Updated on Tuesday at 5.55pm with PN press conference

Parliament was unexpectedly adjourned for two weeks on Monday, a day before a debate was due on the financial estimates of the Embryo Protection Authority.

Government whip Byron Camilleri told the House at the adjournment that the House would sit again on May 27 - just after the European Parliament and local council elections.

No prior decision had been taken by the House Business Committee, which plans the business of the House. 

Sittings only resumed on Monday last week after the Easter recess.

But Mr Camilleri noted poor attendance for sittings due to the ongoing electoral campaigns. 

He said that although the government had originally proposed resuming sittings on May 27, immediately after the election weekend, it had accepted an Opposition proposal for sittings to resume on May 28 due to the fact that vote-counting would still be underway the day before.

PN complains

But a PN spokesman said the government had not even informed the opposition it would adjourn parliament now until after the elections.

"The truth is that the government wants to avoid a discussion on Embryo Protection Authority which was scheduled for tomorrow," he said. 

Abortion has in the past been brought up during the debate on embryo protection, and the issue has also become one of the election controversies. 

No detailed breakdown of the €1.2 million the Lands Authority spent on legal and professional fees was forthcoming, Opposition MP Ryan Callus said.No detailed breakdown of the €1.2 million the Lands Authority spent on legal and professional fees was forthcoming, Opposition MP Ryan Callus said.

Government in state of panic - PN

The government “cancelled” Parliamentary sittings just as soon as the debate on the protection of embryos was about to start because it was in a state of panic, the Nationalist Party charged on Tuesday.

Deputy leader for Parliamentary Affairs David Agius, whip Robert Cutajar and MP Karol Aquilina told a news conference the government was running away from a debate on life and postponed everything to after the May elections. This was done without notice, without consultation and against what had been agreed upon during the House Business Committee.

They said this was without precedent and not even the Office of the Speaker knew what was happening, signifying a lack of respect towards the country’s highest institution. It was a strong message that democracy in the country was being threatened, the PN insisted.

PD slams government

In a Facebook video posted on Tuesday morning, Democratic Party leader Godfrey Farrugia said parliament had been reduced to a "farse", with the government ignoring Opposition calls and deciding to adjourn parliament whenever it pleased.

Lands Authority debate

The House on Monday debated the estimates of the Lands Authority. 

Opposition MP Ryan Callus said the creation of the new Authority saw experienced and capable lawyers sidelined while the government dished out direct orders for the work they had previously carried out 

Mr Callus, who is the Opposition’s representative on the Lands Authority board, said he would not vote in favour of the authority’s estimates because of an “exaggerated” €1.2 million in legal and professional fees, for which no detailed breakdown was forthcoming.

This cost to the Authority - which had registered losses of €750,000 during its first year of operation - was the result of “damage” done during the Lands Department’s metamorphosis into the new authority.

Mr Callus expressed his view that the Government had seen the transition as an opportunity to issue direct orders for work previously carried out by lawyers with years of experience who had been sidelined in the process.

As a result, he had not been prepared to endorse a document when he was not sure exactly what he would have been endorsing, he stated.

Opening the debate, Ian Borg, the minister responsible for lands, said Labour’s decision to constitute a new authority to administer government land had been a courageous and necessary decision.

Criticism today focussed on the fact that the Authority was almost “too independent,” he said, and set the government’s policy agenda in the field itself.
He thanked Mr Callus for his contribution to the Board, noting that the Opposition MP spent a lot of time at the Lands Authority examining files.

Mr Callus was welcome to do so, he added, but said he was perplexed at the fact that the Opposition spokesperson for sport was also the Opposition’s representative on the Lands Authority board.