Franco Debono: St Philip’s deal another reason to vote against the budget

Nationalist MP strengthens resolve to vote against government over St Philip’s deal.

Franco Debono said the prime minister had not consulted “coalition partner” Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.
Franco Debono said the prime minister had not consulted “coalition partner” Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

Nationalist MP Franco Debono today said his resolve not to support the budget in November had been strengthened by the government's decision to forge ahead with a €12 million lease-and-buy deal for the private St Philip's Hospital.

Debono has called for a House debate on the St Philip's deal, while independent MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando has questioned the need to rent St Philip's when the public St Luke's Hospital was available to the state and had more than the private hospital's 110 beds at its disposal.

READ MORE Health minister explains St Luke's Hospital purchase

Echoing comments made by Pullicino Orlando, Debono said the decision by government to go ahead with the deal was in contempt of parliament. "It constitutes another very valid reason to vote against the coming budget," Debono - who has already said he won't vote for the Budget with transport minister Austin Gatt in the Cabinet - said.

As things have developed inside the House Business Committee, the group of MPs who set the agenda for the House, the chances that Debono's no-confidence motion in Austin Gatt gets debated are now very low, which means Debono will likely prompt the government's resignation.

The budget is expected to be presented in mid-November, possibly on Monday 13 November, followed by the Opposition leader's speech a week later on 21 November, and a vote to be held two days later on the 23 November - paving the way for a long Christmas recess before the official start of the electoral campaign.

In a blogpost he published in his personal blog, Debono said that Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had not even consulted "coalition partner" Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, "who would now be justified in not keeping his part of the deal. In fact he has been quoted as saying that Minister Joe Cassar should resign."

Independent MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando said a decision by the government to forge ahead with a €12 million deal for the private St Philip's Hospital, was "in contempt of parliament, the highest institution of our country."

Despite a motion by Franco Debono to take the deal to the Public Accounts Committee or the Auditor General, Pullicino Orlando yesterday sounded his misgivings about the government's intention to take on the 110-bed hospital.

"It would have been very easy for government, if it wanted to discuss the leasing of the hospital, to meet on Friday, or Saturday or Monday, if there suddenly was all this urgency to use the hospital. The problem of bed shortages didn't happen yesterday, it has been ongoing for years."

Pullicino Orlando said the House Business Committee would have certainly set a date for its urgent discussion. "At the end of the day government sets the agenda and parliament could have met whenever it wanted to. But it is unacceptable that government goes on with its plans as if nothing has happened. It is clear that [Debono's] motion enjoyed the support of the majority."

"Government's decision is unbelievable and I couldn't believe it when I heard it wanted to go ahead with the plans. The decision is not only in contempt of parliament but also in contempt of democracy and the people. Because even the people are asking certain questions."

No matter what form of protests these straight talking guys throw up, nothing doing. It seems there is too much at stake (angus beef steak @ the Stamperija to clear the ledgers). If I were allowed one dirty word I would write it down, but nice words like collusion, corruption etc just jump at my mind when conjuring up certain negotiating visions in my dreams. I have always maintained that the Maltese are a servile people, tamed abusively by the constant hammering of the Roman Catholic Church that they should believe without question any doss thrown at them by higher authorities. The time of revolt to this state of affairs has arrived. Let there be a peaceful end to this sorry period of Maltese legislature (to be remembered as the failed Gonzi experiment).