At the first meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for Standards in Public Life, Standards Commissioner Dr George Hyzler confirmed that he is investigating three cases. Dr Hyzler said that the cases he investigates will not be made public.
He added that he was asked by the media if he was investigating Opposition Leader, Adrian Delia, on an allegation of domestic violence and said, according to law, he cannot investigate cases which are in Court.
During the meeting, Speaker Anġlu Farrugia – who presides the committee – expressed his disappointment that the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission presented proposals on Parliament without even bothering to speak to him and with Parliament.
It was Nationalist MP, Simon Busuttil, who asked Dr Hyzler if he will report on the Venice Commission’s proposals which, among others, said that Parliament is weak to control the Government because Government backbenchers were appointed in government entities and also that MPs are part-timers.
Dr Hyzler stated that he doesn’t enter into the debate on full-time and part-time deputies if not on issues of conflict of interest. He said that he will study the issue of deputies who want to scrutinize the Government while they occupy a position within the same government. He thinks this may be contradictory.
Speaker Farrugia complained that the Venice Commission delegation did not meet with him so that he could explain the work done in the past five years to strengthen Parliament and increase transparency and accountability. Dr Farrugia stated that the Commission made what he called strange conclusions on Parliament’s independence, and recalled that there were times when Government backbenchers were appointed Parliamentary assistants with Ministers.
Regarding the complaints he is investigating, Commissioner Hyzler said he is investigating three complaints, while he rejected a complaint which ‘prima facie’ did not fall under the standards law. He also said that he was asked by a journalist if he was investigating the allegation of domestic violence by the Opposition leader, Adrian Delia. Dr Hyzler said he cannot do this as the allegation is subject in a Court case.
He added that he doesn’t speak to the media on cases being investigated, but report to the Parliamentary Committee on breach of ethics. Cases of criminal and corruption nature are passed to the competent authorities so that they investigate them. Dr Hyzler announced that the House of Commons’ Standards Commissioner in Public Life, Catherine Stone, will visit Malta in May and will address Maltese MPs on her work.
Meanwhile, the Venice Commission’s report was also brought up in Parliament by deputies Simon Busuttil and Edward Zammit Lewis. Justice Minister, Owen Bonnici, said that in general the Government agrees with the Commission’s proposals for the strengthening of the country’s institutions.
He said that both sides of the House are meeting under the presidency of President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca on the Constitution’s reform, calling the talks held as very positive. Asked if the Government will continue to appoint judiciary members before implementing the commission’s proposals, Minister Bonnici said that the vacancies in the judiciary will be filled so that the Court’s work will not be affected.