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February 2011

 File n°53 

The Monitoring of the Implementation of Laws and the Assessment of Legislation and Public Policies

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Key Points

    Follow-up on the implementation of laws has become one of the main missions of Parliament. It has a double aim: to check the implementation of the laws passed and to influence the concrete conditions of their application.

    For a decade now, parliamentary monitoring of the implementation of laws has extended to the assessment of the legislation in accordance with the new approach to public action. This takes into account the effects and the social impact of the decisions taken, in terms of the objectives set and the means invested.

    Several mechanisms have been set up since 1996 in order to meet these new demands. Amongst them:

    The presentation before standing committees of implementation reports concerning laws which require the publication of rules of a regulatory nature;

    The setting-up of assessment and monitoring missions within the standing committees e.g. the MEC (an assessment and monitoring mission in charge of evaluating each year the results of certain public policies) set up within the Finance Committee of the National Assembly and the MECSS (the Assessment and Monitoring Mission for Social Security Financing Laws) set up within the Social Affairs Committee of the National Assembly and the Senate;

    The setting-up of the Commission for the Assessment and Monitoring of Public Policies.

See also files 24, 49, 50, 54 and 55

 

    I. – THE MONITORING OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF LAWS IN PRINCIPLE FALLS WITHIN THE REMIT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEES

    The growing complexity of laws means that more and more often they depend on regulatory implementation rules. M.P.s follow up the application of the laws which they pass, with great attention. They do so especially in order to avoid the failure of such laws on account of the lack of publication of implementation rules.

    Since 1990, the General Rapporteur of the Finance Committee has been carrying out an examination of the state of implementation of the fiscal provisions of the laws dealt with by the committee (i.e. not only the finance acts but also all those laws concerning provisions of an economic and financial nature). Similarly, in the spring, he presents an information report on the first available data concerning the application of the preceding year’s budget.

    This practice has become widespread and was extended to all the standing committees in 2004: “At the end of a period of six months following the coming into force of an Act whose implementation requires the publication of regulatory texts and without prejudice to the possibility offered by article 45, paragraph 2, two M.P.s, one of whom must belong to an opposition group and one of whom must automatically be the rapporteur, shall present to the relevant committee a report on the implementation of the said Act. This report shall describe the regulations which have been published and the decrees which have been issued in order to implement the Act, as well as the provisions which have not been subject to the necessary implementation instruments. In such a case the rapporteurs shall appear once again before the committee at the end of a second period of six months” (article 145-7, paragraph 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly). The reports on the implementation of laws may, by virtue of this article, give rise, in plenary sitting, to a debate without vote or to a questions sitting.

    So as to monitor the application of laws, the standing committees may also use impact studies which are attached to the law. Article 8 of Institutional Act n°2009-403 of April 15, 2009 concerning the implementation of articles 34-1, 39 and 44 of the Constitution states, in fact, that “the documents which present the impact study are attached to the bills as of their transmission by the Conseil d’Etat. They are tabled before the first assembly to which the bill is referred at the same time as the bill which they deal with”. These impact studies present, amongst other things, in great detail the state of the law in the national jurisdiction in the target field(s) of the bill, the means of application of the foreseen provisions over time, the legislative and regulatory texts which must be repealed and the provisional measures proposed.

    II. – THE MONITORING OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF LAWS HAS GRADUALLY BEEN COUPLED WITH AN ASSESSMENT OF THE EFFECTS OF THE LEGISLATION

    The new approach to public action which takes into account the effects and the social impact of the decisions taken, in terms of the objectives set and the means invested, has been integrated into the parliamentary monitoring of the implementation of laws.

    A growing number of texts include an internal monitoring mechanism, which can range from the simple requirement of an implementation report to the setting-up of assessment mechanisms.

    On its side, the National Assembly has used existing mechanisms or has created new tools so as to assess the legislation. In June 1990, for instance, a modification of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly enabled the setting-up of temporary fact-finding missions, being drawn, if necessary, from several committees, which would deal, in particular, with the conditions of the implementation of legislation. In addition, the remit assigned to such fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry tends more and more towards an assessment of a particular area of policy or of a particular law.

