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February 2011

 File n°32 

The Legislative Procedure

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Key Points

    The legislative procedure has three main phases: the tabling of a bill, its examination by Parliament and its promulgation by the President of the Republic (after a possible referral to the Constitutional Council for the examination of its conformity with the Constitution).

    The overriding spirit behind it is the search for consensus between the two assemblies:

    - The bill thus follows a to-and-fro movement between the National Assembly and the Senate, during which the only articles which remain in discussion are those which have not been passed in identical terms by the two assemblies: this is referred to as “the shuttle”;

    - If the shuttle does not lead to the passing of a common text by the two assemblies or if it takes too much time, the Government can decide to resort to an arbitration procedure by convening a joint committee made up of seven M.P.s and seven Senators. In the case of Members’ bills, the presidents of the two assemblies may also convene such a committee. These joint committees are then entrusted with the task of drawing up a compromise bill which the Government can then submit to the two assemblies.

    If the arbitration procedure fails, the Government will generally use the possibility it has of giving the final say to the National Assembly.

    The moment it is passed, the bill is transmitted to the General Secretariat of the Government which presents it to the President of the Republic for signature and promulgation. However the promulgation can be delayed if the bill is referred to the Constitutional Council for it to check its conformity to the Constitution (it can even be stopped, if the Constitutional Council declares it unconstitutional), or if, under exceptional circumstances, the President of the Republic requests a new deliberation.

See also files 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 43, 45 and 46

 

    I. – THE TABLING OF THE BILL

    The prerogative of initiating laws belongs to the Prime Minister and to M.P.s and Senators. Bills initiated by the Prime Minister are called “projets de loi” or Government bills, whilst those initiated by parliamentarians are referred to as “propositions de loi” or Members’ bills.

    Before being examined, each bill is tabled. This requires following a number of prior formalities:

    - For Government bills, tabling is preceded by consultation of the Conseil d’État for its opinion. In this case the Conseil d’État acts as an adviser to the Government and not as an administrative court. This is followed by deliberation in the Council of Ministers;

    - Members’ bills may be tabled by one or several M.P.s or Senators, on the condition that their adoption does not have the consequence of either a diminution of public resources or the creation or increase of an item of public expenditure: the Bureau of each assembly has the responsibility of checking the financial admissibility of Members’ bills.

    Finance bills and social security financing bills must be first tabled in the National Assembly. On the contrary, bills which deal principally with the organization of territorial units are first of all introduced in the Senate. Outside of these cases, the examination of a bill can begin in either of the two assemblies.

    Following its tabling, which requires official public notice, each bill is printed and sent for examination to a standing committee or an ad hoc committee.

    The Government and Members’ bills are divided into two parts:

    - The presentation of the case, in which the arguments of the bill’s author are put forward with the support of modifications and any new legislative provisions envisaged;

    - The main body, drawn up in article form with each clearly successively numbered. This is the prescriptive section and will be the only part submitted for examination by the two assemblies. The object of each article is either to modify a provision of a law already in force or to enact a new legislative provision.

    - Since the constitutional revision of July 23, 2008, Government bills must follow certain conditions concerning presentation which were laid down in an institutional act dating from April 15, 2009. When they are tabled such bills must be accompanied by an impact study which sets out the desired objectives, presents the motives for the introduction of new legislation, describes the current state of the law in the relevant field, situates the bill in the context of European law, assesses the economic, financial, social and environmental consequences of the bill, as well as examining the application measures envisaged along with their consequences. If the Conference of Presidents of the assembly before which the bill has been presented decides that, within a ten-day period dating from the tabling of the bill, the conditions concerning presentation have not been respected, then the bill cannot be included on the agenda. In the case of disagreement between the Conference of Presidents and the Government, the matter may be referred to the Constitutional Council by the Prime Minister or the president of the relevant assembly. The Constitutional Council makes a ruling within eight days.

