorily carry out its mandate.
The opposition knew that on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays it was important for Malta to have the greatest possible representation at EU level. How could the government be in a state of panic, as alleged by the opposition, when it was delivering all that it had promised?
Anyone listening to the opposition's claims that the government was undermining all democratic principles would find it difficult to compare this to what they saw the government doing. Besides running the country the government needed to make sure that Malta's voice was heard overseas. Why should it decide whether to send a delegation overseas only if there was no probability of a vote being taken in Parliament? Adoption of the Prime Minister's motion would effectively be facilitating Malta's overseas work.
Mr Falzon said the people must be wondering what the opposition really wanted. Was it trying to help Malta to greater economic wealth or was it simply interested in putting spokes in wheels?
He appealed to the opposition to live up to its promise of being a watchdog to see that the government delivered on its electoral promises.
Beppe Fenech Adami (PN) said that what Dr Sant was saying about the government's perceived wish to undermine democracy should be taken in the background of past political history. The motion was indeed ensuring that the government would be able to carry out its mandate.
The motion could only be attributed to the fact that the opposition was continuously refusing to accept a pairing agreement. This meant that the government could not send MPs to overseas fora because it could mean the government's downfall. This was tantamount to the government being at the mercy of the opposition. These considerations, on the other hand, did not apply to the opposition.
It was good that members of the opposition were evidently committing themselves to active participation in overseas fora, but if anyone was to go by the inferred meaning of Dr Sant's words, the government should forget about these meetings.
Dr Fenech Adami remained in possession of the House, which stands adjourned to Monday evening.