The highly-anticipated parliamentary debate linked to government’s proposed reform of cannabis laws in Malta is slated to take place towards the end of November once debates linked to the 2022 budget are completed.
Lovin Malta spoke with government whip Glenn Bedingfield and Opposition whip Robert Cutajar to get an idea of what can be expected when MPs return to Parliament this afternoon after summer recess.
Bedingfield said Parliament will next week be discussing minor amendments to laws governing commercial licenses, as well as some minor amendments to the Companies Act.
Amendments to the Parliamentary Services Act will be debated in the House on Wednesday.
“Then the week after there is the budget and the debate is meant to go on until 15th November, with sittings held in the morning and the afternoon,” Bedingfield said.
Asked about the proposed cannabis reform, Bedingfield said that the Bill would likely be debated after the budget debates have been completed and before Parliament breaks off for Christmas.
“We have passed a record number of laws and will continue to implement much-needed reforms,” he said.
In August, Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici, who is now piloting the reform, pledged to have the Bill published by October.
With rumours rife that Malta will be heading to the polls in November, it remains to be seen how much of Parliament’s agenda for the coming months will actually get done by the end of the legislature.
In order to make an end of November election, Parliament would need to be dissolved the day after the Prime Minister’s budget speech on 19th October.
Opposition not informed about cannabis debate
Opposition whip Robert Cutajar pointed out that there had been no communication by the government regarding plans for any debate on cannabis reform.
“There was a meeting of the House Business Committee, but nothing was communicated,” Cutajar said.
Cutajar also stressed that despite Parliament being closed for the summer, the Nationalist Party had continued with its work and had even made two requests for the House to convene early.
The PN filed two urgent motions over summer, one calling for an urgent debate on Malta’s greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force and the second for a no-confidence motion in Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, after his WhatsApp exchanges with Yorgen Fenech – the alleged mastermind of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia – were revealed in the press.
“The government felt both weren’t urgent, despite the fact that it had no problem meeting to discuss other matters,” Cutajar said.
In fact, the PN boycotted a parliamentary committee meeting in which it was agreed that the Corinthia Group would need to pay the government €10.3 million in order to affect a change in the provisions of an emphyteutical deed allowing land at Ħal Ferħ to be used for residential purposes.
More to Parliament’s work than the plenary session
Cutajar also pointed to a sitting of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee about the Electrogas affair later this week, which is expected to hear from former minister Konrad Mizzi.
“Parliament’s work goes beyond the plenary session, there is also a lot of important work done in the various committees,” Cutajar said, noting that there were still many pending issues, including clarity on how the Parliament’s Standards Committee would be proceeding with its investigation into Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar.
“We are also yet to hear about when we’re going to be discussing Malta’s greylisting,” Cutajar stressed, adding that the Opposition had also not heard back about a Bill it presented to make the Environment and Resources Authority more transparent.
Cutajar also called on the government to change its attitude towards Parliamentary Questions. “The Opposition expects government ministers to be in the chamber when they need to answer PQs. They need to respect the electorate and the country’s highest institution.”
He also urged government ministers to put an end to the practice of putting off replying to questions.
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