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February 2011

 File n°37 

The President’s File,
the Case of a Legislative File

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Key Points

    The President’s file, which is prepared by the Table Office, is the main thread of the debates for the President or vice-president who presides over them. It guarantees their conformity to the Rules of Procedure, makes their conduct much clearer and helps the President in his role as referee.

    Its main features are:

    The texts of the various announcements to be made at the beginning of the sitting;

    The formula to be used to call the bill contained on the agenda;

    The formulae to be used to give the floor to the minister and to the rapporteurs (with for the latter a mention made of their allotted speaking time);

    The list of the speakers enrolled in the general debates or the general discussions dealing with a legislative bill with mention made, if applicable, of their allotted speaking time;

    The amendments listed in their order to be called with mention made of identical amendments, of those submitted to common discussion and the consequences of the adoption of such and such an amendment;

    The formulae to be used during votes.

    No matter how complete it may be, the President’s file cannot take into account all the eventualities that may occur during a sitting since, in addition to the incidents which may always happen during a political debate, various phases of the legislative discussion, such as the discussion of amendments, are organized during the sitting itself by the spontaneous enrolment of diverse speakers.

    The President’s file is thus the essential support for the chairman of the sitting in his chairing of the debates. It helps him to remain vigilant during the entire proceedings.

 

    The agenda calls the discussion, after the implementation of the accelerated procedure, of the Goverbement bill on career orientation and life-long vocational training

    CALLING FORMULA
    Every legislative file begins with the formula calling the bill to the agenda.

    This formula contains information on the procedure (e.g. implementation of the accelerated procedure) and the number of readings.

     

    The Minister in charge of employment has the floor.

    (M...)

    (20')

    GIVING THE FLOOR


    For a bill submitted by the Government, it is customary to give the floor to the minister who is in charge of leading the discussion with Parliament on this particular text.He determines the duration of his speech.

    This duration is only given as an indication, considering the fact that members of Government have an unrestricted right to take the floor. The floor is then given to the rapporteur of the lead committee.

     

    M. …, rapporteur for the Social Affairs Committee, has the floor.

    (15’)

     

    When the Assembly discusses a proposition or a draft submitted by a joint committee, it is customary that the rapporteur takes the floor before the minister.

    The time allotted to the rapporteur is determined according the duration of the general discussion as decided by the Conference of Presidents. It must be respected.

    The president of the committee may also take the floor. He usually informs the Conference of Presidents of his wish to do so prior to the discussion.

    In case there is a committee with consultative status, its rapporteur speaks after the rapporteur of the lead committee. The duration of his/her speech is also determined according to the duration of the general discussion.

    THE TWO MOTIONS : PRELIMINARY REJECTION MOTION AND MOTION OF REFERRAL TO COMMITTEE

    Before the opening of the general discussion, two motions, a preliminary rejection motion and a motion of referral to committee may be successively discussed and put to the vote.These motions are presented in a blue folder.

    On each of these motions the President gives the floor to:

    -the M.P. appointed to support the motion (for a set time according to the reading which is taking place : 30 or 15 minutes);

    -the Government and the committee;

    -one speaker per group for 2 minutes for an explanation of vote.

    The motion is then put to the vote.

     

    THE GENERAL DISCUSSION

    Outside of the implementation of the Set Time Limit Debate Procedure, the length of the general discussion is set by the Conference of Presidents. This period is shared between the groups according to a proportional scale. The day before the discussion each group announces its speakers, their order of speaking and the time each will be allotted.

    These times are strictly enforced.

    The list of those enrolled is drawn up by the Table Office based on this information with speakers from different groups alternating (the “swings and roundabouts”).

    At the end of the discussion, it is usual for the minister to request to reply to the speakers.

     

    The Assembly successively examines all the articles and the amendments to the articles in the order they are presented; from amendments introducing additional articles before the first article to amendments introducing additional articles after the last article of the bill under discussion. If need arises, amendments to the title of the bill are called at the end. Amendments to the separations which sometimes divide up a bill (chapter, section) are called and voted upon at the place where these separations appear in the original bill; these divisions, thus amended, are not voted upon themselves.

    GIVING THE FLOOR TO THE MINISTER

    At the end of the discussion, the minister usually asks to take the floor to answer the speakers.

    DEFERMENT OF DISCUSSION

    The aforementioned order of calling may be changed if the deferment procedure is applied. This procedure is automatic if requested by the committee or the Government and may be decided upon by the President. Its effect is to defer the discussion and the vote on an article and its pertaining amendments to the place requested by the author of the deferment request, i.e. either to the end of the examination of the articles or after the discussion and the vote on the following article.

    THE ADDITIONAL ARTICLE

    Additional articles may be presented during the examination of articles. They are discussed at the place where they are inserted in the bill.

    These articles are proposed in the form of amendments. This or these amendments are presented in a green folder.

    M.P.s can enrol to speak on amendments dealing with an additional article presented by the Government or by a committee.

    See below for the rules concerning the discussion and votes on amendments.

    THE ARTICLE WITH NO SPEAKER ENROLLED AND NO AMENDMENT

    If there is no speaker enrolled and there are no amendments, the article is immediately voted upon.

    The text of the article is actually written on a hard sheet called the “base”.