    II. – THE SHUTTLE

    Each Government or Members’ bill is examined successively in the two assemblies of Parliament with the view to passing an identical text. A bill passed in identical by the two assemblies is definitive: it constitutes the letter of the law.

    The procedure which leads to the definitive adoption of a bill consists of a to-and-fro movement between the two assemblies (hence the term “shuttle”). Each assembly is called upon to examine and possibly to modify the bill adopted by the other. At each stage only the articles over which there is divergence remain in discussion. The shuttle comes to an end when one of the two assemblies passes the bill without modification and with all its articles, as it has been previously passed by the other assembly. Each examination by an assembly is called a “reading”.

    1. – Examination in first reading

    Examination in first reading of a bill tabled before an assembly includes several stages: examination by a committee, inclusion on the agenda and finally, discussion in plenary sitting at the end of which the bill will be transmitted to the other assembly. This transmission of the bill to the other assembly initiates the shuttle.

    The procedure which is described hereafter is that followed by the National Assembly. This procedure is mostly the same at the Senate although there are some differences, not always small ones, in the procedures of the two assemblies.

    a) Examination in Committee

    Once a bill has been tabled it is sent for examination to a committee. Except in the case of the setting-up of an ad-hoc committee, i.e. a committee specially created for the examination of a particular Government or Member’s bill, this examination is carried out by one of the eight standing committees of the National Assembly (six in the Senate).

    The referral of the bill to one or another of the standing committees is carried out by the President of the National Assembly according to their respective remits as they are laid down in the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly. One or several other standing committees may refer the matter to themselves for consultation.

    The committee to which the text is referred (called the lead committee) appoints from amongst its members a rapporteur, who is responsible for presenting, on its behalf, a report which will be printed and distributed and made available on-line.

    The committee then adopts a report which presents its conclusions on the Government or Member’s bill which is submitted to it. Prior to this report the committee holds hearings and an in-depth examination of the articles. Since the constitutional revision of July 23, 2008, the discussion in plenary sitting is carried out, except in the cases of constitutional revision bills, finance bills and social security financing bills, on the text which has been adopted in committee and not on the text which was originally tabled. Thus the committee may:

    - Propose a new text which includes the M.P.s’ or Government amendments which the committee has accepted;

    - Adopt the text in its original version;

    - Reject the text.

    - In the latter two cases or if the committee presents no text at all, the discussion in plenary sitting will be carried out on the original text.

    b) Inclusion on the Agenda

    In order to be discussed in plenary sitting, a Government or Members’ bill must be included on the agenda of the assembly.

    Since the constitutional revision of July 23, 2008, the Constitution provides for a minimum time period of six weeks between the tabling of a bill and its consideration in plenary sitting (four weeks for bills transmitted by the other assembly). These limits are not applied to finance bills, to social security financing bills or to bills concerning states of crisis. They are not applied either if the Government decides to implement the accelerated procedure (in this case a minimum period of fifteen days is maintained only for Government or Members’ institutional bills) and the two Conferences of Presidents have not jointly opposed such a procedure.

    Since the 2008 revision, the Constitution has introduced a sharing of the agenda which is set by each assembly:

    - Two weeks out of four are given over to a priority agenda set by the Government. According to this priority, the Government decides upon the list of bills it wishes to see included on the agenda and determines the order in which they will be discussed, as well as the date of their consideration. So as to ensure a smooth planning of the business, the Government gives prior warning to the assemblies and in particular to their standing committees;

    - One week out of four is given over to a legislative agenda set by each assembly;

    - One day per month is devoted to an agenda reserved for opposition and minority group initiatives.

    - The various proposals for the agenda which are made concerning the two weeks reserved for the assembly to set its own business, are gathered by the Conference of Presidents. The Conference of Presidents makes a summary of them and submits this document to the vote in the relevant assembly.

