Labour will not move PN anti-corruption bills for first reading

Labour Whip says PN’s anti-corruption laws have ‘aspects of money bill’ and are therefore precluded by House rules and Constitution, but Nationalist Whip Robert Cutajar rubbishes claim


Government Whip Glenn Bedingfield
Government Whip Glenn Bedingfield

Labour Whip Glenn Bedingfield has said the government side will not be allowing a package of anti-corruption Bills moved by the Opposition, because they contain elements of a money bill.

Bedingfield told MaltaToday the PN’s motion to discuss 12 legislative proposals aimed at tackling corruption and trading in influence, but also to introduce rules for governments during electoral campaigns, had characteristics of a money bill that precluded him from consenting to its first reading in the House. “I would be going against the rules of the House and the Constitution,” Bedingfield said.

According to the Whip, Article 73 of the Constitution does not allow the House to proceed on any Bill that could impose any tax, charge on revenues, or which requests that provision is made for its purposes, unless it is ‘recommended’ by a minister to the Speaker of the House.

Bedingfield said Robert Abela’s administration had done the most to modernise the country’s institutions, consulting and acting on the necessary changes that had taken decades to happen. “Only this week we took steps to implement the recommendations of the Caruana Galizia public inquiry with a committee of experts to deliberate on a raft of laws prepared by the Office of the Prime Minister.”

In reaction, Opposition whip Robert Cutajar rubbished Bedingfield’s claim that the Constitution or Parliamentary Standing Orders motivated the government’s decision. “The government knows it has all the power and the final say on such matters. Every standing order could be resolved if consensus is reached between both parties,” Cutajar said.

He said the Opposition requested a first reading for next Monday, so that the Bill could be discussed on Thursday, a day on which the Opposition can put forward its agenda.

Once every three months, in agreement with the government, the Opposition has the say on the Parliament’s agenda, meaning that no time is taken from the government’s side. “Money bill or not, the ball is in the government’s court. If it truly agrees and believes in the Bill, a solution could be found […] The truth is the government slept for six months after the public inquiry was published and now is not comfortable with this unprecedented bill from the Opposition,” Cutajar said.

Earlier on Saturday, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi said on Radio 103FM that the Labour parliamentary group had decided it would not go forward to discuss the 12 Bills, which include appointing an anti-corruption magistrate.

On twitter, Azzopardi compared this scenario with the one where the cremation bill was presented by Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar. "Government which had no objection to a money Bill presented by disgraced Labour MP to cremate the dead is objecting to 12 PN Bills to remove Malta from the greylist due to the 'costs' incurred by an Inquiring Magistrate vs corruption."