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MP denies Parliament is in crisis

Nationalist MP Mario Galea, whip of the government's parliamentary group, yesterday referred to comments on Monday by Labour whip Joe Mizzi and said that rather than confront each other, both sides of the House needed to discuss how Parliament could work better.

Mr Galea denied there was a crisis in the way Parliament was run, as Mr Mizzi had claimed. Indeed, there was cooperation between the two sides, but there was no denying that matters could improve.

Mr Mizzi had gone so far as to say that there was a threat to democracy. Yet the situation now was a far cry from the situation under Labour governments in the 1970s and 1980s when Nationalist MPs were beaten and their cars damaged. Question Time was practically non-existent and when Nationalist MPs did ask a question, the standard reply was "mhux fl-interess tal-poplu" (Not in the people's interest).

Interjecting, Anglu Farrugia (MLP) said there was also a case where a Nationalist MP, now deceased, tried to attack a Labour MP using a power cable.

Continuing, Mr Galea said the Strangers' Gallery used to be packed by Labour supporters bent at shouting down Nationalist MPs and there was even an infamous case where a senior army officer entered the chamber calling the then Leader of the Opposition a liar. The situation today could not be more different, with parliamentary business planned in the House Business Committee and the Opposition given copies of Bills a week before every debate. So much for the threat to democracy. How could the government be accused of obstructing the opposition when it was the one, with Opposition cooperation, which created the House Committees, thus extending the role of Parliament? The House had recently employed research analyists to help MPs.

Under Mr Speaker Gonzi, the House started allocating some funds to help the parliamentary groups. In this legislature alone, 227 motions were discussed including some 30 moved by the Opposition. He did not know of any Opposition motion which was not debated. So how could anyone say that the House was not working?

The House had debated 56 Bills and ministers had replied to over 18,000 parliamentary questions, apart from supplementary questions. It was also worth recalling that the Opposition nominated the Deputy Speaker, who was doing a very good job.

The Opposition had an important role in Parliament, indeed, there could not be a proper Parliament without an Opposition. It was in the Opposition's interest, as much as the government's, that parliamentary business was conducted efficiently. But did interrupting sittings through calls for quorums help bring about such efficiency?

A year ago the government proposed the introduction of Prime Minister's Question Time, but the offer had not yet been taken up. It also proposed that once a month the Opposition would be free to move its own items for debate in the House.

How could the government be accused of obstructing the Opposition?

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