    - Even though one of the two “assembly” weeks is strictly speaking given over to monitoring and the other to legislative initiative, the National Assembly may, in practice, include bills on the agenda during the monitoring week and reserve certain sittings during the legislative week for monitoring. Furthermore, finance bills, social security financing bills, bills transmitted by the other assembly more than six weeks previously and bills concerning states of crisis may be, upon Government request, included with priority on the agenda of these two weeks.

    c) Examination in Plenary Sitting

    The discussion in plenary sitting takes place in two phases: the general examination phase and the detailed examination phase. The Conference of Presidents may organize either the general examination phase or the entire discussion.

        - The general examination phase is essentially a presentation phase. The chairman of the sitting, after having called the bill on the agenda, gives the floor to the Government which is usually represented by the minister concerned by the discussion and then to the rapporteur of the committee. For the discussion of members’ bills, the floor is first of all given to the rapporteur.

        - During this phase of the examination procedural motions may also be introduced (preliminary rejection motions, motions for referral to committee) whose adoption, which is very unusual, leads to the rejection of the bill (preliminary rejection motion) or the suspension of the debate (motion for referral) before the detailed examination of the bill has even begun.

        - The Conference of Presidents organizes the general discussion on a bill, setting an overall time limit for the discussion, divided then between the political groups according to their membership.

        - The M.P.s are enrolled for the general discussion by the chairman of their political group and the order of speaking is decided upon by the President of the National Assembly. An alternation between the political groups is respected.

        - The detailed examination phase consists of the discussion of the bill article by article. This phase is dominated by the debate on the modification proposed by means of amendments.

            • The examination of the articles. Amendments may be introduced by all the participants in the debate: the Government, the lead or the consultative committees and M.P.s acting in a personal capacity. For the smooth running of the debates, the amendments, with the exception of those presented by Government or the committee, must be tabled in a certain time frame and, at the latest, by 5pm on the third working day preceding the beginning of the consideration of the bill in plenary sitting (specific limits apply to the discussion of finance bills). With the exception of Government amendments, all amendments must fall within, just as Members’ bills, the conditions of financial admissibility.

            The chairman of the sitting calls the articles in their numbered order. The discussion deals with each article and with all the amendments concerning it.

            The M.P.s may enrol, for two minutes, in the discussion of an article. When two speakers of differing opinions have expressed themselves, the closure of the debate may be decided upon by the chairman of the sitting or be proposed by a member of the Assembly (the Assembly then decides after one speaker, at the most, has taken the floor against the closure).

            After these speeches, the President of the National Assembly calls the amendments. The floor is given to the author of the amendment for two minutes, then to the rapporteur and to the minister so that they may give their opinion and finally to a speaker against the amendment. The chairman of the sitting has the right to authorize a speaker to reply to the committee and another one to reply to the Government (in the case of identical opinions, a single speaker may be authorizes to reply at the same time to the committee and to the Government).

            The order of calling the amendments is of great importance in the running of the debate, if only because the adoption of one solution automatically entails the elimination of other counter solutions. The basic principles of the discussion of amendments leads to the notion of moving from the general to the specific: the suppression of an article is called before the suppression of a paragraph, the suppression of a paragraph is called before that of a sentence included in that paragraph etc. When several amendments deal with the same part of a text, they are called according to how far they differ from the original text. The amendments are discussed and then voted upon one by one following the order ensuing from these principles.

            • Votes. After the discussion of the last amendment presented on an article, the assembly votes on this article, which may have been modified and the discussion of the bill continues in the same way, article by article, until the final one.

            At the end of the examination of the articles, a second deliberation on all or part of the bill may be held. This second deliberation is held of right upon the request of the Government or the committee. The chairman of the sitting then puts the whole of the bill, which may be modified by the amendments previously adopted, to a vote. This final vote may be preceded by an explanation of vote, which is granted to one speaker per group for five minutes.

            Votes are normally held by show of hands. In the case of doubt concerning a result by show of hands, the chairman of the sitting requires a sitting or standing vote. In either case there is no detail given in the official report of the debate on the way the MPs present have voted. This is not the case for public ballots, which can be requested by the Government, the chairman or the rapporteur of the committee, the chairmen of political groups or their representatives as well as by the chairman of the sitting. For certain important bills, the Conference of Presidents itself decides on a public ballot, setting its date at a time when all M.P.s might be present (in general on Tuesdays after Government question time). This type of ballot is called a “solemn vote”.

