PM won’t tell Jason Azzopardi whose Christmas parties public officials attended last year

Jason Azzopardi wants Joseph Muscat to tell him which judge’s parties public officials under his wing were invited to, but PM says question breaches parliamentary standing orders • Prime Minister has excluded attending such parties himself

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has used a parliamentary rule to avoid saying whether he attended any parties hosted by the judiciary last December
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has used a parliamentary rule to avoid saying whether he attended any parties hosted by the judiciary last December

The Prime Minister has declined to say whether public officials under his wing attended any parties organised by any member of the judiciary in December last year.

In a series of questions over two days, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has asked Joseph Muscat and other members of the Cabinet whether they were invited and subsequently attended any celebrations, dinners or parties in any private residences “including in the limits of Siggiewi and/or Zebbug” organised by a member of the judiciary in December 2018.

The same question asked whether any head of department, or Chief Executive or Chairman of any entity which falls under the Prime Minister also attended any such party.

Muscat yesterday said he had not attended any such parties but insisted the part of the question directed towards public officials was against parliament's standing orders.

In replies today, on behalf of parliamentary secretaries Silvio Schembri and Julia Farrugia, Muscat reiterated that the question breached standing orders.

The Prime Minister referred to a standing order of the House of Representatives which states that a parliamentary question “shall not contain any argument, opinion, inference, imputation, epithet or ironical expression” and that “a question shall not be asked as to the character or conduct of any person except in his official or public capacity”.

“The content of the question goes against the rules set out in Standing Order 27, since it contains the imputation that the Prime Minister, or persons who manage departments which fall under his ministry’s remit, were privately hosted by a member of the judiciary,” Muscat replied.

“Moreover, the question posed relates to a person doing something which wasn’t in the context of their official or public role.”

Following the Prime Minister’s reply today, Azzopardi asked the Speaker for a ruling on whether, in his answer, Muscat was making use of a discretionary power – that of deciding whether a parliamentary question was submitted in accordance with the rules – which should instead have been the Speaker's prerogative.

Speaker Anglu Farrugia said that he would be giving a ruling on the matter in due course.

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