    The President requests the Assembly to vote:

    “I put article one to the vote”

     

    THE ARTICLE WITH SPEAKERS ENROLLED AND/OR AMENDMENTS

    If there are speakers enrolled and/or amendments, the “base” is placed in a green folder which includes all or some of the following documents:

    - The list of those enrolled;

    - The amendments, brought together in a pink folder, although certain amendments are themselves placed in coloured inner folders:

    * Orange, for deletion amendments;

    * Yellow, for amendments in common discussion;

    * White, for identical amendments;

    * Purple, for amendments with sub-amendments.

    - The “base”;

    - And, if necessary, a voting formula for the article.

    See the ANNEX: Principles for the classification of amendments and the effect of their adoption

    SPEAKERS ENROLLED ON THE ARTICLE

    On the articles, M.P.s can enrol themselves to speak.

    They can do so right up until the last moment and even when the discussion on an article has begun, but before the first amendment is called. Each M.P. has 2’ speaking time. This is strictly enforced.

    After two speakers of opposing opinions have spoken, the end of this phase of discussion may be proposed to the Assembly which decides by vote without debate which cannot lead to a public ballot. The closure may also be decided upon by the chairman.

     

    AMENDMENTS

    When only a single amendment is being discussed, the floor is given to:

    -
    The author or one of the signatories,

    - The Committee,

    - The Government,

    - To one speaker against.

    - l Speeches are 2 minutes long, except for the Government.

    - l The President may allow two other speakers to reply: one to the committee and the other to the Government. If these two have identical opinions, one alone may be allowed to reply.

    - l After these speeches the amendment is voted upon. There are no explanations of vote on amendments.

    AMENDMENT WITH SUB-AMENDMENTS

    In the file, the amendment and the sub-amendments are presented together in a purple folder.In every case there is a written note of their existence on the amendment itself.

    Discussion and voting:

    -Discussion is first of all opened on the amendment.- Before the vote on this amendment, the discussion on the first sub-amendment is opened in the same way as for an amendment.

    - This sub-amendment is discussed and voted upon.

    Then the next sub-amendment is handled in the same way.

    Once the discussion and the voting on the sub-amendments is over, then the amendment itself is voted upon.

     


     

     

    EXCEPTIONS: SUPPRESSION AND OVERALL REWRITING

    If a deletion amendment is passed:

    If such an amendment is passed then the other amendments tabled on the article no longer have any purpose; they are dropped.

    The President announces:

    « L’amendement est adopté, l’article… est supprimé ». (“The amendment is passed, article…is suppressed”).

    If an amendment requiring overall re-writing is passed:

    If such an amendment is passed then the other amendments tabled on the article no longer have any purpose; they are dropped.

    The President announces:

    « L’amendement est adopté, l’article… est ainsi rédigé». (“The amendment is passed, article…is so rewritten”).

     

    IDENTICAL AMENDMENTS

    1. M. …, author of the first amendment tabled, subject to the right of priority of the Government and the committee

    2. M….

    3. Committee, Government and speakers against.

    4. Possibly, replies to the committee and the Government

    5. Discussion and successive votes on sub-amendments A1, B1 et B2

    6. Forced vote on M. …’s no. 10 amendment and M. …’s no. 86 amendment

    SECOND DELIBERATION

    Before moving on to the explanations of vote and the vote on the entire bill, a request may be made for a second deliberation on one or several of the articles passed during the first deliberation. This request can be made, as of right, by the committee or by the Government. It is put to a vote by the Assembly when requested by an M.P.

    Amendments are tabled on articles submitted for second deliberation. If they are passed, then the article so-modified will be voted upon. However, the rejection of such amendments proposed in second deliberation leads to a confirmation of the text passed in first deliberation.

    EXPLANATIONS OF VOTE AND VOTE ON THE ENTIRE BILL

    Only one speaker per group may speak during the explanations of vote and he may only speak for a strict 5-minute maximum.

    It is customary for both the committee and the Government to speak before the vote on the entire bill. In this case, they are given the floor before the explanations of vote and the vote itself.

    The vote on the entire text is often held by public ballot.

    The Conference of Presidents may decide upon its postponement until a date which it sets in agreement with the Government. Postponed votes must be held by public ballot. Generally they are postponed until Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon right after Government question time.

     

    ANNEX:

    PRINCIPLES OF THE CLASSIFICATION OF AMENDMENTS AND THE EFFECT OF THEIR BEING PASSED

     

     

    The basic principles of the discussion of amendments introduced on a particular article lead to a procedure going from the general to the specific. Thus the deletion of an article is called before the deletion of a paragraph and the deletion of a paragraph is called before the deletion of a sentence included in that paragraph etc and so each separation of the text is dealt with successively. Therefore all the amendments concerning the first paragraph are called before those concerning the second paragraph etc.

    Competing amendments are discussed with the deletion amendments being taken first, followed by the other amendments beginning with those which deviate the most from the proposed text and then those, in order, which go against it, those to be inserted and those to be added to it.

    Consequences of the passing of amendments:

    - The passing of amendment 1 means all other amendments are dropped and the article is deleted.

    - The passing of amendment 2 means all other amendments are dropped and the article is thus re-written.

    - The passing of amendment 3 means article 4 is dropped.

    - The passing of amendment 8 means article 9 is dropped.

    - The passing of amendment 10 means article 11 is dropped.