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Update 2: Nationalist MPs confirm they have free vote in Parliament

Updated --  Adds comment by Jesmond Mugliett

Nationalist MPs confirmed today that they will have a free vote when Parliament debates the Divorce Bill, a debate which party whip David Agius said could be held before the summer break.

MP Stephen Spiteri, speaking as he left a meeting of the PN parliamentary group, said MPs had confirmed they would have a free vote, and he had decided to abstain. 

Jesmond Mugliett said after the group meeting that MPs had had an interesting discussion on parliamentary procedure and the debate on the Bill could begin almost immediately. He said the most MPs should do was to abstain if they objected to divorce, but not vote against.

Earlier, Architect Joe Falzon said he respected the decision of the people and it was up to MPs to decide whether they should vote in favour or abstain. Everyone had a free vote. 

Karl Gouder, who was in favour of divorce, said the people's mandate was clear  and parliament would respect the will of the people. He said that parliament should meet both sides of the divorce debate and come up with the best law possible while respecting the principles laid out in the referendum question.

Jean Pierre Farrugia said he respected the outcome of the referendum and parliament should do its best to ensure that the law was as family friendly as possible. Indeed, apart from this, Malta needed to have more family-friendly measures which would ultimately help marriages last.

Architect Joe Falzon  said he respected the decision of the people. He said it was up to other MPs to decide whether they should vote in favour or abstain. Everyone had a free vote.

Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco said the will of the majority as shown in the referendum would be respected.

Edwin Vassallo said he would vote according to his conscience, but he did not say how he would vote. He said the people had spoken, but the minority also had to be respected. He added, however, that there was a majority in favour of divorce in parliament.

Education Minister Dolores Cristina too said she would vote according to her conscience while minister Giovanna Debono  said she would do what she had already said she would. Minister Austin Gatt was non-committal, but he pointed out, however, that contrary to what some were saying, he never declared he would resign if the yes triumphed in the referendum.

Censu Galea and David Agius said the will of the people would be respected. Franco Debono agreed, saying the people were sovereign.

Ninu Zammit replied with a 'wait and see'. Beppe Fenech Adami said the people's decision had to be respected  but MPs did not need to vote against their conscience (as they can abstain).

Foreign Minister Tonio Borg said that like the prime minister, he would respect the decision of the people.

Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, smiling, said he was looking forward to a cup of coffee during the parliamentary group meeting. He said he 'was, is and will' remain active within the PN' and he felt comfortable in the party.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat said he hoped common sense would prevail in the Nationalist Group and the will of the people was respected.

Labour MP Carmelo Abela, who had been against the introduction of divorce, said that once the people had decided in favour, he would respect the will of the people and vote in favour.

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