Malta: Opposition presents 7 measures for a more efficient parliament

AGORA moderator's picture

The Opposition has come forward with a seven-point plan which it said would lead to “a more efficient parliament”.

The plan was presented by PN deputy leader for parliamentary affairs Mario de Marco and whip David Agius, with de Marco explaining that the proposed changes would result in better quality work and higher standards for MPs, an improved level of parliamentary debate and a more efficient parliament.

“As the Opposition, we would like to use this summer recess to engage and work with the government for a more efficient parliament,” said De Marco, adding that the way a country's parliamnet operated reflected the state of its democracy.

“A more efficient parliament which engages in a higher level of debate reflects a higher democratic standard,” he added. 

The PN’s seven proposals:

Commissioner for standards in public life

De Marco said that despite having passed a law, till today the commissioner has not yet been appointed. He urged the government to move ahead with the appointment for the new commissioner to be in place in time for parliament reopening.

Parliamentary scrutiny of appointments

Before the June elections, the Labour and PN had reached an initial agreement to have parliament scrutinise certain appointment. De Marco said that this was a common practice abroad, and that there was no reason as to way Malta should not adopt it.

He said that Parliament, through an ad-hoc committee, should have a role in scrutinising the appointments of chairpersons of public institutions, ambassadors, the police commissioner and other appointments.

Prime Minister’s question time

The PN is advocating for the introduction of Prime Minister’s questions as happens in the House of Commons in the UK.

De Marco said that this would add a layer of accountability to the government and the Prime Minister’s work, and would also give the Opposition the opportunity to put questions directly to the Prime Minister.

“It has been being discussed for a while now but I think it is time for it to be implemented,” said De Marco, adding that at this stage the PN would be seeking agreement on the principle.

More family-friendly measures  

The deputy leader said that, in order for parliament to hold debate of a higher quality, it needed to be able to attract more talent. For this to happen, parties must ensure that MPs do not have to sacrifice their family life to be a parliamentarian.

He said that parliament should introduce family-friendly measures, including revised hours, as well as the option for MPs to work on a full-time basis.

Parliamentary experts

No MP can have expertise in every subject being debated, said De Marco, adding that a pool of experts and researchers should be assigned to parliament to inform debate in parliament.

“If we truly want a higher level of debate we must appreciate we are not experts in all fields and that we need experts to assist parliament and MPs,” he insisted.

Increased female representation

“We must see what additional measures we can increase to have higher representation of women,” said De Marco.

More opportunities for private member’s bills  

De Marco said that the role of Parliament was not only debating laws put forward by the government, but also private member’s bills.

“The problem is that the time allocated for discussions on these motions makes it very difficult,” he said, adding that current procedures such bills often never made it to the floor.

Turning to the proposed constitutional reform, De Marco stressed the need for cross-party agreement and for the reform to be carried out in a holistic manner, rather than using a “piecemeal approach”

PN Whip David Agius said that through its proposals, the Opposition was trying to show respect towards country’s highest institution and wanted to work with government to pass necessary changes.

He added that the timing of the proposals was intended for summer recess “not to be wasted” and that the government taking the proposals on board “would show that it respected the Opposition”.

 

Cross-posted from: http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/79270/pn_announces_sevenpoint...