French National Assembly
3 July 2017

What is a general policy statement?

On 4 July 2017, the Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, will deliver his general policy statement before the National Assembly. Here is a reminder of the mechanism and implications of this procedure.
 

What is a general policy statement?

Under the Fifth Republic, tradition has it that after his appointment, the Prime Minister delivers a speech before MPs in which he outlines the key points of his Government programme, the main reforms and measures he wants to implement. This is the general policy statement (DPG).

Is it a constitutional obligation?

No it is not. The Constitution does not contain any obligation for a general policy speech to be made. It is a Republican tradition.

Why have a general policy statement?

To shore up legitimacy. This procedure allows the confidence of the National Assembly to be sought at the end of the speech. Article 49, paragraph 1, provides that: "the Prime Minister, after deliberation by the Council of Ministers, may make the Government’s programme or possibly a general policy statement an issue of a vote of confidence before the National Assembly". However, the Constitution does not make this an obligation either.
 
Some heads of Government have not wished to make this procedure an issue of a vote of confidence in them, because they considered that their legitimacy was derived solely from having been appointed by the President of the Republic. However, most Prime Ministers of the Fifth Republic have done so in order to strengthen their democratic legitimacy.

If the National Assembly fails to endorse the DPG, is the Government obliged to resign?

Yes it is. As the Government is accountable to Parliament, in accordance with Article 20 of the Constitution, it must resign if it no longer has the confidence of the National Assembly. Article 50 provides that "when the National Assembly […] fails to endorse the Government programme or general policy statement, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Government to the President of the Republic."

How is the Senate involved?

As a rule, when the Prime Minister delivers his general policy statement before the National Assembly, it is at the same time read in the Senate by another member of the Government. The Prime Minister can also ask the Senate for approval of the general policy statement, but even in the event of a negative vote, the Government is not obliged to resign.
 
 

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