          • “Set Time Limit for Debate”. Since the reform of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly of May 27, 2009, the Conference of Presidents may also decide, under certain conditions, on the application of a “set time limit for debate” on bills. This possibility was introduced by the Institutional Act n° 2009-43 of April 15, 2009 in accordance with articles 34-1, 39 and 44 of the Constitution provided for in the constitutional revision of July 23, 2008.

            This involves the setting of a maximum time limit for the consideration of a whole bill with 60% of the time allotted to the opposition groups. This allocation is then divided up between the opposition groups proportionally according to their numerical size. The rest of the time is divided up in the same way between the groups belonging to the ruling majority and non-aligned members.

            All speeches made by M.P.s are counted in the time allotted to their group with the exception of those of the chairmen of groups (who each, individually have additional time), of the rapporteurs of the lead and consultative committees and of the chairman of the lead committee.

            The chairmen of groups may automatically request (and obtain) that a minimum time limit be given over to a bill and once per session they may obtain an extraordinary extension of this time limit within a maximum time period. These minimum and maximum time limits have been respectively set at thirty and fifty hours by the Conference of Presidents which, at any moment, may increase the limit planned for the consideration of a bill if it considers that such a limit is insufficient.

            When the “set time limit for debate” procedure is applied, the length of the general discussion is not limited and depends upon the length of time which the different groups wish to devote to it. The speaking time on each article, just as that for the defence of each amendment is not limited either. However, when a group has used up all its allotted time, its members will no longer be allowed leave to speak and its amendments are put to a vote without debate.

            Additional time is allowed to each group and to non-aligned members, upon the request of a group chairman, when the Government or a lead committee table an amendment after the expiry of the limits applicable to M.P.s. This additional time may only be used concerning the article or additional article to which the late amendment refers.

            When the “set time limit for debate” procedure is applied, all the M.P.s who so wish, have five minutes before the vote on the entire bill, to give a personal explanation of their vote and this time is not deducted from the overall time of their group.

            If the chairman of a group is opposed to it, the “set time limit for debate” procedure cannot be applied when the discussion of a bill on first reading occurs less than six weeks after its tabling or four weeks after its transmission.

    2. – Transmission and successive readings

    The bill which, once adopted by the first assembly to which it was referred, is transmitted without delay to the other assembly which, in turn, examines it, on first reading, according to the same method: examination in committee, inclusion on the agenda, discussion in plenary sitting.

    If the second assembly adopts all the articles of the bill without modification, then the bill is passed definitively.

    If this is not the case then the shuttle between the two assemblies carries on. As of the second reading, the articles which have been previously adopted in identical terms by the two assemblies are no longer voted upon: the shuttle no longer deals with such articles now referred to as “in conformity”. The only articles which remain in discussion are those upon which the two assemblies have not reached agreement on a common text. The shuttle continues for a second, third, fourth reading or even more as long as all the articles have not been adopted in the same terms.

    Nonetheless the 1958 Constitution introduced an arbitration procedure which allows the Government to speed up the definitive vote on a bill by interrupting the normal course of the shuttle.

    III. – RECOURSE TO THE ARBITRATION PROCEDURE:
    THE JOINT COMMITTEE

    This arbitration procedure, after two readings of a bill in the two assemblies (or a single reading if the Government has announced in advance the implementation of the accelerated procedure), consists in convening a meeting of a committee with seven M.P.s and seven Senators (plus an equal number of substitutes) from which we get the name ‘joint committee’ (CMP).

    The political make-up of these CMPs must reflect the composition of the assemblies. Thus during the XIIIth term of Parliament, four of the appointed members of these committees belong to the UMP group which has an absolute majority in the National Assembly whilst the other three belong to the SRC group (). In the Senate, the membership of the CMPs is not fixed but always reflects a balance of four Senators from the majority party in the Senate and three from the opposition. This applies both to the appointed members and to their substitutes.

