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Budget vote on Dec 10

Tonio Borg to resign as Foreign Minister and MP tomorrow

Parliament will be asked to take its first and most crucial vote on the 2013 Budget on December 10, The Times has learnt.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tonio Borg is expected to tender his resignation as minister and MP tomorrow – the same day of the Budget speech – after addressing the House of Representatives for the last time this evening.

Nationalist whip David Agius yesterday confirmed that following discussions with the Opposition, agreement had been reached on the rest of the parliamentary agenda until the Christmas recess.

Labour whip Joe Mizzi also confirmed the agreement.

The agenda could well be derailed if Nationalist MP Franco Debono follows through with his threat to vote against the Budget and topple the Government if Minister Austin Gatt remains a member of the Cabinet.

According to the agreed schedule, the Leader of the Opposition will make his speech on December 5, while Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi will reply on December 10.

Immediately after the Prime Minister’s reply, MPs will be asked to vote on the Budget. Since the Budget is considered a money bill, defeat would practically mean the end of the legislature.

On the other hand, if the Government survives this hurdle, the plan is for the debate on the estimates to go on until December 19 when Parliament is expected to rise for the Christmas recess.

The December 10 vote will most probably also be the first vote for a new Nationalist MP, who will assume the seat vacated by the Foreign Minister.

Dr Borg told The Times yesterday he was planning to start his new job in Brussels by Friday.

Coreper – the conference of permanent representatives of the 27 EU member states – is scheduled to rubber stamp the new Maltese Commissioner during its meeting today.

Dr Borg’s resignation will kick-start the process of a casual election in the eighth electoral district. Family doctor Michael Asciak, who has already served as MP in various legislatures, is most likely to take the vacated seat.

Sources close to the Government said the Foreign Ministry is expected to be integrated into the remit of the Office of the Prime Minister until the end of the legislature.

The Prime Minister will also have the prerogative to appoint a new Deputy Prime Minister although this will most probably be decided following the election of a new PN deputy leader on Friday.

The sources said the Prime Minister might also decide not to appoint a deputy.

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