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STANDING ORDERS OF THE SENATE

 

Sittings Department and Library of the Senate

January 2007
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II.  - WORK OF THE COMMITTEES

Article 13

1. - As soon as the Committees convened by the President of the Senate have been appointed after each three-yearly renewal, they shall appoint their Bureaux:  all Political Groups must be represented in each of them.

2. - Standing Committees shall elect, in addition to a Chairman and six Deputy Chairmen, one Secretary for every ten members.

2a. - The Deputy Chairmen may substitute for, and represent the Chairman of the Standing Committee.

2b. - The election of the Chairman shall take place by secret ballot under the chairmanship of the oldest member of the committee, who shall announce the outcome. The votes shall be counted by the two youngest Committee members present. The provisions of paragraph 6 of Article 3 shall apply.

2c. - The election of the Deputy Chairmen shall take place under the chairmanship of the Chairman under the same conditions of a secret vote using plurinominal ballot papers.

3. - This shall be followed, as a matter of priority, by the appointment of Secretaries belonging to political Groups that are not represented in other functions in the Bureau.

4. - The number of Deputy Chairmen and Secretaries may be increased in order to meet the requirement of representing all the Political Groups set out in paragraph 1.

5. - Each Special Committee shall determine the composition of its own Bureau.

6. - Only the Finance, Budgetary Control and National Economic Accounts Committee shall appoint a General Rapporteur, who shall thus be a member 'ex officio' of the Committee's Bureau.

Article 14

The Senate normally devotes Wednesday morning to the work of the Committees.

Article 15

1. - Attendance at the meetings of Committees shall be mandatory.

2. - A Committee member who finds himself/herself in one of the situations listed in Article 1 of the Ordinance of 7 November 1958 on the Organic Law exceptionally giving Parliamentarians the right to vote by proxy, may delegate his/her right to vote to another Committee member. The Committee Chairman shall be notified of this delegation. A Committee member may only exercise one proxy vote at a time.

2a - Senators belonging to international assemblies and those who are members of Special Committees may, at their own request and for the duration of the work of these assemblies, their Committees or the Special Committee, be excused attendance at the meetings of the Standing Committee that they belong to. In these cases, they may be substituted by another member of the Committee2(*).

3. - If a Committee member on a Standing Committee is absent without justification on three consecutive occasions, the Committee's Bureau shall inform the President of the Senate, who shall in turn record that the Committee member has been banned. The Committee member may not be replaced during the parliamentary session, and his/her allowance shall be reduced by half until the beginning of the next ordinary session.

Article 16

1. - Standing Committees shall be notified through the good offices of the President of the Senate of all Government and member's bills that fall within their competence, together with papers and documents relating to them, except in cases where the Government calls for the matters to be remitted to a Committee specially appointed to examine them.

2. - The decision to remit to a Special Committee may also be taken by the Senate on the proposal of the President.

2a - The decision to establish a Special Committee may also be taken by the Senate on the proposal of the Chairman of a Standing Committee or the Chairman of a political Group. Such a request must be submitted within two working days of the bill being distributed, or within one working day of an emergency declaration being formulated by the Government prior to distribution. The request shall also be published and notified to the Government and to the Chairmen of political Groups and of Standing Committees.

The request shall be deemed to have been accepted if, after the second sitting following publication, no objection has been referred to the President of the Senate by the Government or by the Chairman of a political Group.

2b - If an objection to a request seeking the establishment of a Special Committee has been formulated in accordance with the conditions set out in paragraph 2a of this Article, a debate on the request shall be automatically placed on the agenda for the first sitting day following the announcement of the objection to the Senate. Permission to speak during the debate shall be restricted to the Government and, for a period not exceeding five minutes, the author of the objection, the author or first signatory of the request, and the Chairmen of the Standing Committees.

3. - In cases where a Standing Committee states that it does not have competence, and in cases of conflicts of competence between two or more Standing Committees, a Special Committee shall be established.

3a - Finance bills must be sent to the Finance, Budgetary Control and National Economic Accounts Committee.

