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The Bureau of the National Assembly
I. – COMPOSITION AND ELECTION OF THE BUREAU
1. – Composition
The Bureau is made up of 22 members:
- The President of the National Assembly, the only member to be elected for the whole term of the Parliament,
- The 6 Vice Presidents,
- The 3 Questeurs,
- The 12 Secretaries.
In order to deal with certain decisions, delegations were formed within the Bureau:
- The delegation in charge of communication and the press;
- The delegation in charge of M.P.s’ status;
- The delegation in charge of study groups and parliamentary offices;
- The delegation in charge of interest groups;
- The delegation in charge of international activities;
- The delegation in charge of computing and new technologies;
- The delegation in charge of examining the financial admissibility of Members’ bills.
Each of these delegations is chaired by one of the Vice Presidents. In addition four of them also have as members a Questeur acting in his official capacity (communication, international activities, study groups and interest groups). The chairman of each delegation reports to the Bureau on the conclusions of the delegation which he chairs.
2. – Method of election
a) The Provisional Bureau
The first sitting of the Parliament is chaired by the eldest M.P. who is aided by the six youngest M.P.s who fulfil the role of Secretaries until the election of the Bureau. The Provisional Bureau only operates in order to carry out the election of the President of the National Assembly. Although no debate may take place under the chairmanship of the most senior member, it is customary for him to make a speech to his colleagues in which he shares his thoughts inspired by his experience in Parliament.
b) Election of the President of the National Assembly
The President of the National Assembly is elected by secret ballot at the rostrum. Tellers, drawn by lots, count the votes and the most senior M.P. announces the result. If an absolute majority of votes cast is not obtained at the first two rounds, a relative majority is enough at the third round; in the case of a draw, the eldest candidate is deemed elected. As soon as he is elected, the President mounts the rostrum, makes a speech and announces the date of the following sitting during which the members of the Bureau of the National Assembly will, themselves, be elected.
c) Election of the Vice Presidents, the Questeurs and the Secretaries
The other members of the Bureau (the Vice Presidents, the Questeurs and the Secretaries) are elected at the beginning of each term of Parliament, during the sitting which follows the election of the President and are renewed at the beginning of each ordinary session, with the exception of that preceding the renewal of the National Assembly.
The composition of the Bureau attempts to reproduce the political make-up of the National Assembly. When there is the same number of candidates as positions to be filled, no ballot is held.
After the election of the Bureau, the President of the National Assembly notifies the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the President of the Senate of its composition.
II. – THE POWERS OF THE BUREAU
Article 14, paragraph 1, of the Rules of Procedure states that “The Bureau shall have complete power to run the deliberations of the House and to organize and direct departments”.
The Bureau represents the National Assembly at external events, interprets and applies the Rules of Procedure, rules on major incidents during sittings and ensures equality of treatment in media coverage.
1. – Powers of the Bureau concerning legislative activities of the National Assembly
a) In Plenary Sitting
In plenary sitting the President (or one of the Vice Presidents replacing him) directs the debates. He may, at any time, adjourn or end the sitting.
The Secretaries of the Bureau check the voting operations and the count for certain ballots: ordinary public ballots using ballot papers (in cases where the electronic voting system fails to work) public ballots at the rostrum or in the rooms adjoining the Chamber (e.g. vote on a censure motion), secret ballots for personal appointments.
b) In Parliamentary Procedure
The Bureau has the power to assess the financial admissibility of Members’ bills upon their tabling. This power is carried out by one of its delegations. The President of the National Assembly may also refer questions of the financial admissibility of amendments to the Bureau although this provision is not applied.
2. – Powers of the Bureau concerning the administrative running of the National Assembly
The Bureau has wide statutory powers:
- It decides upon the Internal Rules which establish the organization, the powers and the working of the departments of the National Assembly;
- It sets down the terms of application, of interpretation and of implementation of the Internal Rules by the various departments;
- It establishes the status, the retirement scheme and the social security system of the staff, as well as the terms of the relationship between the administration of the National Assembly and the professional organizations representing the personnel;
- It has a power of appointment to the highest positions in the administration of the National Assembly: it thus appoints the secretaries-general, the general directors and the directors of departments;
- Under the supervision of the Bureau, the Questeurs have responsibility for financial and administrative departments; they report to the Bureau on the main decisions falling within their remit and, should circumstances so require, ask it to make a decision on certain matters which in particular affect the material aspects of the status of the personnel or the means available to M.P.s and to the bodies of the National Assembly.
3. – Other statutory powers of the bureau
So as to ensure the respect of the prohibitions mentioned in article 23 of the Rules of Procedure, which ban the forming of groups defending private, local or occupational interests, the Bureau approves, upon a report of its relevant delegation, the study groups which are allowed to be formed within the National Assembly.
It coordinates the international activities of the National Assembly.
In the field of communication, the Bureau has the final say on the conditions of production, transmission and distribution of the audiovisual account of the debates.
4. – The constitutional and legislative powers of the bureau
There are several specific elements in this remit which the Bureau possesses on account of various constitutional and legislative provisions. To be particularly noted is:
- The system of authorization concerning custodial or semi-custodial legal measures (article 26 of the Constitution) ;
- The responsibility of the Bureau to become the Bureau of Congress when the latter meets in order to carry out a constitutional revision (article 89 of the Constitution) ;
- The verification of incompatibility with parliamentary office as laid down by the electoral code;
- The registration of M.P.s as regards their membership of parties and political groups eligible for the distribution of public subsidies, as laid down by the laws on the financing of political life;
- The approval of the Internal Rules of the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment and the right of referral to said office.
- The Bureau meets around six times per year. A list of decisions made at each meeting is published in the Feuilleton and on the internet site of the National Assembly and certain decisions are published in the Journal Officiel.