The Foreign Minister & the Ministerial Code of Ethics

George Vella

Dr George Vella, Foreign Minister, in reply to Ivan Camilleri on today’s Times of Malta makes a valid point as to why, after being appointed a Cabinet Minister, he needs a transition period relative to the practicing of his profession as a medical doctor.

Ivan Camilleri describes Dr Vella as being “angry” at what he perceived as a “witch-hunt” in respect of members of the Cabinet still practising their profession.

Dr Vella has in fact repeated what former Health Minister Dr Joseph Cassar stated last week that in respect of patients who have been under his care for a number of years it would be extremely insensitive for him to withdraw abruptly from caring for them until they have had adequate time for them to identify an alternative professional who could take over their care.

This could easily have been solved by an immediate amendment to the Ministerial Code of Ethics through considering the possibility of utilising a suitable and reasonable transition period at the end of which medical doctors who are also members of Cabinet would be expected to cease practicing their profession altogether.

Establishment of such a transition period and subject to the medical doctor not being remunerated would have been a very reasonable  solution to the current impasse.

It however leaves unaddressed the general problem of Members of Parliament who still consider their parliamentary duties as being of a part-time nature. AD considers that it is high time that this issue is also addressed.

Parliament, AD states in its March 2013 electoral manifesto, should become a professional institution made up of full-time parliamentarians. This would assist MPs in fullfilling their Parliamentary duties much better than they are at present and could also possibly lead to Parliament functioning in a more family-friendly manner. [a very valid point made recently by new Labour MP Deborah Schembri]

An added benefit of a Parliament made up of full-time Members of Parliament would mean that by the time an MP (who is also a professional) is appointed as a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary he would have been weaned off his private practice. He/she would be used to it and so would his/her patients.

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