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Parliamentary committee locks doors, bans email after suspected media leak

Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee has adopted extreme measures following a suspected leak to the media over government’s social and health care reform.

Eduskuntatalon pylväikkö sisäänkäynnissä
Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

MPs serving on Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee have adopted special measures for their deliberations on the government’s social and health care reform programme.

Following suspected leaks to the media about the committee’s work, MPs have unanimously decided to continue their review of the constitutionality of proposed legal reforms by retreating behind locked doors.

The decision on the exceptional measure followed a partial disclosure of the committee’s opinion on the legislation behind the government’s ambitious social and health care reform programme.

Email ban, limited document distribution

Last Thursday, the tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat wrote that the provision for expansion of the role of the private sector in health and social care would not occur before general elections due next April. The paper said it based its reporting on a draft opinion that it had obtained from the committee.

Left Alliance MP and committee chair Annika Lapintie said that as a result of the suspected leak, it would no longer use workspaces equipped with electronic tools. She added that in future, documents would only be distributed to MPs present at meetings.

The committee also decided that it would keep meeting room doors locked when MPs are not assembled for deliberations and that documents would no longer be shared via email.

According to Lapintie, committee members had been quite upset about the leak and she noted that the committee had never before experienced a breach of such magnitude in its history.

Numbers game, a race against the clock

Government is currently racing against time to put its social and health care reform package to the vote in June before Parliament breaks off for its summer recess. The legislative reform package will enable regional elections to establish new administrative structures that will be responsible for delivering social and health care services in future.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä admitted that the regional elections, originally scheduled for October, are likely to be postponed indefinitely. Speaking during a monthly radio interview, Sipilä however expressed confidence that the reform package would go through.

Meanwhile the National Coalition Party led by Finance Minister Petteri Orpo faces a rebellion in party ranks, with Helsinki Mayor and party heavyweight Jan Vapaavuori pulling no punches in his criticism of the government's plans for new regional administrative bodies to deliver social and health care services.

At the same time, at least two NCP MPs, Elina Lepomäki and Susanna Koski have openly signalled their intention to vote against the reform, effectively whittling away the government's razor-thin majority when it comes time to vote.

Another NCP MP, Harry "Hjallis" Harkimo recently pulled out of the party altogether to form a new political action group, Movement Now (Liike Nyt) and has also indicated that he will not throw his weight behind the reform package.

Political pundits have speculated that a failure to push through the reform could spell the end of the coalition government with less than one year left in its current term in office.

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