JPO suggests acquisition of St Philip's should be halted until parliamentary debate
No agreement on car parks debate
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando suggested today that the acquisition of St Philip's Hospital by the government should be halted until a motion for review of the process was debated by parliament.
The motion was presented by Franco Debono yesterday and the Opposition this morning indicated its agreement with it.
Dr Pullicino Orlando made his remarks as the House Business Committee met to discuss the agenda of the House and set a date for the debate on an Opposition motion on the privatisation of car parks. Dr Debono has said he will amend the motion to turn it into a no-confidence vote in Transport Minister Austin Gatt.
Leader of the House Tonio Borg also proposed that the Opposition debate on the privatisation of car parks should start on November 8 and continue on alternate Thursdays. The Opposition disagreed and proposed October 18, 25 October or November 1 but no agreement was reached.
At the beginning of the meeting, Dr Borg proposed that the House should early next week conclude the debate on the Fiscal Compact ratification.
That would be followed by the conclusion of the debate on the theatre classification bill followed by the debates on the IVF Bill and a bill on appeals from decisions of the Family Court.
He explained that there were were some doubts about whether there was a right to appeal from the Family Court and the government wanted to clarify that such a right to appeal existed.
Next on the agenda would be the Guardianship Bill for people with disabilities and a Bill on constitutional amendments to raise the retirement age of judges to 68. There was agreement with the opposition on this constitutional amendment. The House would also need to debate the Cohabitation Bill.
Opposition whip Joe Mizzi said the Opposition did not want to disrupt the government's programme, but felt that time should also be found for debate of private business, including the Opposition motion. The government should say when it intended to present the Budget.
Dr Borg said the Budget date had not been set yet, but it would be in November.
Dr Anglu Farrugia said the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the date for debate of the Opposition motion on the privatisation of the car parks. Last Monday, the government proposed November 12 for the debate, which the Opposition considered far too distant.
Dr Borg said there was never a legislature with so many debates on private motions. Since Standing Orders spoke of Opposition business on alternate Thursdays, he was proposing that the debate on the opposition's motion should start on November 8, continuing on the following alternate Thursday.
Dr Debono said his bill on party funding was urgent and should be debated as it was being awaited by GRECO, the Council of Europe committee on the issue. He also had another four motions awaiting debate.
If the government was saying that its business was urgent, why did Parliament have such long summer holidays? The bill on raising the retirement age of judges stemmed from his own motion on reforms of the justice sector and this should be debated first.
His motion for review of the proposed acquisition of St Philip's Hospital was also urgent.
Dr Debono said he would not chase anyone. The government was in a mess of its own making and he had been clear about his position.
Dr Pullicino Orlando said the urgency to hold the budget debate would no longer exist if the motion on no confidence in Dr Gatt was debated. He said the motion on the leasing of St Philip's Hospital was justified in many people's minds. Why not allocate the same funds on St Luke's instead of a private hospital? He felt that Dr Borg should assure the House that the government would take no further action on the acquisition of St Philip's until the motion was debated.
Dr Borg said the government was not against parliamentary scrutiny, and the issue of St Philip's should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee.
Dr Pullicino Orlando insisted that the acquisition of the hospital should be stopped until the debate in parliament, as was done for the car parks privatisation. This must not be a case of the deal going ahead and being investigated afterwards.
Dr Farrugia said the debate on the car parks motion should be held on October 18 or 25 or November 1. The government should not impose a date once it did not enjoy a majority.
The Speaker suggested that both sides should hold a separate meeting to try to reach a compromise.
The meeting ended without an agreement being reached on the date.