    This committee appoints its Bureau. The chairman of the joint committee is traditionally the chairman of the lead committee of the assembly where the joint committee meetings are held. The deputy-chairman is traditionally the chairman of the lead committee in the other assembly. The Bureau is also made up of two rapporteurs, one M.P. and one Senator, who are in charge of making a report on the committee’s work to their respective assemblies. Generally speaking these positions are held by the rapporteurs of the two lead committees.

    During this meeting, the members of the joint committee attempt to find a compromise text for all the articles which are still in discussion. They can decide to maintain the version previously adopted by one or other of the two assemblies or to draw up, for certain articles, a new version in order to reach a settlement.

    There are no rules set down concerning the running of the debates in joint committee (the articles may or may not be called in their numerical order).

    Votes are rare (if there has to be a vote on a provision, consensus, by definition, has not been reached) and are usually by show of hands. Substitutes vote only to maintain parity between the two Chambers.

    The work of this joint committee is set down in a report. If the members of the committee draw up and pass a compromise text, then, this text is reproduced in the report. If this is not the case, then the report sets down the reasons why arbitration was not successful.

    At this stage there are various avenues which can be followed in the procedure of the adoption of the bill, each with different consequences.

    1. – the joint committee reaches agreement on a compromise text

    The Government may submit this bill for the approval of first one, then the other assembly. It may, in particular if the compromise text does not suit it, not require the two assemblies to make a decision on the bill. In this case, the shuttle begins again at the stage where it was interrupted and must continue until the bill is passed in identical terms by the two assemblies.

    The discussion in plenary sitting on the conclusions of the joint committee report begins with a presentation by the rapporteur of the joint committee, followed by Government speeches, if necessary by a defence of the preliminary rejection motion and then by speakers enrolled in the general discussion. The discussion of the articles only deals with the discussion and vote on the amendments. During this reading only Government amendments or those accepted by the Government can be tabled. The National Assembly then votes on the entire bill in the version drawn up by the joint committee which has possibly been modified by the amendments.

    If each assembly passes the entire Government or members’ bill in the version drawn up by the joint committee which has possibly been modified by the same amendments, then the arbitration procedure is a success and the bill is definitive.

    2. – The failure of the arbitration procedure: the National Assembly has the final say

    If the compromise text is rejected by one or other of the assemblies or if the amendments to the joint committee text are adopted by one assembly but not by the other, then the arbitration procedure has failed. A failure can also come about if the joint committee does not reach a compromise text. In these different cases, the Government has the possibility of granting the final say to the National Assembly.

    This procedure has three stages which take place in the following order: a new reading by the National Assembly, a new reading by the Senate and the definitive reading by the National Assembly.

    During the new reading, the National Assembly deliberates on the final bill adopted before the beginning of the arbitration procedure. This means that in the case of a bill tabled on first reading in the Senate, the National Assembly re-examines the bill which it passed in the end. This bill is examined in committee and is discussed following the normal procedure. The bill passed by the National Assembly is transmitted to the Senate which also examines it following the normal procedure. If the Senate adopts it without modification, then the bill is definitively passed. If not, it is transmitted to the National Assembly for a definitive reading. During the definitive reading, the National Assembly deliberates within very strict limits. It makes its decision upon a proposal of the committee, either on the bill drawn up by the joint committee, if there has been one, or on the bill which it adopted itself during the new reading. In this particular case, it may only adopt amendments which were adopted by the Senate during its new reading.

    IV. – SPECIFIC ADOPTION PROCEDURES

    1. – The simplified examination procedure

    The National Assembly has only a limited time for its plenary sittings. However Parliament is often called upon to deal with bills which certainly require the attention of the legislator, but which often are of a more technical than political nature.