    1. – The commission for Assessment and Monitoring (cec)

    The Commission for Assessment and Monitoring (CEC) was set up by the reform of the Rules of Procedure of May 27, 2009. It enables the National Assembly to implement the mission of monitoring and assessment which is explicitly recognized by article 24 of the Constitution. The CEC is an operational monitoring body which, on the one hand, carries out assessments of public policies and on the other hand, brings its expertise to the impact studies which accompany bills tabled by the Government.

    Article 146-2 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly provides that the CEC, which is chaired by the President of the National Assembly, includes a number of ex-officio members: the chairmen of standing committees and the chairman of the Committee in Charge of European Affairs; the General Rapporteur of the Finance Committee; the Chairman or the First Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment (OPECST) as well as the Chairman of the Parliamentary Delegation for the Rights of Women and for Equal Opportunities between Men and Women; the chairmen of each political group who may be replaced by a substitute. The commission also includes 15 other members appointed in the same way as members of standing committees. The overall composition of the commission is based on the political configuration of the National Assembly.

    In order to carry out its missions, the scope of which is strictly defined by the Constitutional Council (decision n° 2009-581 DC of June 25, 2009), the CEC has the following functions:

    - It ensures the assessment of a broad range of public policies: the CEC, upon its own initiative or upon the request of a standing committee, assesses public policies in a broader remit than that of a standing committee. Each group may automatically obtain the right to one assessment per ordinary session (article 146-2 of the Rules of Procedure);

    - It must be informed of the conclusions of fact-finding missions: the CEC is informed of the conclusions of fact-finding missions, whether they be set up by a single standing committee, jointly organized by several standing committees or established by the Conference of Presidents (article 146-7 of the Rules of Procedure);

    - It gives an opinion on impact studies accompanying bills: the chairman of a lead committee may refer a matter to the CEC so that it may give its opinion on the documents accompanying the bill and which summarize the impact study. It must decide if such documents are in conformity with the requirements set down in article 8 of Institutional Act n°2009-403 of April 15, 2009 concerning the application of articles 34-1, 39 and 44 of the Constitution (article 146-4 of the Rules of Procedure);

    - It must put forward proposals for the agenda of the week given over to monitoring and assessment: in accordance with article 48 of the Constitution, the CEC may “in particular, propose the organization in plenary sitting, of debates without votes or sittings with questions on the conclusions of its reports or on those of the reports of fact-finding missions” of standing committees or of the Conference of Presidents (article 146-5 of the Rules of Procedure).

    2. – Assessment and Monitoring Missions

    The Assessment and Monitoring Mission (MEC) was set up in 1999 within the Finance Committee of the National Assembly. Its mandate is to assess, each year, the results of certain public policies. This body has two specificities by comparison with the other missions set up by committees:

    - It is, in reality, a permanent structure (set up for one year, it is renewed every year);

    - The governing majority and the opposition have equal representation on it and a position of deputy chairman is given to the opposition.

    In the same way an Assessment and Monitoring Mission for the Social Security Financing Laws (MECSS) was set up by the Cultural, Family and Social Affairs Committee in 2004. It also has equal representation and is a structure which monitors the spending on social issues and thus enables M.P.s to better follow the implementation of the laws governing the financing of social security and to ensure that the new legislative and statutory instruments correspond well to the financial objectives set.

    3. – Delegations

    The Parliamentary Delegation for the Rights of Women and Equal Opportunities between Men and Women was set up in 1999 and given the mandate, by law, of following up the implementation of the laws within its sphere of competence.

    Before the creation of the Sustainable Development, Spatial and Regional Planning Committee took away its raison d’être and led to its disappearance, the Parliamentary Delegation for Regional Planning and Sustainable Development, set up in 1999, was in charge of “assessing the policies” carried out in this field.

    Set up by Law n° 2007-1443 of October 9, 2007, the Parliamentary Delegation on Intelligence, which is a joint body between the National Assembly and the Senate, is in charge of “following the general action and means of the specialized services placed under the authority of the ministers in charge of internal security, defence, the economy and the budget”. It must gather information and evidence concerning the budget, general activity and organization of the intelligence services in the departments placed under the authority of the ministers concerned. It may make recommendations and observations to the President of the Republic and to the Prime Minister. The delegation also draws up an annual public report. Nonetheless, given the extremely sensitive nature of some information, certain restrictions are imposed on the delegation both on the gathering and the publicizing of the data to which it is party.