[WATCH] Standards report can’t be ignored but MP pay rise can’t be taken lightly, says Muscat

The Prime Minister said government was seeking legal advice on a report by the Standards Commissioner which says MPs shouldn’t have government jobs but should be paid more

Muscat said the government would analyse Hyzler's report and issue its own position
Muscat said the government would analyse Hyzler's report and issue its own position

The government is analyzing and seeking legal advice on a report published yesterday by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, in which he described the practice of parliamentarians working for government entities as “fundamentally wrong”.

Speaking during an interview on the Labour Party’s ONE, Muscat said that the Commissioner George Hyzler’s report could not be ignored and that the points raised, and their counter arguments needed to be considered.

In his report, the commissioner raised a number of consequences of the practice, including “diluting parliament’s role of scrutinizing the executive, placing MPs in a position of financial dependence on the executive, discriminating between government and Opposition MPs and politicizing statutory bodies”.

Muscat noted that Hyzler’s report differentiated between the government and government entities, adding that this would also have to be analysed and understood further.  

“Just like the standards commissioner rightfully took his time to compile this report and seek legal advice, we too want to legal advice in this regard,” Muscat said.

He pointed out that the practice had been started under the previous Nationalist administration and continued by the present government.

Regarding the commissioner’s recommendation for the issue to be addressed by increasing MPs wages, Muscat insisted this couldn’t be taken lightly, pointing to the controversy which had erupted when the last Nationalist administration agreed to increase their honoraria “behind the people’s back”.

“I am definitely not going to go in that direction. There must be a public discussion and a legal analysis of these things,” he said.

Entertaining pilots’ requests irresponsible

Turning to Air Malta, whose pilots’ union said in court this week that Monday’s industrial action had nothing to do demands related to their early retirement package, Muscat said pilots were being unreasonable.

“Everyone knows what the requests we had before us were. The government would be irresponsible to entertain requests that are not realistic, and I think people are able to judge what is realistic and what isn’t.”

He said the airline’s business model had changed in recent years and was now better able to tap into a range of niche markets. “Our vision for Air Malta to be the airline of the Mediterranean is a reality that has started to materialize.”

The airline, he said, had a bright future, having turned the page and embarked on a strategy of growth. He said that over the coming years more would be invested in growing the airline’s network.

Focus now on next year’s budget

The Prime Minister, who this week saw his hopes of a top European job seemingly shattered, said he was now focused on next year’s budget, preparations for which are already underway.

The Finance Ministry was already communicating with the various government entities, and he too was outlining the priorities for the next year, Muscat said.

He stressed that the government’s priority was to once again have a strong budget, and one that offers continuity.

Muscat expressed his satisfaction at recognition by the United Nations report of the government’s efforts fighting poverty, but acknowledged that many were still living in such conditions.

No Special Olympics success wouldn’t Marigold Foundation

Finally, Muscat spoke about his wife Michelle’s annual fundraising swim, which will this year see her swimming 14 km from Ċirkewwa and Mellieħa.

The Prime Minister admitted to being slightly concerned because of the difficulty of the swim, but insisted it was a worthy cause and one that hundreds of people benefitted from.  

“The Special Olympics for example - and I’ll say myself because she won’t - the children and youths who this year won so many medals at the Special Olympics, managed to go abroad because many of the expenses were paid for through funds raised during initiatives by Michelle the Marigold Foundation,” Muscat said.

He said despite the difficult involved, he was sure she would again succeed in completing the challenge.