PN says Standards Committee chair should be elected by two-thirds House majority

Opposition MP Karol Aquilina says MPs found in breach of standards ‘ended up being protected’

The Nationalist Party has presented a private member’s bill proposing the chair of the Standards Committee be occupied by a person outside of Parliament, elected by a two-thirds majority of the House.

“We have to remain continuously vigilant and come up with solutions on how this nation can proceed with a healthy democracy that can’t be jeopardised like in the past,” Opposition leader Bernard Grech said.

Grech said 48 hours elapsing since his parliamentary speech on the issue, there has been no reaction from government and the Prime Minister. “The PN is ready to discuss and improve the bill.”

He said the authority of the Standards Commissioner is important as it holds members of parliament accountable, arguing the Speaker cannot chair the committee.

PN MP Karol Aquilina who co-authored the bill, said the bill proposes a change to the setup of the committee, following cases where MPs found in breach of standards, “ended up being protected”.

Aquilina explained the bill proposes the committee is made up of two MPs, chosen by the PM and the Opposition leader and three non-MPs, including the chair elected by a two-thirds House majority.

“The bill also proposes and update to the definition of Members of Parliament that fall under scrutiny, to include former MPs, ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and parliamentary assistants,” Aquilina said.

He argued that the recent case of Joseph Muscat, who was found guilty of breaching standards, when offering a consultancy job to former minister Konrad Mizzi, should not have been ignored simply because Muscat was no longer an MP.

PN MP Therese Comodini Cachia said the PN proposed the amendments to safeguard the code of ethics and assure investigations by Standards Commissioner are acted upon. “When an investigation goes to the committee, protection of public interest should be a priority”.

Comodini Cachia referenced the recent incident involving Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar and said the government and Speaker Anglu Farrugia ridiculed conclusions by Commissioner Hyzler.