Tuesday 27 July 2021

Office of the Chief Herald of Malta - Ombudsman's Conclusions Published


Last week the Office of the Ombudsman (Malta) published its findings following the investigation into the creation of the Office of the Chief Herald of Malta and shortly after I began to receive numerous reports from friends in heraldry who, in the early days prior to my intervention, had made enquiries to the "Chief Herald" about grants/registrations of arms that they had received an email from the present "Chief Herald". All of the emails were exactly the same and therefore appeared to be simply a marketing update. 

Extract from the email update sent by the "Chief Herald" "The Ombudsman in his ruling of 21st July made a number of recommendations. Legal counsel advises that these recommendations are in fact already fully addressed by the draft secondary legislation. I understand that these formalities will be concluded following the parliamentary recess, by Autumn/Winter 2021 and will update you accordingly. " 

The Ombudsman did indeed make a number of recommendations and as I have already stated, there was nothing in the original Bill except the mere creation of an empty office of Chief Herald and although rumour has it that the actual powers for said office will be included in the second reading we really, as yet have no idea what will be included. It is somewhat concerning that the Ombudsman, who presumably has greater access to these things than you or I states, in his report that "This Office observes that the proposed Bill does not include an amendment to specifically regulate heraldry, including the creation of new arms" .

For clarity and openness, I have uploaded the full report of Ombudsman here: https://bit.ly/3y75WvW

Thursday 1 July 2021

Maltese Parliament to establish an Office of the Chief Herald of Arms (Properly?)

I note that, at last, Malta is attempting to do it right and doing what it should have done in the first place. My reader will already know that early in 2020 I brought to the attention of the Chief Investigating Officer at the Office of the Maltese Ombudsman that fact that the actions of the Chief Herald of Arms were ultra vires, unlawful and of no worth, because there was no lawful authority for the creation of the Office of Chief Herald or for anything he was doing. The Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, if he wished to create such an Office should have tabled a paper before Parliament for discussion. 

It seems that in actually attempting to now set up the Office of the Chief Herald of Arms of Malta, there is a tacit acceptance of my assertion that everything the so called Chief Herald has done to date is indeed ultra vires and I can say with some pride that my report, which can be found here https://bit.ly/3aWv1yi had some effect in that the Minister has been forced to do what he should have done in the first place.

On the 22nd June, The Cultural Heritage Amendment Bill, presented by the Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, Hon. José Herrera MP received its first reading in the Parliament of Malta. 

"The objects and reasons of this Bill are to update the principal Act according to current practice and standards of heritage management, especially regulatory obligations, edit and correct mistakes, establish an office of the Chief Herald of Arms, provide for compensation of impacts on cultural heritage, better facilitate the State’s right of preference for the acquisition of cultural heritage items, and the formal establishment of National World Heritage Sites Technical Committee." 

I do however, have some reservations as the bill does not actually go so far as to create a "Heraldry Act" like the one South Africa had the good sense to create but only goes as far as amending Article 8 of The Cultural Heritage Act (Article 8 of the Act refers to The Operating Agency and the fact that it is restricted, like all other parts of the Act, to “those elements of the cultural heritage entrusted to it are protected and made accessible to the public as defined in this Act”). The amendment adds the words "to setup and manage the Office of the Chief Herald of Arms of Malta."

So, having passed a 1st reading, the Bill now has to pass a 2nd reading, then go to Committee Stage (at which time I shall give it another perusal to see if there is to any actual substantive detail/explanation), then go to Recommittal and on to 3rd Reading. 

So far, all we know is that the Minister has asked Parliament to add the words " to setup and manage the Office of the Chief Herald of Arms of Malta." If this is all that is approved, then there will still be doubts over what the Office can and can't do because I have yet to see anything to amend the restrictions in the original Act which only allows Heritage Malta to protect, preserve and record that which is already existing. 

Setting up an Office of the Chief Herald of Malta is one thing (and I am delighted that they are attempting to do so) but, so far, I have seen nothing that will allow any Chief Herald to grant arms anew, to register the arms of foreigners or to grant them arms anew when to do so has nothing to do with Maltese heritage or to invent and assign new coronets to the "non titled nobility" of Malta when non existed before and so can't be classed as "heritage". I have yet to see any retrospective provision or mention of recompense to those who have up to now paid for a grant or registration of arms which is in effect and in law void and worthless. I shall continue to delve into the amendment Bill and watch with interest its progress.

Watch this space.

College of Arms Newsletter April 2024

 The latest College of Arms Newsletter for April 2024 is now online .

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