The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Parliament’s Standing Orders ‘only stencilled papers’

Malta Independent Sunday, 24 February 2013, 09:39 Last update: about 5 years ago

When he became Deputy Speaker some years ago, Michael Bonnici asked the staff for a copy of the Standing Orders and was given a sheaf of stencilled papers.

Then he asked for a copy of recent rulings and it took a clerk three months to come up with a collation of recent rulings.

Mr Bonnici was speaking at the end of the launch of Professor Raymond Mangion’s two-volume Speakers’ Rulings in the Parliament of Malta 1921-1924 which was held in the Tapestry Chamber at the Palace. The Tapestry Chamber was, of course, where Malta’s Parliament met until the 1970s.

Introducing the event, outgoing Speaker Michael Frendo said that the Maltese Parliament does not have a collation of Speakers’ decisions and consequently these cannot be studied and analysed.

He pointed out that three banks have been helping Parliament raise awareness: HSBC through this book, APS through a book for children and BOV through a forthcoming exhibition.

Former Speakers Myriam Spiteri Debono and Anton Tabone spoke of their own personal experiences of the post. Ms Spiteri Debono said it is a very lonely post because the Speaker, at the moment a ruling is asked, is all alone – although the staff help by raising previous precedents.

The Permanent Orders, as they were known in 1921 – today’s Standing Orders – are practically the same, many times using even the same words.

Prof. Mangion explained that the 2,000-plus page two-volume book details each ruling or decision by the Speaker over the three-year period, at that time Salvatore Borg Olivier, father of the future prime minister explaining the context of each decision.

There was no Parliament in those days, but a Legislative Assembly and members were not called MPs but Members of the Legislative Assembly. This was the situation until Independence in 1964.

For all the frequent reference to Erskine May, and the practice of the UK’s House of Commons, many of the Standard Orders are home-grown.

Concern was expressed that Prof. Mangion’s meticulous work indicates just how painstaking the work is: in five years he covered just three years of Parliamentary activity. Continuing the work up to the present time will require work by a team of researchers, rather than just one person.

The evening was ‘enlivened’ by a power cut in the Chamber and resumed after a short break.

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