Several MPs are refusing to hand over more information on their families’ assets to the Standards Commissioner. 

Times of Malta is informed that commissioner George Hyzler last month requested all MPs fill in a detailed questionnaire about their own and their families’ assets. This includes information on MPs’ spouses or partners, but the request has been met with reluctance from a number of parliamentarians.  

Sources said that Labour Party parliamentary whip Glenn Bedingfield and Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis have been holding talks with Hyzler after MPs from the government benches refused to fill in the questionnaire. 

It is not clear whether all MPs from the opposition benches have filled in the questionnaire. Nationalist Party parliamentary whip Robert Cutajar did not respond to questions sent by the time of going to print.  However, PN sources said that the direction given to the opposition MPs had been to fill in the questionnaire and to send it to the commissioner by no later than the deadline. 

The issue is understood to revolve particularly around MPs from the government benches, who do not want to ask their spouses and partners to divulge their own assets, insisting that they already make an adequate declaration to the Speaker of the House every year. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, government MPs told Times of Malta that they viewed the request for further information as an intrusion on their own and their family’s privacy. Others said the request for further information was a “fishing expedition”. 

Bedingfield, on the other hand, was coy when asked about the matter. He would only say that the PL’s parliamentary group was exchanging correspondence with Hyzler over the matter.

The standards commissioner is understood to be keen on widening the scope of the annual declaration to increase its reach and uncover potential abuse. 

Responding to questions, Hyzler confirmed he had sent the questionnaire to all MPs to help him make a better assessment on the truthfulness of their declaration of assets according to law.

He would not divulge the identity of those who replied to the questionnaire and those who did not but explained that the information he requested would avoid unnecessary investigations. He also pointed out that the spouses’ or partners’ declarations would not be made public.

The requirement for spouses to declare their assets has been a requirement since 1994, when it was included in the MPs’ code of ethics. 

It is understood that Hyzler is making proposals to change it back and add partners for those MPs in stable relationships and who are not covered by the Community of Acquests.

This can be defined as a partnership of assets which the spouses acquire as from the date of their marriage through their work and savings. This means that any income or assets derived by either of the spouses in his/her personal name, is not solely owned by such spouse, but is now jointly owned by both spouses.

The annual declaration of assets is meant to ascertain transparency among all MPs, but it has often raised questions and suspicions. 

Correction November 23: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a requirement for MPs' spouses to declare their assets was removed from parliament's code of ethics in 2013. That requirement was removed from the ministerial code of ethics but remains in force for MPs. 

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