4. - Renewed Standing Committees shall, after the renewal has taken place, be informed as of right of the matters remitted to them. Special Committees shall cease to exist when the texts they were established to examine are promulgated.

5. - Each Committee shall produce a report of its deliberations. This report shall be confidential. Senators may peruse Committee reports without attending the meetings.

6. - These reports and documents relating to them shall be lodged in the Senate Archives after each partial renewal of the Senate.

7. - By decision of its Chairman, a Committee's work may be the subject of a press release.

8. - A Committee may decide to publish all or part of its proceedings using whatever means it chooses.

9. - When a Committee is asked to examine a Government or a member's bill which will be voted on without debate, all of the Committee's debates on the draft legislation shall be published in the Journal officiel. The vote may not take place until the fifth day after it has been published.

10. - The provisions of the preceding paragraph shall not be applicable when the vote without debate is turned into a vote after limited debate.

11. - The Committee may decide to sit in camera at the request of the Prime Minister, the Chairman or a tenth of the members. It shall then decide on publishing a report of its debates in the Journal officiel.

Article 17

1. - Any Committee that considers itself competent to publish an opinion on a Government or a member's bill, an Article in a Law, or a budget appropriation remitted to another Standing Committee shall inform the President of the Senate that it wishes to do so. If the President receives only one request for an opinion, he/she shall send the document back to the Standing Committee that drew it up, and inform the Senate accordingly. The President shall otherwise inform the Chairmen's Conference, which may order that the request be remitted to the various Committees that drew up the request for opinions, or propose that the Senate establishes a Special Committee.

2. - If the tabling of a Government or a member's bill is retro-active or interpretative, the Committee concerned, as long as it is not a Special Committee, may refer the matter to the Committee for Constitutional Acts Laws, Legislation, Universal Suffrage, Standing Orders and General Administration for an opinion.

3. - When a Government or a member's bill has been remitted for an opinion, the Committee to which it has been referred shall appoint a Rapporteur who shall have the right to participate on a consultative basis in the work of the Committee referred to for advice.

4. - Opinions shall be printed and distributed. However, in extreme circumstances, the Committee that has asked to give an opinion may also give it verbally on the day fixed for discussion in a public sitting.

Article 18

1. - Ministers shall have access to Committees. They must be heard when they wish to speak, and they shall retire when the vote is taken.

2. - In cases where, under Article 69 of the Constitution, the Economic and Social Council appoints one of its members to expound on the Council's opinion on a Government or a member's bill before the Senate, the member shall be heard under the same conditions.

3. - Authors of member's bills, draft resolutions and amendments who are not members of the Committee shall be heard on a decision of the Committee. They shall retire when the vote is taken.

4. - Each of the Standing Committees may appoint one or more of its members who shall have a statutory right to participate on a consultative basis in the work of the Finance, Budgetary Control and National Economic Accounts Committee, while the Articles of a Law or budget appropriations for which it has competence are being examined. These members shall receive the same notifications to attend meetings and documents as titular members of the Finance Committee.

5. - Special Rapporteurs of the Finance, Budgetary Control and National Economic Accounts Committee shall participate as of right on a consultative basis in the work of the Standing Committees whose competences match the appropriations for which they have responsibility.

Article 19

1. - Committees shall appoint a Rapporteur when each Government or member's bill is being examined.

2. - Reports adopted by Committees may, in urgent cases, be printed immediately and distributed during recesses and during intervals between sittings.

Article 20

1. - Committees are summoned, through the good offices of their Chairman, in principle forty-eight hours before they are due to meet, or, when the Senate is not sitting, with one week's notice, except in emergencies. Letters convoking the committee must include the agenda and are also sent to the secretariat of each Group.

1a - The referrall Committee of a bill shall meet to examine amendments before the public sitting starts. The Senate shall debate them during the public sitting and, if appropriate, before passing to discussion of Articles of the Law. In the latter case, the sitting shall be adjourned to allow the Committee to meet again.

2. - On all Committees, an absolute majority of members holding office, bearing in mind the provisions of Article 15, shall be necessary for votes to be valid, if a third of the members present so request.