    It is largely for the consideration of such bills that the National Assembly possesses a simplified examination procedure. When this procedure is implemented there is no general discussion. Only articles on which amendments are tabled are put to the vote. There are no speeches on articles and for each amendment the only speakers permitted to take the floor, in addition to the Government, are one of the authors, the chairman or the rapporteur of the lead committee and one speaker against. When there are no amendments, the entire bill is immediately put to the vote.

    The implementation rules of this procedure guarantee the M.P.s’ right to speak and in particular that of the members of the opposition. In fact, although the procedure may be introduced by the Conference of Presidents upon the request of the President of the National Assembly, of the Government, of the chairman of the lead committee or of the chairman of a political group, a right to oppose the procedure is, at the same time, available to the same authorities (with the exception of the President of the National Assembly) right up until the eve of the discussion at 1p.m. If such a right is used, then the bill is examined according to the ordinary law procedure. Another guarantee is provided by the provision which states that the tabling by the Government of an amendment after the time limit for opposing the procedure has run out, automatically leads to the withdrawal of the bill from the agenda of the National Assembly. The bill may then be included on the agenda for the following sitting and will follow the ordinary law procedure.

    This simplified examination procedure is in practice usually applied to bills authorizing the ratification of a treaty or the acceptance of an international agreement. It is always preceded by the consideration of the bill in committee.

    2. – The “forced vote”

    The forced vote, which is a procedure provided for in article 44, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, enables the Government to request one or the other assembly to make a decision in a sole vote on all or part of a text being discussed, keeping only the amendments proposed or accepted by it.

    Government has broad leeway in the implementation of this procedure. It is free to choose the moment to announce its intention to use it. It also has the prerogative of defining the text to which the forced vote will apply: a part of the bill being discussed (one article or a group of articles) or the whole bill. It also decides upon the amendments which will be maintained.

    The implementation of this procedure has the effect of eliminating a vote on the amendments and the articles which are subject to the forced vote. It does not enable the blocking of the discussion of all the articles and their corresponding amendments, including those not maintained by the Government.

    3. – The Government makes the passing of a bill an issue of confidence

    The Constitution (article 49, paragraph 3) allows the Prime Minister, after consultation in the Council of Ministers, to make the passing of a finance bill, a social security financing bill or one other Government or Member’s bill per session, an issue of confidence in the Government before the National Assembly. This procedure cannot be implemented before the Senate, as the Government is not directly accountable to that Assembly.

    As in the case of the forced vote, the Government is free to choose the moment when it makes the passing of a bill an issue of confidence and is free to choose the content of the bill on which it does so.

    However, unlike for the forced vote, this procedure brings about the immediate suspension of the discussion of the bill in question.

    From the moment that the procedure is introduced, a period of 24 hours begins during which M.P.s may table a censure motion.

    A motion of censure is only admissible if it is signed by at least one tenth of the members of the National Assembly. If a motion of censure is tabled, its tabling is formally recorded. This motion is then discussed and voted upon in the time limits and under the conditions set by the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly (the vote cannot be held within 48 hours of the tabling of the motion and the discussion must take place at the latest on the third day of sitting after this time limit expires). The motion is only carried if it obtains a majority of the votes of the members making up the National Assembly. Only M.P.s in favour of the motion actually take part in the vote.

    If no censure motion is tabled in the 24-hour limit or if the motion is not carried, the bill on which the Government has called for confidence is considered passed. Such a procedure only applies to the reading during which it is implemented and thus has no effect on the process of the shuttle.

    If the censure motion is carried, the Prime Minister must tender the resignation of his Government and, in addition, the bill on which confidence was called, is considered rejected. Such a situation has not occurred in the lifetime of the Fifth Republic.

    V. –PROMULGATION OF THE LAW

    1. – Promulgation

    The definitive passing of a Government or Member’s bill in principle brings the parliamentary phase of the legislative procedure to a close and usually leads to the promulgation of the law.

