It was a proposal from the president, Gérard Larcher. The Senate, with a right-wing majority, adopted Tuesday 1is June a series of changes to its rules, without the voices of the left, firmly opposed to the planned reduction of speaking time in the hemicycle.
The motion for a resolution follows a working group on the modernization of the working methods of the Senate, which brought together all the political groups from December 2020 to March 2021. It will be subject to the control of the Constitutional Council, as provided for in the Constitution, with the aim of entering into force on 1is October, for the start of the next ordinary session of Parliament.
The planned shortening of the speaking time of senators in the discussion of articles and amendments to a text crystallized the oppositions. It will go from two and a half minutes to two minutes, with the aim of “Make better use of public session time”, in the face of legislative inflation.
The fear of a “dictatorship of the moment”
The president of the law committee, François-Noël Buffet (LR), argues that the National Assembly has “From 2009 reduced most of these speaking times to two minutes”. For the socialist Eric Kerrouche, this is done however “To the detriment of the quality of the law” and “For the benefit of the majority” senatorial. “We are going to weaken Parliament and the rights of the opposition”, he said. “Democracy is intimately linked to time, without this time, it will be the dictatorship of the moment”, supported the president of the CRCE group, with a communist majority, Eliane Assassi.
This reduction in intervention time is more penalizing for small groups, underlined the presidents Jean-Claude Requier (RDSE, with a radical majority) and Guillaume Gontard (environmentalist). It “Pursues an inevitable evolution” and “Reinforces the importance of debates in committee”, on the contrary, pleaded the centrist Loïc Hervé.
The left is also opposed to the abolition of the rule of dismissal at the end of the “turnstile” (rotating order of the speakers) of the speaker from the same group as that of the rapporteur, usually from the majority. . There too, that “Penalizes minority groups”, said Claude Malhuret, president of the Indépendants group, who called for “Keep the current functioning, very democratic”.
Parity encouraged, but without constraint
More generally, the left deplored the lack of ambition of the proposed changes, in particular on the right to petition or parity. The text enshrines in the regulations the online petitions system tested since January 2020, with a threshold of 100,000 signatures, but without automaticity, the Senate bodies keeping control over whether or not they are included on the agenda.
Regarding parity, it provides that the political groups “Strive to ensure a balanced representation between women and men” in the lists established for the election of the members of the office of the Senate, the key body of the upper house. A provision of“Display and without constraint”, lambasted Mr. Kerrouche.
Consensus on prescription tracking
Improving the follow-up of prescriptions, a subject dear to Gérard Larcher, is a consensus. “It is important for the Senate to show its willingness to regain control by exercising closer control of delegated legislation”, said Pascale Gruny (LR).
The text adds the monitoring of ordinances to the missions of the various standing committees of the Senate and strengthens its information on the government’s intentions with regard to their publication and ratification. The objective is to respond to the explosion, in recent years, in the number of texts authorizing the government to legislate by ordinances, which bypass the debates.
Since the start of the current legislature, 298 authorizations to legislate by ordinance have been granted by Parliament, including 90 linked to the Covid-19 health crisis, i.e. a doubling compared to the 2007-2012 five-year term, and an increase of 23 , 6% compared to 2012-2017, according to Senate data.
The text also tends to strengthen the supervisory powers of the Senate, in particular by simplifying the establishment of committees of inquiry when the chamber is not sitting.