Powers & Functions of French Parliament

Fri, 08/30/2013 - 02:29 -- Umar Farooq

Legislative Functions

Unlike the British Parliament, the French Parliament is not a sovereign law-making body. Its powers are limited. The subjects on which the Parliament can legislate have been enumerated in Article-34 of the constitution. After defining the scope of Parliament, Article-34 provides, the provisions of present Article maybe elaborated in details and amplified by organic law. A separate procedure for enacting organic law is laid down. Organic Laws can be promulgated only after a declaration by the Constitutional Council on their constitutionality. The Parliament can pass two types of laws. The laws which determine the rules and the laws which determine the fundamental principles.

Law which determine the Rules Concern

  1. Civil rights and fundamental guarantees of the public liberties of the citizens as regards their persons and property for purposes of national defence,
  2. The nationality, status and legal capacity of persons property in marriage, inheritance and gift,
  3. The basis of assessment, rate and methods of collection of taxes of all kinds, the currency system and
  4. The definition of crimes and misdemeanours and of the penalties applicable to them; criminal procedure, amnesty the creation of new orders of jurisdiction and the stature of the Judiciary.

Laws determining the Rules Concerning

  • The electorate system of Parliamentary and local Assemblies,
  • The creation of categories of public corporations,
  • The fundamental guarantees of civil servants and members of the armed forces and
  • Nationalization and the transfer of property from the public to private sectors.

Law determining the Fundamental Principles

  • Of the general organization or national defence.
  • Of the Free administration of local entities of their powers and of their resources,
  • Of education,
  • Of the law of property, real property rights and of civil and commercial contract and
  • Of labour law, trade union law and social security.

Financial Powers

In financial matters also the French Parliament does not enjoy supreme power. The procedure for enacting financial measures is designed to prevent Parliament from using delaying tactics. The finance bill is submitted by the government to the Parliament. Bill and amendment introduced by members of Parliament cannot he considered when their adoption has as a consequence either a domination of public financial resources or the creation or increase of public expenditure. Article-47 prescribes the procedure for enacting the financial bill. If the National Assembly does not complete the first reading of` the bill within a time limit of 40 days, the government refers the bill to the Senate, which must rule within a time limit of 50 days.

If Parliament rails to reach a decision within a time limit of 70 day, the provisions of the bill may be enforced by ordinance. If the finance bill is not filed in time for it to be promulgated before the beginning of that fiscal year, the government request Parliament for authorization to collect taxes and make available by decree the funds needed to meet the governments already voted.

Control over Executive

Although members of the government are not the members of the Parliament, they are responsible to it. There are three methods of enforcing ministerial responsibility. First, the Premier after deliberation by the Council of Ministers may pledge the responsibility or government to the National Assembly with regard to the programme or the government or with regard to a declaration of general policy. Thus the National Assembly could defeat the government earlier on its programme or general policy. Second, the .National Assembly may question the responsibility of the government by the vote of a motion of censure. Such a motion can be admissible only if it is signed by at least 1/10th of the members of the National Assembly and is passed by a majority of the members comprising the Assembly. Third, the Premier after deliberation by the Council of Ministers may pledge the government's responsibility to the National Assembly on the vote of a text. In the case of the National Assembly can defeat the government by adopting a motion of censure filled in the succeeding 24 hours.

Declaration of War and Ratification of Treaties

In France Parliament authorizes the declaration of war. Treaties are negotiated and ratified- by the President of the Republic. But peace treaties, commercial treaties, treaties of agreements relative to international organization, those that imply a commitment for the finances of the state, those that modify provisions of legislative nature, those relative to the status of persons, those that call for cession, exchange or addition of territory maybe ratified by law.

Power to Amend the Constitution

French Parliament has also the power to initiate a proposal for amending the constitution. After passing the amending proposal by majority vote by the Parliament, the President of the Republic shall submit it to the people at a referendum. If people support the Proposal, the President of the Republic shall promulgate it within 15 days the constitution is amended.

The constitution of the 5th Republic has considerably restricted the power of French Parliament. The executive has acquired a potential effective sanction over Parliamentary obstructionism through its authority to dissolve the French National Assembly. The role of executive in Parliamentary proceedings is also substantially strengthened. The President's messages to Parliament cannot be debated. The government has priority in setting the legislative agenda.