Main tasks and legal framework
Main tasks - Monitoring the government - Legal framework of the Chamber - Appointments
Even though, in the majority of cases, the Government proposes laws, the decision to adopt them rests with the Parliament: Making legislation is the primary duty of the Chamber of Deputies which is why it is also known as the ‘legislative power’.
The Parliament’s two other essential powers are monitoring the government via various means (questions, interpellations, etc.) and guiding political debate (whether at its own initiative or at the government’s request).
The Chamber is also required to make certain appointments for roles defined in its Rules of Procedure.
The Parliament’s activities are not only limited to the country’s internal affairs. The Chamber is increasingly taking part in the decision-making process at European level. The Parliament also has a diplomatic role to play.
Monitoring the government
The Chamber has the power to monitor government actions, which it conducts according to various financial, administrative, and political means.
The budget: monitoring the financial management of the State
Each year, the State’s upcoming budget is voted on in the Chamber. In parallel, each year the Chamber must approve the accounts of the preceding financial year. The Chamber’s monitoring is also carried out by means of the Committee on Budgetary Implementation Control.
The latter analyses the Court of Auditors’ opinions and special reports on the financial management of the State or on matters which the Committee on Budgetary Implementation Control asks the Court of Auditors to deal with. It may also initiate exchanges with the competent members of the government on the observations of the Court of Auditors.
Questions: seeking explanations from ministers
The Chamber’s deputies may submit questions on current political issues or issues of general interest to the members of the government. These questions are asked orally in public session, or in writing. The competent ministers provide a response to the written questions within a period of one month. Urgent questions which have been declared admissible are addressed in public session or are given a written response within a period of one week.
Interpellations: seeking explanations from the government
Each deputy is entitled to address an ‘interpellation’ to the government. This is a written request for a public discussion which must be limited to matters of public interest.
The right of inquiry: examining any dysfunctions in the government or the administration.
This right may be exercised by the Chamber or, which is generally the case, by a committee of inquiry. It comes into play if the government or the administration is accused of dysfunction. The right of inquiry makes it possible to call witnesses and to consult experts. The powers given to the Chamber or committee of inquiry and to their President is akin to that of the investigating judge in criminal cases.
The right to make accusations: implicating ministers
The Chamber has the right to accuse the members of the government. Accusations made against ministers are brought before the Superior Court of Justice, meeting in plenary session. As yet the Chamber has never resorted to this right.
Petitions: ensuring the complaints or claims are well founded
The Chamber examines the petitions addressed to it within the Committee on Petitions. When it deems necessary, it may refer them to the government and require explanations about their content.
Legal framework of the Chamber
The institutional role of the Chambre des Députés (Chamber of Deputies, Luxembourg’s parliament) is defined by a set of texts that strictly regulate its organisation.
As the supreme legislative text, the Constitution provides a framework for the organisation of the State and defines the terms of the separation of powers.
The electoral act defines the framework in which citizens’ votes can be expressed freely and democratically.
The organisation and operation of the Chamber are defined in the Rules of Procedure. They also include details of the legislative procedure, as well as special procedures, for example nominations.
An important prerogative of the parliamentary institution is to be able to organise committees of inquiry, particularly in the context of its function of monitoring the government. (2011 law).
The Chamber of Deputies has a key role to play in the nomination of the members of the Council of State and the Court of Auditors. In addition, it appoints the Ombudsman, the members of the Centre pour l’égalité de traitement (Centre for Equal Treatment) and the auditor of the Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (Luxembourg National Credit and Investment Institution).
The Council of State: proposing a candidate
The members of the Council of State are appointed by the Grand Duke, in turn and in the following order:
- upon nomination of a candidate by the government
- upon nomination of a candidate by the Chamber of Deputies
- upon nomination of a candidate by the Council of State.
Following an information and application procedure set out in the Chamber’s Rules of Procedure (in Articles 119 -130), the deputies gathered in public session proceed to vote. The ballot is secret.
When appointing the candidate, the Chamber : 1) ensures that the composition of the Council of State takes into account the political parties represented at the Chamber of Deputies, on condition that they have obtained at least three seats during each of the last two legislative elections 2) seeks to ensure a balanced representation of men and women in the composition of the Council of State. The number of the under-represented sex may not be less than seven.
The Court of Auditors: proposal of three candidates
The members of the Court of Auditors are appointed by the Grand Duke on the proposal of the Chamber. A list of three candidates is drawn up in public session by the same voting procedure as that for the list of candidates for roles within the Council of State.
The Ombudsman: proposing a candidate
The Chamber of Deputies, meeting in public session, appoints the Ombudsman by a majority of members present, with proxy voting not permitted. The appointment to the office of Ombudsman is carried out by the Grand Duke for a non-renewable term of eight years. The Chamber, meeting in public session, may also ask the Grand Duke to terminate the Ombudsman's term of office before it ends. This request can be made in the following cases:
- at the Ombudsman’s request
- when the Ombudsman’s state of health compromises the performance of their duties
- When the Ombudsman is unable to carry out their mandate.
The Centre for Equal Treatment: nomination of members
Each deputy may propose one or several candidates for the roles of members of the Centre for Equal Treatment. The Conference of Presidents examines the admissibility of these proposals and drafts a list of candidates that will be presented during the session. The members of the Centre for Equal Treatment are appointed by a specific voting procedure.
The SNCI auditor: appointment and end of term
The auditor of the Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI, Luxembourg National Credit and Investment Institution) is appointed for a three-year term by the Chamber of Deputies sitting in public session. The Chamber also has the power to remove the auditor from office before the end of their term.