Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth comes to an end, with Speaker Farrugia being re-elected to the CPA Standing Committee as representative of the BIMR
The Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth came to an end with the election of the 2018-2020 Standing Committee Members. Speaker of the House of Representatives Anġlu Farrugia was reconfirmed for a second term as the representative of the British Isles and Mediterranean Region seat following unanimous agreement within the region. This also comes in view of the fact that the next Standing Committee meeting will be held in Malta in January 2019.
The Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth was concluded with the second day workshop sessions tackling the themes of “Strengthening Parliamentary Research for the Effective functioning of Legislatures”; and “Emerging security issues for Parliamentarians”. A special plenary session dealing with “The role of Speakers in strengthening Parliament as an Institution of Accountability, Openness and Transparency” was held on the third and final day.
During the first workshop session dealing with strengthening parliamentary research, discussions were held as to how best to maximise the interaction between parliaments and sittings. It was highlighted that the public is becoming very demanding and accountability of legislators is very high. Speaker Farrugia explained how the research department of the Maltese Parliament is set up, with the engagement of eight research analysts who provide assistance to Maltese parliamentary delegations participating in international fora. They also provide assistance to the thirteen Parliamentary Standing Committees, particularly the Foreign and European Affairs Committee. Malta, being a member of the EU, must present documents to the said Committee to scrutinize the Government, as well as check for any breach of subsidiarity and proportionality issues. Speaker Farrugia mentioned the preservation of documents which date back to 1834 which need to be highly accessible, whilst being protected due to their fragility. He also referred to the new library premises to be opened within Parliament in due course.
During the second workshop session tackling Emerging Security issues for Parliamentarians, a detailed presentation by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Hon. Lindsay Hoyle was delivered, in the light of recent terrorist threats which the British Parliament had to face. The discussion developed into a number of measures and recommendations which Parliamentarians and Parliaments should take in order to ensure their safety. During the workshop, it was agreed that, since Commonwealth countries are facing a number of terrorist activities, it is imperative to share important information regarding security to protect Parliaments and their Members. Speaker Farrugia pointed out that, in view of the various terrorist threats mentioned in the discussion, security services within Parliaments should increase. This should lead to facilitating cooperation on sharing security information.
The Special Plenary Session discussed the role of Speakers in strengthening Parliament as an institution of accountability, openness and transparency and a number of methods were mentioned which Parliaments should introduce to increase public participation in the decision-making process of elected bodies. It also delved into how Parliaments balance parliamentary information with protection of Members’ parliamentary rights and privileges and how citizens are engaged in their Parliaments. In his intervention, Speaker Farrugia shared the importance of accessibility to information and noted that, more importantly, the Maltese House of Representatives entered a new building in 2015, which is mainly made up of glass to ensure transparency and openness to the public.
The Parliament is also open to the public for a number of exhibitions and holds regular sittings involving different strata of society, namely media representatives, university students, primary and secondary school children and grandparents who are given the opportunity to debate issues with Members of Parliament.