Updated at 6.17pm with date of next sitting.
Speaker Anġlu Farrugia has voted for Rosianne Cutajar’s conduct to be investigated further before a final decision is taken on whether she should face sanctions.
Farrugia voted against an Opposition motion to call for sanctions against Cutajar, a Labour MP.
A report into the Cutajar's conduct found that she breached parliamentary ethics when she acted as a broker in a multi-million Euro property deal involving murder suspect Yorgen Fenech and failed to declare that income.
That report, by standards commissioner George Hyzler, was discussed by the bi-partisan parliamentary committee for standards in public life on Tuesday.
Vote against Opposition motion
A request by Opposition members Karol Aquilina and Therese Comodini Cachia for the Hyzler report to be adopted and for Cutajar to face sanctions was voted against by Government MPs Glenn Bedingfield and Edward Zammit Lewis.
The sitting was then suspended and reconvened at 5pm.
Speaker Farrugia, who has a casting vote as chairman of the committee, voted in the afternoon against the Opposition’s motion.
Speaker says he needs certainty
According to the committee’s rulebook, ethics investigations can be adopted, rejected or investigated further.
Adopting the report would have led to Cutajar being asked to make an apology or face sanctions, to be decided by the committee.
Speaker Farrugia argued that as chairman of the committee and leader of the House, he needed to be certain that there had indeed been a breach by Cutajar and that she had failed to declare earnings.
The report by Hyzler, the speaker argued, arrived at the probability that there had been a breach. However, he wanted more certainty.
Speaker Farrugia stressed that he was only voting against the motion at this stage.
He said that the committee had the powers to investigate further and to call on the ethics commissioner to pass on any relevant documentation to the committee and to the tax authorities.
Cutajar's associate 'updates' his tax declaration
At the start of the afternoon's sitting, the Speaker informed the committee that he had received an updated tax declaration from Cutajar's associate Charles Farrugia, who is alleged to have also acted as a broker in the deal.
This was described as ludicrous by the Opposition members of the committee.
It is understood that in the declaration Farrugia claims to have received the entire brokerage fee in contestation.
The sitting was suspended for a brief recess by Speaker Farrugia after both sides of the committee started argued in raised voices.
An hour of bickering
The next sitting will be held on Monday July 19, 2021.
Speaker Farrugia ended the sitting without even reaching an agreement over who will should be next to testify before the committee.
He told the members to reach an agreement between themselves after the government and opposition MPs could not agree during the sitting.
While the government MPs wanted to hear from Inland Revenue Commissioner Melvyn Gaerty alone for the first sitting, the opposition members said Charles Farrugia should be brought before the committee too.
The committee spent around an hour bickering over the matter, with the speaker eventually giving up on what had become a desperate scene.
“This is not the way a committee should conduct itself,” he said, before walking out of the room.
Opposition protests after Speaker's 'walkout'
In remarks in the House a few minutes later, Opposition MP Karol Aquilina said the walkout by the Speaker was unacceptable to the Opposition.
Aquilina said the Opposition had repeatedly requested that the committee summon the Commissioner of Inland Revenue and Charles Farrugia (It-Tikka). The opposition had also demanded a vote.
It was to be expected that the government’s MPs would vote against, leaving the Speaker to use his casting vote.
But the Speaker had, in walking out, abdicated his responsibilities. As a result the committee could not function. This, he said, was unacceptable.
Opposition whip Robert Cutajar said that as a protest, the Opposition was calling a quorum. The sitting of the House was then suspended.
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