Home > English > The National Assembly in the French Institutions > File n° 27
The Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament
The position of Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament was born in the aftermath of the Second World War and appeared in various Governments of the Fourth Republic. It became however essential for the operation of the institutions of the Fifth Republic. Although the Government had witnessed, since 1958, a substantial increase in its powers to intervene in the legislative process, it appeared necessary that one of its members should not only ensure Government coordination concerning work in this field but should also play the role of mediator between the ministers and the parliamentarians and in particular those who were members of the ruling majority which supported the Government.
I. – THE MINISTER IN CHARGE OF RELATIONS WITH THE PARLIAMENT PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF GOVERNMENTAL POLICY
1. – He coordinates the legislative programme of the Government
The implementation of governmental policy is carried out mainly through the passing of laws. The drawing-up of the legislative part of the agenda of the assemblies is partly in the hands of the Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament who must take into account both the desires of the ministers and the workload of the Parliament. Thus, he must be aware of the progress of the bills proposed by his colleagues in the Government and of the wishes of the agenda set down by the assemblies.
So as to be aware of the consequences of the different governmental bills and the technical or political problems which might arise during parliamentary debates, he is represented at the inter-ministerial meetings which take place in order to harmonize the positions of the various ministries.
He also takes part in the arbitration meetings which select the Government and Members’ bills to be included on the agendas of the assemblies and which decide on the calendar for the examination of these bills.
He is included in the drawing-up of the legislative part in the Council of Ministers and this enables him to set a priority calendar for the bills and to propose their inclusion on the agendas of one or other of the assemblies.
2. – He plays a role of political mediation between parliament and Government
Generally speaking, the Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament must facilitate relations between ministers and parliamentarians. Notably he must foresee the possibility of difficulties arising between the Government and the governing majority.
Thus, he participates in meetings of the political groups which make up the ruling majority and he gives them information concerning governmental policy. This allows him to alert his colleagues to the reactions of the political groups and to the positions of M.P.s. Traditionally, he also attends the meetings of the main leaders of the ruling majority party.
II. – THE MINISTER IN CHARGE OF RELATIONS WITH THE PARLIAMENT IS INVOLVED IN THE PLANNING OF PARLIAMENTARY WORK AND ENSURES THE AVAILABILITY OF MINISTERS TO ANSWER QUESTIONS RAISED BY PARLIAMENT
1. – He contributes to the drawing-up of the agenda
Article 48 of the Constitution grants the Government control of the agenda of the assemblies.
The Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament attends, during the sessions, the meetings of the Conference of Presidents which take place in each of the assemblies (every week at the National Assembly and every two weeks on average at the Senate) and which, under the chairmanship of the President of the assembly concerned, bring together the vice-presidents, the chairmen of the standing committees, the chairmen of ad-hoc committees when necessary, the General Rapporteur of the Finance Committee, the Chairman of the European Affairs Committee and the chairmen of the political groups in order to set the agenda of the Assembly.
Before the constitutional revision of July 23, 2008 the Government, in accordance with article 48 of the Constitution, had almost complete control over the agenda of the assemblies. Since the adoption of this revision, it shares this role with the assemblies. Only two out of four weeks of sittings are given over in priority to bills and to debates which the Government has requested to be included on the agenda. The two remaining weeks are given over to an agenda set down by the two assemblies on a proposal of the Conference of Presidents. One of these weeks is reserved for the monitoring of Government action. It should nonetheless be stressed that the Government may have several types of bill included on the agenda with priority. These include finance bills and social security financing bills.
Before the opening of the session, the Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament gives an indication to the Conference of Presidents of the National Assembly, of the weeks which the Government intends to use for the tabling of its bills. Then, at the beginning of each eight-week sequence, the Conference of Presidents draws up a provisional programme.
The day before the Conference of Presidents, the Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament transmits the Government’s requests for priority inclusion on the agenda of the weeks set aside for its bills. During the Conference of Presidents, he ensures the synchronization between the inclusion of the bills and the debates on the agenda during the weeks set aside for parliamentary initiative and the timetables of the relevant ministers.
The Government may, at any time, request changes to the agenda of the assemblies in accordance with the powers provided to it by article 48 of the Constitution i.e. concerning the weeks set aside for the Government and the bills it can include with priority by a letter of revision or by a statement in plenary sitting. In such a case, Parliament is usually informed by the Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament and the Conference of Presidents may be convened.
2. – He ensures the permanent availability of the Government to answer Parliament’s questions
During the legislative debates, he ensures that there is a permanent governmental presence in the sitting, notably by making sure that the relevant ministers are present during the debates which concern them.
He plays the same role during question time and debates by collecting the parliamentarians’ questions and organizing the means of reply of the Government.
He also makes sure, in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Government and the Prime Minister’s staff that the ministers reply properly to the written questions asked by M.P.s.
3. – He follows the debates
The Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament is very much present during the sittings of the assemblies. It can happen that he replaces his absent colleagues, notably during question time.
He ensures the correct running of the debates and it is also his task to advise members of the Government on the attitude to adopt in one circumstance or another. He also participates in the implementation of the instruments of rationalized parliamentarianism (implementation of the accelerated procedure, inadmissibility votes, forced votes, second deliberations, confidence votes on bills etc.).