Speaker fails to break deadlock in tied vote on Carmelo Abela ethics report

Parliamentary Speaker Anġlu Farrugia abstained in a tied ethics committee vote on Carmelo Abela report, leaving MPs puzzled

Speaker of the House Anġlu Farrugia abstained from an ethics committee vote on Carmelo Abela's ethics preach, in a move deemed suis generis by Labour MP Edward Zammit Lewis.

The Standards in Public Life committee met on Wednesday to take a vote on whether to adopt an ethics report on a misuse of funds from Carmelo Abela's ministry.

Nationalist MPs Therese Comodini Cachia and Beppe Fenech Adami voted in favour of adopting the report, while Edward Zammit Lewis and Glenn Bedingfield from the Labour Party voted against. 

This led to a deadlock, in which case it is parliamentary practice for the Speaker to set down the casting vote that will decide whether or not the committee will adopt the report. 

Farrugia gave a lengthy explanation for his vote, or lack thereof, saying that he agreed with certain elements of the report and not with others.

Because of this, he felt best to abstain from voting altogether, keeping the committee at deadlock.

In effect, the report has not been reported by the committee. However, the Speaker suggested that there should be clear guidelines on ministerial advertising, to avoid further issues in this manner.

The Standards Commissioner report, published on 14 April, found that Abela's conduct breached several articles of the Code of Ethics for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. 

The report concerned an advertising campaign in print media by the Ministry within the Office of the Prime Minister, headed by Abela, which included a large portrait of the minister.

In his report, the Standards Commissioner concluded the advert was "clearly intended to boost the image of Minister Carmelo Abela rather than provide any information of value to the general public, given the prominence of the photograph and the absence of informative content on the work of the ministry".  

This report sparked controversy, with Labour whip Glenn Bedingfield offering strong criticism towards Standards Commissioner George Hyzler.

During a speech in parliament, Bedingfield insisted Hyzler had failed to investigate complaints on government MPs impartially, claiming his allegiances still lie with the Nationalist Party.

Hyzler was parliamentary secretary for justice under the Nationalist Administration, and eventually a Nationalist MP.