A wide-ranging overhaul of Parliament’s rule of procedure, prepared by Richard Corbett (S&D, UK), was approved by the plenary on Tuesday 13 December. The key features of the reform are enhanced transparency within Parliament and changes in the organisation of plenary sessions.
It also includes measures to improve efficiency, enable groups to propose current affairs debates, tougher penalties for racist and defamatory language or behaviour, and provisions for implementing the 13 April 2016 inter-institutional agreement on better law-making.
Under Rule 227, the approved amendments will enter into force on the first day of the part-session following their adoption, i.e. on 16 January 2017.
First-reading agreements will remain possible. A committee will still be able to decide by an absolute majority to begin negotiations with the other institutions, but such a decision shall be announced in plenary session and:
Penalties against Members who use defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behaviour, or compromise the smooth conduct of parliamentary business, will be strengthened in serious cases (ranging from a reprimand to forfeiting the daily allowance for 2 to 30 days and/or exclusion from Parliament’s work, without prejudice to voting rights. These sanctions would be doubled in the event of a recurrence (currently 1 to 10 days), and would include forfeiting the right to represent Parliament externally).
Political groups will be able to add one or two current affairs debates (Rule 53 a) of at least an hour each on a topic of major interest for European Union policy in each part session.
When forming committees (Rule 199), Members will no longer be formally appointed to the committee posts by plenary, but by political groups, according to the number of seats to which they are entitled (the more Members a group has, the more committee seats it will have). As a result, if a member leaves a group, his or her committee seat will remain with the group. This provision will take effect only in the next legislature.
The overhaul includes changes needed to implement this agreement. It creates, inter alia:
Each member may submit up to 20 written questions over a rolling period of three months (Rule 130 – instead of 5+4 per month maximum). The number of motions for resolution tabled will be limited to one per member per month (Rule 133). Written declarations (old Rule 136) will be abolished. Each group will be limited to 100 requests per session for roll-call votes. (Rule 180).
Rationalised voting thresholds
The Rules of Procedure used to stipulate up to 37 thresholds by type of procedure. The overhaul rationalises most of them into three sizes (Rule 168a), but would allow them to be revised after a year: