The Malta Independent 23 February 2024, Friday
View E-Paper

TMID Editorial: Parliamentary changes

Monday, 4 December 2023, 10:01 Last update: about 4 months ago

Parliament is the highest democratic institution in the country. It is where bills, formulating Malta’s legislative changes, are discussed and voted upon, and where politicians are able to critique issues in the country.

There are changes which can be made that would improve its efficiency, effectiveness and work.

When speaking about Parliament, from an efficiency perspective, one must highlight the length of time each speaker spends talking about a bill. It could be more efficient to, for instance, have the main speakers from each party have an allocated amount of time to speak, for instance 20 minutes, and other speakers a far reduced amount, such as five minutes. This might enable Parliament to go through Bills more quickly, and could reduce repetition in debates.

ADVERTISEMENT

When it comes to the ability of Parliament to debate and create the best possible Bills, MPs, particularly the Opposition, lack resources. While the government ministers would have all the resources at their disposal when drafting a law, the party or parties in Opposition would not. MPs are part-time, and they are expected to go through so many laws and study so many issues while also holding down a full-time job. There should be Parliamentary researchers and staff who are able to support backbench MPs and Opposition MPs in doing their work, which will ultimately lead to better laws.

In addition, the question of part-time, full-time or the option of being either a part-time or full-time MPs is one that has pros and cons on all sides. A debate in this regard should also be had.

As for backbench MPs, the issue of having backbench MPs appointed to public roles is concerning. The appointment of a backbencher to a role in a government entity goes against the recommendations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which were also endorsed by the Standards Commissioner. This needs to be addressed.

One can also point out the need for changes within certain committees. Take the Standards Committee for instance, primarily when it comes to its composition, and MPs being seen to protect their own., the committee has the Speaker of the House as its chairman. Two PL MPs and two PN MPs make up the rest of the committee. Opposition Leader Bernard Grech once proposed that the Speaker of the House no longer chair the committee, and that in stead, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader will each select a single MP to serve on the committee, and three people who are not MPs will be chosen through a 2/3rds Parliamentary majority approval, with one of these non-MPs serving as the Chairperson. This could result in better oversight, but there could be other models out there also worth considering. The Committee must be able to function in the best possible manner in the public interest, and a discussion about possible models for the committee should have that as its primary focus.

The above are but a few issues in Parliament, some of which need to be rectified, and some that need to be discussed to see if improvement can be found. There are others. For instance, the PN has also been pushing for the introduction of Prime Minister’s Question Time, as happens in the UK’s Parliament. This would be a welcome addition to the Parliamentary schedule.

 

  • don't miss