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Workings of the House of Representatives Select Committee on re-codification and consolidation of laws (Prof. Kevin Aquilina)

 In this brief note, I want to update the readers of statecareandmore.eu on the developments taking place in the House of Representatives with regard to re-codification and consolidation of Maltese Law.

1.         Establishment, Composition and Terms of Reference of the Select Committee
 
The House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Re-Codification and Consolidation of Laws was established by Motion 114 which was approved by the House of Representatives during the sitting of Monday, 14 December 2009.
 
The Select Committee is chaired by the Hon. Dr. Franco Debono and composed of the Hon. Dr. Francis Zammit Dimech for the Government side and the Hon. Dr. Jose’ Herrera for the Opposition side.
 
The terms of reference of the Select Committee as listed in Motion 114 are to ensure that:
 
(a)           anacronistic and spent laws are repealed;
 
(b)           laws of a civil, criminal and commercial nature are codified so that they form part of the extant respective Codes; and
 
(ċ)           laws which are of a similar nature are consolidated into one enactment.
 
2.         Compilation of Electoral Laws in One Enactment
 
The Select Committee is holding regular sittings once a week to discuss how to make Maltese laws more accessible to the public. In its last sittings, the Select Committee was investigating the possibility of consolidating all the laws of Malta which regulate elections.
 
In a sitting of the Committee where President Emeritus Dr. Ugo Mifsud Bonnici was invited to address it, Dr Mifsud Bonnici agreed with the Committee’s recommendation that electoral laws should be codified in one law. Amongst potential benefits which he envisaged in such consolidation of electoral laws was the elimination of cross references from one law to another.
 
This was the first sitting that the Select Committee has held to discuss the consolidation of electoral laws. Dr. Mifsud Bonnici emphasised that prior to the initiation of the proper consolidation of electoral laws, the Select Committee should discuss the matter with political parties. The latter have an important role in the running of elections in Malta and have always been involved in the last years in the drawing up of amendments to electoral laws. The electoral laws which the Select Committee is considering for consolidation are the Electoral (Polling) Ordinance, the General Elections Act, the European Parliament Elections Act and the Referenda Act. At the moment the Select Committee is not considering to consolidate the law regulating local council elections in the consolidated electoral law as local council elections are regulated by the Local Councils Act which is already in itself a consolidated law relating to all maters concerning local councils. It is not being excluded, at least at this stage, that when Parliament enacts a law regulating political parties that law would eventually form part of the consolidation of electoral laws.
 
3.         Towards a Holistic Media Law
 
In a recent sitting, the Select Committee discussed with the Institute of Journalists the possibility of consolidating all media laws into one Code. In another sitting the Select Committee discussed this item with Dr. Austin Bencini.
 
From both meetings it resulted that there was a need for the enactment of one law to regulate this sector. This approach would make life easier for journalists. During the meeting with the Committee of the Institute of Journalists which was led by Chairman Malcolm Naudi and Secretary General Joe Vella, various proposals were put before the Committee which included the need that libel cases should be heard by different judges, that the criminal offence of libel should be abolished, that more space should be allowed for fair comment, that the Institute of Journalists should be empowered by law to certify journalists, that the Press Ethics Commission should be recognised by law and given the necessary enforcement powers, that criteria should be adopted to define who is a journalist and for the issue of a Press Card by the Director of the Department of Information.
 
The Select Committee invited the Institute of Journalists to submit its views in writing within three months on proposed legislative change in the media sector. In the meantime, the Select Committee will continue discussing this subject with other persons interested in this subject before it will draw up its proposals to the House of Representatives.
 
4.         Codification of Administrative Law and Repeal of Spent Laws
 
The Select Committee has held several sittings to discuss the codification of Administrative Laws. It has heard on this subject the views of Attorney General Dr Peter Grech, Professor Ian Refalo, Dean of the Faculty of Laws at the University of Malta, Magistrate Dr. Marse-Ann Farrugia and Dr. Austin Bencini who all agreed on the immediate need that Malta should have an Administrative Code. The Select Committee took also into consideration various reports drawn up by Professor Kevin Aquilina as to which Administrative Laws he proposed for inclusion in the Administrative Code. After the Select Committee identified and agreed on the administrative laws to be codified, Professor Aquilina was tasked to submit the relative codification to the Select Committee. The Select Committee will soon be discussing these laws and other novel items to be included in the Administrative Code before it can submit its recommendations to the House of Representatives.
 
The Select Committee is also working on the identification of those laws which are spent and therefore of no further use so that it could recommend to the House their repeal or, if still valid, their consolidation in other laws. The Select Committee is carrying out this exercise with the assistance Attorney General Dr Peter Grech and Professor Kevin Aquilina, Head of the Department of Public Law of the Faculty of Laws at the University of Malta.
 
 
 
Professor Kevin Aquilina
20 February 2011.

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