Embryo genetic testing: No MP requested free vote in 10 hours of talks within PN parliamentary group

None of the handful of PN MPs who are publicly objecting to embryo genetic testing and want to be given a free vote raised the matter within the parliamentary group

PN MP and president of the general council Mark Anthony Sammut
PN MP and president of the general council Mark Anthony Sammut

Updated at 4:48pm with PN statement

In 10 hours of internal discussion on changes to the in-vitro fertilisation law, nobody in the Nationalist Party parliamentary group requested a free vote, Mark Anthony Sammut said.

The president of the PN general council said the party statute makes it clear that any decision on a free vote is made by the parliamentary group.

“The statute clearly states that on matters of conscience and belief, the parliamentary group can decide to give its members a free vote in parliament,” Sammut said when contacted by MaltaToday for an interpretation of the party rules on free votes.

The issue arose over the past 24 hours after a handful of PN MPs, including former leader Adrian Delia, expressed disagreement with embryo genetic testing despite Bernard Grech declaring the party will support the changes in parliament’s final vote. The vote was scheduled to be taken today but will now be taken on Wednesday.

Delia has said that he had written to Grech requesting a free vote on the issue but a party spokesperson insisted the request was made after the parliamentary group had exhausted its discussion on the matter.

It also appears that none of the dissenting voices raised the issue of a free vote during the internal discussions. 

“In around 10 hours of discussions within the parliamentary group, which I attended in their entirety, I can confirm that no request for a free vote was ever made,” Sammut said, adding that such a decision was the remit of the parliamentary group.

Apart from Delia, the other MPs who have openly expressed disagreement with pre-implantation genetic testing are Alex Borg, Ivan Bartolo and Carm Mifsud Bonnici, who shared Delia’s Facebook post. These MPs are requesting a free vote on the matter.

Parliamentary group voted for IVF Bill

Meanwhile, the PN said in a statement on Monday afternoon that at a meeting held on 27 June, the parliamentary group voted in favour of the IVF Bill as amended and no one asked for a free vote.

The PN said that apart from the meeting of 27 June, the parliamentary group also discussed the IVF Bill on 3 June and 14 June, and neither in none of these meetings was the free vote issue raised.

The party said that the PN statute makes it clear that any decision on a free vote to MPs has to be decided by the parliamentary group. “Any request for a free vote that may have been done after or outside the meetings of the parliamentary group, including on social media, are not according to what the PN statute stipulates.”