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Arrival and Reception of M.P.s
The conception and the organization of the reception are prepared by a working group which is made up of parliamentary civil servants working in the departments most concerned by the operation. This group is coordinated by the director generals under the authority of the two secretaries general.
This working group begins meeting around 18 months before the beginning of the new term of Parliament. Basing itself on the experience of previous receptions, but also attempting to improve the procedure, in particular thanks to the innovations made possible with new communication techniques, the working group, over the course of its meetings, checks the main features of the organization of the reception.
I. – PREPARATORY PROCEDURES FOR THE RECEPTION OF M.P.S
As regards the gathering of results and the providing of information to M.P.s, in particular those who have been elected for the first time, good relations with the Home Office are essential.
1. – the gathering of election results
The databases (surname, first name, date of birth, department and constituency number) concerning all the candidates are transmitted to the National Assembly by digital file three weeks before the first round of the elections. This information is collated with the management reference system at the National Assembly so as to create complete database for the candidates at the election.
The results are transmitted during the night of the election by means of a specially installed computer link which requires the setting-up of additional computers on top of the usual teams and material provided by the National Assembly.
The cross-referencing of the candidates’ files with the names of the elected M.P.s enables the publishing of the individual M.P.s’ files which will serve as the basis for the reception procedure for the new term of Parliament. These files will already contain the information which the departments of the National Assembly possess on the new M.P.s.
2. – the distribution of an information circular on the reception
In 2007, two weeks before polling day, a letter, signed by the secretaries general of the National Assembly, was sent to Prefects requesting them to transmit to the newly elected M.P.s of their department, as soon as the results were declared, a letter signed by the President of the National Assembly which included a memorandum providing practical information on the reception procedure at the Palais Bourbon and a provisional timetable for the opening of the new Parliament.
A new feature of the procedure which was introduced in 2007 was that the memorandum enclosed with the letter from the President of the National Assembly contained a login and a personalized password which allowed the M.P. to connect to the extranet site especially given over to the reception of M.P.s. On this site the M.P. could find general information concerning the National Assembly and the reception procedure and could fill out, if he so wished, his individual information file thus taking some of the tedious nature away from this formality when it is carried out during the reception procedure itself.
II. – THE RECEPTION PROCEDURE
As of the day after each round of voting, elected M.P.s may come to the Palais Bourbon where civil servants are mobilized to welcome them. For most of them there is a very short period of time (nine days in 2007) between the second round of the general elections and the first meeting of the National Assembly.
1. – The operation of the reception procedure
In 2007, as in 2002, the reception procedure differed according to whether the M.P.s were returning or were “new”. For the former who know the workings of the National Assembly and whose administrative details are already known to the departments, the information part of the reception procedure is minimal apart from an updating of their files. For the latter, the need for the sharing of information is much more necessary.
Each M.P. is accompanied upon his entrance to the Palais Bourbon, by a uniformed usher who leads him to specific areas depending on whether he is newly elected or not. He is then welcomed by a “reception” civil servant who is accompanied by a secretary whose job it is to process the information necessary for the M.P. to be enrolled by the National Assembly. The reason for this first contact is to complete or fill out the information file. In the case of a returning M.P. the file will usually be up-to-date and will only require checking and a signature. The same applies if the newly elected M.P. has used the possibility provided to him to fill it out by means of the extranet site. If this is not the case, the file is filled out by the secretary directly on the screen.
The new M.P.s then have the possibility, although this is not obligatory, of discussing with several ‘expert’ civil servants who can provide them with more precise information on their obligations, if this be the case, as regards the combination of offices or professional activities compatible with parliamentary office. They may also receive information on their new social protection scheme or on the material means made available to them in the performance of their duties (assistants, transport, telephone, mail etc.).
At this point, the reception procedure becomes the same for new and returning M.P.s. Each M.P. moves on to the photographic studio where he is photographed. This photograph is published on the internet site of the National Assembly in the directory entitled ‘Notices and Portraits’ and is used for the creation of the “free hands” badge which is created on the spot and which allows the wearer to automatically pass through the security checks at the entrances to the Palais Bourbon. Another innovation which was introduced in 2007 meant that M.P.s could be photographed on the benches of the Chamber and the photograph was immediately made available on a USB memory stick.
An information desk manned by three civil servants provides answers to the M.P.s on the running of the National Assembly and the practical aspects of the performance of their office.
2. – Documentation provided to members of parliament
The information provided orally to M.P.s is coupled with written and, more recently, with electronic documentation. This includes:
- A booklet which is in fact a practical guide for the M.P. and which brings together all the information which the ‘expert’ civil servants may have given. The text of this booklet, which has been considerably abridged by comparison with those of previous terms of Parliament, makes reference to several forms which the M.P. must return to the different departments and which have also been shortened;
- This current book on “The National Assembly in the French Institutions” in its French version which is updated for every reception procedure;
- Another innovation in 2007, a USB memory stick, gathering, in digitized form, all the above documentation;
- In addition, every M.P. receives a ‘hold-all’ bag containing the symbols of his office; the tricolour scarf, the insignia worn during public ceremonies and usually referred to as the “barometer” on account of its shape, the cockade badge to be placed behind the windscreen of a vehicle, an M.P.’s identity card and the personal access code to the extranet site of the National Assembly.