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February 2011

 File n°55 

Parliamentary Delegations

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Key Points

    Parliamentary delegations, which were set up by laws, are think tanks which, unlike parliamentary offices, exist distinctively in each assembly.

    Between 1979 and 2007, six such delegations were set up by legislators:

    The Parliamentary Delegation for Demographic Problems (1979);

    The Parliamentary Delegation for the European Communities (1979), which became the Parliamentary Delegation for the European Union in 1994;

    The Parliamentary Delegation for Planning (1982);

    The Parliamentary Delegation for the Rights of Women and Equal Opportunities between Men and Women (1999);

    The Parliamentary Delegation for Regional Planning and Sustainable Development, (1999);

    The Parliamentary Delegation on Intelligence (2007).

    The constitutional revision of July 23, 2008 and the modification of the Rules of Procedure of the assemblies led to the setting-up in both the National Assembly and the Senate of a Committee in Charge of European Affairs which replaced the Parliamentary Delegation for the European Union.

    Law n° 2009-689 of June 15, 2009 led to a reduction in the number of parliamentary delegations, some of which had no longer any reason to exist or had very little regular activity. Thus today the remaining delegations are the Parliamentary Delegation for the Rights of Women and Equal Opportunities between Men and Women in each assembly as well as the Parliamentary Delegation on Intelligence which is a joint delegation between the National Assembly and the Senate.

See also file 53

 

    For several years now, the National Assembly, like the Senate, has been seeking to develop an independent assessment capacity.

    It was in this framework that several delegations were set up by law:

    - The Parliamentary Delegation for Demographic Problems (set up by Law n° 79-1204 of December 31, 1979). This delegation was drawn from both the National Assembly and the Senate. Its mandate was to inform the assemblies of the results of the policy implemented to increase the birth rate and the application of laws concerning birth control, contraception and voluntary interruption of pregnancy;

    - The Parliamentary Delegation for Regional Planning and Sustainable Development, (Law n°99-533 of June 25, 1999) in charge of assessing spatial and regional planning policies and of informing parliamentary bodies of the drawing-up and the implementation of collective service plans as well as the application of planning contracts;

    - The Parliamentary Delegation for the European Communities, which became the Parliamentary Delegation for the European Union (Law n° 94-476 of June 10, 1994 which modified Law n° 79-564 of July 6, 1979) in charge of following the work carried out by the institutions of the European Union;

    - The Parliamentary Delegation for the Rights of Women and Equal Opportunities between Men and Women (set up by Law n° 99-585 of July 12, 1999) in charge of informing the assemblies of the policy followed by the Government as regards consequences in the field of women’s rights and the equal opportunities between men and women as well as of following the evolution of the law in this area;

    - The Parliamentary Delegation on Intelligence (set up by Law n° 2007-1443 of October 9, 2007) which is a joint delegation between the National Assembly and the Senate.

    Law n° 2009-689 of June 15, 2009 which modified Ordinance n°58-1100 of November 17, 1958 concerning the functioning of the parliamentary assemblies abolished the parliamentary delegations on planning and that on demographic problems. It also abolished the Parliamentary Delegation for Regional Planning and Sustainable Development in order to take into account the setting-up at the National Assembly of a standing committee in charge of these issues.

    The aforementioned law also formally recognized the transformation of the Delegation for the European Union into the standing committee in charge of European Affairs in each of the two parliamentary assemblies.

    I. – THE DELEGATION FOR THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

    Law n° 99-585 of July 12, 1999 set up, within each of the assemblies of Parliament, a Parliamentary Delegation for the Rights of Women and Equal Opportunities between Men and Women.

    Each of these delegations has thirty-six members appointed “in such a way as to ensure the proportional representation of political groups, balanced between men and women as well as between the standing committees”.

    At both the National Assembly and the Senate the delegation’s “mandate is to inform the National Assembly of the Government’s policy and the impact it has on the rights of women and on equal opportunities between men and women. In this area, it ensures the follow-up of the implementation of the laws”. The delegation’s mandate covers a wide area but it must be carried out “without entering either the remit of the standing or ad-hoc committees or that of the committees in charge of European Affairs”.

    The following matters may be referred to the delegation:

    - Government and Members’ bills by the Bureau of the National Assembly, either on its own initiative or upon the request of a chairman of a political group, or by an ad-hoc or standing committee;

    - Texts submitted in accordance with article 88-4 of the Constitution, by the committee in charge of European Affairs.

    - The delegation may request to interview ministers and the Government must transmit to it all useful information as well as the documents necessary for the carrying out of its brief;

    - In the case of referral concerning a Government or a Member’s bill, the work of the delegation leads to the filing of a recommendation report on the Table of the relevant assembly. This report is also transmitted to the relevant committees and to the committee in charge of European Affairs. It is made public;

    Amongst the most significant of the reports filed by the delegation of the National Assembly concerning bills examined by the Assembly, are the following:

    - Equality between men and women in politics (January 2000, February 2003, July 2003, February 2007 and January 2008);

    - Civil rights: Patronymic names (January 2001), rights of the surviving spouse (January 2001), parental authority (June 2001), divorce (October 2001, March 2004);

    - Social rights: gender equality in the workplace (March and November 2000), income equality between women and men (April 2005), women and retirement (July 2008);

    - Protection against domestic violence (the curbing of violence within couples, December 2005);

    - Women’s exclusive rights: emergency contraception (September 2000), voluntary interruption of pregnancy and contraception (November 2000, October 2008).

    In addition, the delegation also publishes an annual activity report, which may include, if need be, proposals for the improvement of legislation and regulations in the areas of its competence. For instance, it has published studies on the follow-up of the Law of May 9, 2001, concerning professional equality between men and women in part time work, on immigrant women, on the lack of economic security for women and on the follow-up of the Law of July 4, 2001 concerning the voluntary interruption of pregnancy and contraception.

    On top of this, the delegations of the National Assembly and of the Senate may organize conferences and decide to hold joint meetings.

    For instance, on July 3, 2008, the delegations of the National Assembly and of the Senate took part in a conference of the parliamentary committees for equal opportunities between men and women of the European Union. This conference dealt with the commitment to the objectives of the roadmap for equality between men and women adopted by the European Commission for the period 2006-2010.

    II. – THE PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION ON INTELLIGENCE

    The Parliamentary Delegation on Intelligence was set up by Law n° 2007-1443 of October 9, 2007 and is shared between the National Assembly and the Senate.

    It is made up of four M.P.s and four Senators, including the chairmen of the standing committees of the National Assembly and the Senate respectively in charge of internal security affairs and defence, who are ex-officio members. The other M.P.s and Senators are appointed by the President of each assembly to ensure cross-party representation.

    The remit of the delegation is “to follow 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.

    Therefore, the information and the evidence which the delegation gathers may not deal with “the operational activities of the services, the instructions given by public authorities in this regard and the financing of these activities”. Nor may they deal with “exchanges with foreign services or with international bodies working in the intelligence field”. The members of the delegation may not have “information which might put in jeopardy the anonymity, the security, or the life of a person working or not for the relevant services as well the anonymity or the security of the operational methods needed for intelligence gathering”. The work of the delegation is covered by the notion of national defence secrecy. The respect of this confidentiality is an obligation for the members of the delegation and thus excludes the publication of any information or any evidence which is thus protected.