Organization and functioning of the House
Sessions of the House
The House meets without summons for its ordinary session fifteen days following a general election and its functioning and procedures are regulated, according to the Constitution, by its Standing Orders (Internal Rules of Procedure). The ordinary session of the House lasts for a period of three to six months in each year, as the House may determine. In practice, however, sessions of the House usually last for nine to ten months. The House can be summoned to an extraordinary session by its President on the request of ten Representatives, in which the reasons for such a request are clearly set out.
Meetings of the House
The meetings of the House are open to the public, are usually held every Friday and the minutes of the debates are recorded verbatim and are published. The quorum of the House consists of at least one third of the total number of its members. The House may, if it thinks necessary, hold secret sessions on a resolution carried by a three-quarters majority vote of the total number of Representatives.
The agenda for a meeting of the House includes four chapters: legislative work, introduction of bills and documents, questions by Representatives addressed to the various Ministries and the relevant answers of the Ministers and, finally, in Chapter Four, matters entered by Members for debate.
The President of the Republic may address the House by message or transmit his/her views to the House through the Ministers. The Ministers may follow the proceedings of the House or any Committee thereof and make a statement to or inform the House on any subject within their competence.
The President’s and parliamentary party leaders’ meeting
An informal institution has been established in the House in recent years, that of “the leaders’ meeting”, as it came to be known. This institution, which is not anticipated in the Constitution or the House Rules of Procedure, was initially applied in order to deal with some practical matters raised in the progress of parliamentary work, but was eventually established as a permanent institution playing a steering and coordinating role in relation with the House work in plenary or in committees or with other activities of the House or of its Representatives. Proposals and suggestions of the leaders’ conference are usually respected by House Members, but are never a substitute for plenary decisions, as they have never aimed to anyway.
Aiming at carrying out parliamentary work in a more orderly manner, the Constitution and the House Rules provide for the setting up and functioning of committees, the composition of which is decided by the Committee of Selection. Political party groups in the House are duly represented on each parliamentary committee.
Parliamentary committees are divided into standing committees, corresponding to the respective Ministries and other temporary, ad hoc or special committees. Committee quorum consists of at least half of the total number of its members. Committee decisions are taken by simple majority. In case of equality in votes, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman of the Committee has a second or casting vote.
The Committees consider bills introduced in the House for adoption and all matters introduced in plenary and referred to them. Each Committee may, in addition to matters referred to it by the House, consider on its own motion any other matter falling within its competence, in the exercise of parliamentary control.