Justice Minister presents 10 Bills in parliament dealing with wide-ranging reforms

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis has presented the First Reading in parliament of 10 Bills dealing with reforms in line with recommendations made by the Venice Commission

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis
Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis

Government is moving hastily on constitutional and legal reforms with Edward Zammit Lewis tabling a record 10 Bills for their First Reading in parliament this evening.

The Justice Minister presented the First Reading on legal changes that range from the method of appointment for the president to laws regulating persons of trust.

The First Reading implies the minister will be putting on parliament’s agenda the relative changes by presenting the titles of the Bills.

MaltaToday earlier reported that by the end of the week, Zammit Lewis will publish the relative Bills dealing with at least four significant changes.

The first four Bills will deal with the appointment of the president, the appointment of judges and magistrates, the removal of members of the judiciary and appointments to the Permanent Commission Against Corruption.

The move comes a couple of weeks after the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission welcomed the proposed reforms and gave the government a thumb up for the process.

The commission had drawn up a report in 2018 that was critical of the concentration of power in the prime minister’s hands. It had proposed several changes that the current administration has taken on board.

Since becoming Prime Minister in January, Robert Abela pledged to move ahead with constitutional and legal reforms to address deficiencies and enhance the system of checks and balances.

The proposed changes had also been welcomed by European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.

Zammit Lewis said in a statement: "This thorough and comprehensive process clearly proves that the Robert Abela administration is well prepared to develop, define and implement such key reforms, which were finalised and brought to the House of Representatives within only five months."

Zammit Lewis put forward the following Bills for the First Reading:

1. Constitutional changes to have the president elected by a two-thirds parliamentary majority

2. Constitutional changes to have members of the judiciary appointed by the president with no government intervention

3. Constitutional changes outlining how judges and magistrates can be removed

4. Changes to the manner by which appointments to the Permanent Commission Against Corruption are made

5. The introduction of judicial review of decisions not to prosecute and other decisions taken by the Attorney General

6. Changes to strengthen the Ombudsman’s office

7. Changes to strengthen the National Audit Office and the Auditor General

8. Changes to the manner by which the Principle Permanent Secretary and Permanent Secretaries are appointed

9. Changes to introduce better regulations governing persons of trust in public administration

10. Changes to other laws dealing with various appointments by removing the unilateral power of the prime minister