Chris Fearne excludes attending Christmas party thrown by a member of the judiciary

Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi continues to ask ministers whether they, and public officials under their wing, attended a Christmas party organised by a member of the judiciary

Chris Fearne has told PN MP Jason Azzopardi that he did not attend any Christmas parties organised by a member of the judiciary
Chris Fearne has told PN MP Jason Azzopardi that he did not attend any Christmas parties organised by a member of the judiciary

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne has excluded attending any party organised by a member of the judiciary last December in a reply to a question by Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi.

Fearne dished out the standard reply that all government ministers so far have given Azzopardi to his question over a Christmas party supposedly organised by a member of the judiciary last December, by insisting the question was in breach of parliamentary rules.

However, like the Prime Minister did last week, Fearne denied attending any such party himself.

The Nationalist Party MP has been asking every minister and parliamentary secretary whether they attended any party organised in a private residence by a member of the judiciary in the “limits of Siġġiewi and/or Żebbuġ” last December.

The question also asks whether top public officials, who fall under the wing of the relevant ministers, also attended the party.

However, in what is a standard reply, ministers have insisted the question is in breach of parliamentary standing orders.

In a ruling delivered last week, Speaker Anglu Farrugia said it was not his remit to scrutinise the replies given by ministers. The responsibility for the replies lies with the ministers, he insisted, quoting parliamentary practice. "Irrespective of whether the Speaker feels that the content of the replies indicated by Jason Azzopardi is inadequate or not, the Speaker cannot in any way regulate the content," Farrugia said.

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

In today’s parliamentary sitting, it was the turn of Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela, Environment Minister Jose Herrera, and parliamentary secretaries Clint Camilleri, Silvio Parnis and Deo Debattista to reply.

Last week Joseph Muscat excluded attending any such party but insisted the personal nature of the parliamentary question was in breach of standing orders.

The standing order quoted by the government side 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 government side contends that the question contains the imputation that the ministers, or persons who manage departments which fall under their ministry’s remit, were privately hosted by a member of the judiciary.

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

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