Updated 5.25 p.m. - Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando this afternoon appeared to be backing calls for an early election after it was revealed that Franco Debono has told the prime minister that he will not accept a vote on the Budget Measures Implementation Bill before a debate on the pending motions on justice and home affairs.

Dr Pullicino Orlando commented on facebook this afternoon that "Prolonging the inevitable has now not only become humiliating ....... it is not in the national interest."

But Dr Debono said soon after: "There is no need for an early election if the Prime Minister’s decisions are dictated by reason and not just by some of his ministers' reluctance to shoulder responsibility and resign. They must realise they are embarrassing the Prime Minister, the party and the government.

"I have done my utmost so that this government endures the whole legislature."

Dr Debono was commenting after he was asked for a reaction to Dr Pullicino Orlando's comment, which was made as the Nationalist Party's parliamentary group was about to meet for a pre-scheduled meeting which has, however, gained more importance after last night's events.

It was also indicated this morning that the government's hand may be forced through parliamentary manoeuvres which will leave it no alternative but to hold the debates which Dr Debono wants.

Informed sources said an adjournment motion may be moved, providing that the Opposition motion and Dr Debono's own 22-point motion on justice reforms 'be debated immediately'.

The government had wanted the crucial Budget Measures Implementation Bill to be voted on first, in view of its May deadline. The debate on the Bill is well under way and getting it through parliament will grant a breather to the administration. Failure, however, will spell the end of the government since this is a money bill.

However, Dr Debono revealed yesterday that he had told the prime minister that the Opposition motion which censures minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici for the way he ran the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs must come first, and he will do everything possible to see that that happened.

Informed sources said Dr Debono told Dr Gonzi that he was ready to 'budge' on the Budget Measures Bill as long as the justice and home affairs motion was debated first.

He fears that if the more important budget vote comes first, the debate on the justice and home affairs motion will continue to be put off. The motion was presented five months ago.

Dr Debono has repeatedly criticised Dr Mifsud Bonnici's running of the ministry. The MP's possible support for the Opposition motion could force the minister to step down.

Dr Debono yesterday was also seen having a chat with Opposition leader Joseph Muscat. However, he would not say what was discussed.

"Dr Muscat is an MP like the others, and MPs speak to each other," he said.

Asked about his insistence to have the justice and home affairs debate first, he said: "I have done my utmost to save the government but it is clear that the government's only obsession is with saving some ministers."

Referring to Dr Mifsud Bonnici's role as Leader of the House, the person who sets the parliamentary agenda, Dr Debono said: "We have a situation in parliament where a minister blocks a motion censuring him, but at the same time, he proposes legislation in parliament and expects it to be debated."

He said this motion was not about the actual running of the police force, because he was sure that the officers did their best with the available resources. The issue was the running of the ministry.

Dr Debono said he is also insisting that his own wide-ranging motion on reforms of justice and home affairs, presented in the autumn, should also be urgently debated.

Dr Debono, a criminal lawyer, yesterday criticised the manner how the prime minister had split the Ministry of Justice and Home Affars. He said that while he had campaigned for this split, the Office of the Attorney General, whose main role is that of public prosecutor, should have fallen under the Ministry of Home Affairs, not the Ministry of Justice, so as to have a proper separation between the judiciary and the prosecution.

In his private motion, Dr Debono also called for a radical reform of the Attorney General's office.

Meanwhile, informed sources said the PN parliamentary group is due to meet this evening. The meeting was scheduled before the latest crisis involving the justice and home affairs ministry and Dr Debono.

Parliament will not be meeting tonight because of events connected with the Austrian President's state visit. The House is, however, due to meet in the morning and in the evening tomorrow.

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