    The definitive bill is transmitted to the General Secretariat of the Government which is, in particular, in charge of presenting it for signature to the President of the Republic. The President of the Republic has the power to promulgate laws (i.e. to give them their binding power). The President of the Republic has fifteen days to promulgate the law. The law is then published in the Journal Officiel of the French Republic.

    However, the promulgation of a law may be delayed or stopped in two cases: the monitoring of the constitutionality of the law and a new deliberation on the law.

    2. – The effects of the monitoring of constitutionality

    The Constitutional Council is, in particular, responsible for the monitoring of the conformity of the laws passed by Parliament to the Constitution.

    a) Referral to the Constitutional Council

    This monitoring takes place automatically in the case of institutional laws, i.e. laws so defined by the Constitution and which deal with the implementation of constitutional provisions.

    For the other, so-called ordinary laws, this monitoring only takes place upon the request of certain authorities: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the President of the Senate, the President of the National Assembly and, since the constitutional revision of 1974, sixty M.P.s or sixty Senators.

    The referral must take place during the time limit for promulgation and it suspends this time limit. Upon referral, the Constitutional Council has one month to pass its decision but this may be shortened to one week if the Government so requests. Its decisions are binding on all and there is no recourse to appeal.

    b) The effects of decisions of the Constitutional Council

    When the Constitutional Council declares a law in conformity to the Constitution, the law may then be promulgated.

    On the contrary, a decision which declares an entire law contrary to the Constitution blocks its promulgation. The legislative procedure which has led to the passing of such a law is annulled and the only solution is to return to the beginning, unless the reason for non-conformity constitutes a decisive obstacle which would require, for example, a prior amendment to the Constitution itself.

    The Constitutional Council may also decide that a law is partly in conformity to the Constitution. In such a case, the law may be promulgated with the exception of the articles, or parts of articles which are contrary to the Constitution.

    3. – The new deliberation requested by the President of the Republic

    Within a fifteen-day time limit of the passing of the law by Parliament, the President of the Republic may also request a new deliberation of the law, in particular to find a solution to a declaration of unconstitutionality.

    This procedure, which has only been used three times since 1958, is introduced by a decree of the President of the Republic countersigned by the Prime Minister. The time limit for promulgation is suspended. An additional phase of the legislative procedure is then opened as Parliament will be requested to begin again, for the entire bill or part of it, the examination of the bill it has just passed. This additional phase follows the rules of the ordinary legislative procedure previously described (tabling of the bill, shuttle and, if need be, arbitration procedure and finally definitive passing).

    VI. – A SPECIFIC PROCEDURE: ORDINANCES

    According to article 38 of the Constitution, “in order to implement its programme, the Government may ask Parliament for authorization, for a limited period, to take measures by Ordinance that are normally the preserve of statute law”.

    Several conditions are necessary for this to apply:

    - An enabling law must be first passed by Parliament according to the aforementioned legislative procedure. This enabling law may result from an article of a Government bill but on no account may it result from a Member’s bill or from an amendment of parliamentary initiative;

    - This enabling law must detail the legislative matters which could be the subject of ordinances;

    - It must also set the time limit during which the Government may apply such ordinances;

    - It must, in addition, detail the time limit provided to Government for the tabling before Parliament of its ratification bill.

    - Ordinances are discussed in the Council of Ministers but must be the subject of an opinion given by the Conseil d’Etat and must be countersigned by the Prime Minister and the relevant ministers as well as that of the President of the Republic.

    - If the Government provides no ratification bill upon the expiry of the set time limit, the ordinances become null and void.

    - When the Government has tabled a ratification bill, Parliament may ratify the ordinances and provide them with a legislative value or may not be called upon to debate them. In the latter case, the ordinances remain instruments of the regulatory authority. Since the revision of July 23, 2008, the Constitution states that ordinances may only be ratified in explicit terms and thus this excludes “implicit ratification” of ordinances which was a practice previously tolerated by the Constitutional Council.

() Amongst the substitutes, three belong to the UMP group, two to the SRC group, 1 to the GDR group and one to the “Nouveau Centre” group.