3. - A nominal vote is mandatory on all matters if requested by five members. The results of votes and the names of those voting shall be published in the Bulletin des commissions (see article 23).

4. - If there has been no vote because of the absence of a quorum, the ballot shall take place legitimately, irrespective of how many members are present, at the next sitting, which may not be held less than an hour later.

5. - The Chairmen of Committees shall not have a casting vote;  in the event of a tied vote, the question put to the vote shall not be adopted.

6. - On the day after every sitting of a Committee, the names of the members who were present, substituted, excused or on leave shall be inserted in the Journal officiel3(*). Postponent of any vote for lack of a quorum shall also be noted.

Article 214(*)

1. - The Senate may, at their request, grant Standing and Special Committees authorisation to appoint Information Missions on all questions relating to their competence. These Missions may not meet outside French territory during the ordinary session except during the weeks when the Senate is not sitting, or unless special permission is given by the Bureau.

2. - A request for an Information Mission must meticulously set out the objective, the duration, and the names of the members of the projected mission. This shall be sent to the President, who shall inform the Senate at the next public sitting.

3. - The debate on the request shall be included in the agenda if the Bureau has issued a favourable opinion on the expenditure to be incurred by the Information Mission.

4. - Unless the Bureau takes a contrary decision, information bulletins must be published within a period determined by the Bureau at the suggestion of the Committee. This period may be extended by the Bureau at the Committee's request.

Article 22

1. - Irrespective of other provisions that concern them, Standing Committees shall provide the Senate with information that will enable it to control Government policy in accordance with the Constitution.

2. - The Finance, Budgetary Control and National Economic Accounts Committee shall monitor and oversee implementation of Finance Laws, and evaluates all matters relating to public finances.

Article 22a

In line with their respective competences, and in accordance with the provisions of Ordinance n° 58-1374 of 30 December 1958 on the Finance Law for 1959, the various Committees shall appoint Senators to oversee and evaluate the management of national enterprises and semi-public companies.

Article 22b

1. - Standing and Special Committees may, under Article 5b of Ordinance n° 58-1100 of 17 November 1958 relating to the functioning of parliamentary assemblies, ask the Senate to grant them the prerogatives given to Committees of Inquiry. The request must meticulously set out the objective of the Mission, and its duration, which may not exceed six months5(*).

2. - The request shall be forwarded to the President of the Senate, who will inform the Senate at the next public sitting. The request shall appear on the Senate's agenda on the proposal of the Chairmen's Conference.

3. -  The Committee for Constitutional Acts Laws, Legislation, Universal Suffrage, Standing Orders and General Administration shall be invited, as long as the request does not emanate from the Committee itself, to issue an opinion setting out whether the request complies with the provisions of Article 6 of the aforementioned Ordinance.

Article 23

A weekly Bulletin des commissions shall be published. It shall contain a report of the activities referred to in Article 20, together with any other information relating to the work of the Committees, as well as other information that the Bureaux of the Committees see fit to publish.

* 2 In its Decision of 18 May 2004, the Constitutional Council considered that:  «if it is open to the Senate, in compliance with Article 43 of the Constitution, to alter the way in which Committee meetings function, it shall be on condition that no challenge shall be made to the principle set out in article 27 of the Constitution whereby Parliamentarians right to vote is personal. The Organic Law may in exceptional circumstances authorise proxy voting...».

* 3 See note 2 of the article 15.

* 4 See chapter X of the GIB.

* 5 In its Decision of 14 October 1996, the Constitutional Council stated that this maximum duration of six months:  «could not be construed as... permitting [Special Committees] to continue working either beyond the date of the Parliament's definitive decision on the text that that brought them into being, or beyond the date of the text's withdrawal». The Constitutional Council also stated that «all of the provisions provided for by [Article 6 of Ordinance n° 58-1100 of 17 November 1958] apply to the work of a Standing Committee or a Special Committee being carried out in the framework of a mission for which the Committee has had conferred upon it the prerogatives attributed to a Committee of Inquiry.»

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