National Assembly
27 June 2017

Legislating by Ordinance: a standard democratic procedure

Article 38 of the Constitution allows the Government to ask Parliament for authorisation, for a limited period, to take measures by Ordinance that are normally within the scope of the law. In application of this article, the Government will present an Enabling Bill during the Council of Ministers on 28 June 2017.


Why is the Government choosing to use Ordinances?

There are many stages a bill must go through to become law. It may need to pass back and forth several times between the National Assembly and the Senate before the two Houses approve the text in the same terms. If the meeting of a joint committee is able to close the proceedings, often several months elapse between a bill’s introduction in the Council of Ministers and its adoption by Parliament. The use of Ordinances thus allows the Government to act more quickly while respecting the authority of the Legislature.

A standard procedure

Since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, Ordinances have been regularly used by different Governments. Article 74-1 of the Constitution allows them to be used to adapt the laws in force in mainland France to the specific organisation of the Overseas territories and New Caledonia. The use of Ordinances can also facilitate the transposition of European directives into French law.
This procedure is also effective with respect to some highly "technical" reforms. If Ordinances were not used, such reforms would take up too much of MPs’ time and reduce the amount of time spent on basic texts.

A procedure that respects Parliament

From the beginning until the end of the process, Parliament is closely involved in the work of the Executive. If the Government chooses to legislate by Ordinance, it must first obtain an Enabling Act from Parliament. By this Act, MPs give the Government permission to use this procedure on a specific matter and for a limited period.

Once the Enabling Act has been approved, the Government can begin the process of adopting the Ordinance. After consultation with the Council of State, the Ordinance is adopted by the Council of Ministers. It comes into force once it has been published in the Journal Officiel (Official Journal).
At this stage, however, the text is not law as it has yet to be ratified by Parliament. To achieve this, the Government must introduce a ratification bill.  If the Ordinance is not ratified, it retains regulatory status and remains inferior to the law.

The Process for Passing an Ordinance