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Congreso de los Diputados (Congress of Deputies)

Compare data for parliamentary chambers in the Oversight module


Parliament name (generic / translated) Las Cortes Generales / The Cortes
Structure of parliament Bicameral
Chamber name Congreso de los Diputados
Related chamber (for bicameral parliaments) Senado / Senate
Type of political regime parliamentary / constitutional monarchy
Notes The King is the Head of State, the symbol of its unity and permanence (Article 56 of the Constitution). He arbitrates and moderates the regular functioning of the institutions, assumes the highest representation of the state in international relations and exercises the functions conferred on him by the Constitution and the laws.
Head of the executive President of Government
Notes The Government conducts domestic and foreign policy, civil and military administration and the defence of the state (Article 97 of the Constitution). It exercises executive authority and the power of statutory regulations in accordance with the Constitution and the laws. Government consists of the President, Vice-Presidents, and when appropriate, ministers and other members. The President directs the actions of Government and coordinates the functions of the other members thereof, without prejudice to the competence and direct responsibility of the latter in the discharge of their duties.
Method for appointing the executive After each renewal of Congress, the King nominates, after consultation with the representatives appointed by the political groups with parliamentary representation, and through the Speaker of Congress, a candidate for the Presidency of Government (Article 99 of the Constitution). The candidate nominated submits to Congress the political programme of Government he or she intends to form and seeks the confidence of the House. If Congress, by vote of the overall majority of its members, grants its confidence, the King appoints the candidate as President. If overall majority is not obtained, the same proposal is submitted for a fresh vote 48 hours after the previous vote, and confidence is secured if granted by simple majority. If confidence for the investiture is again not obtained, successive proposals are voted upon in the same manner. The other members of Government are appointed and dismissed by the King at the President's proposal (Article 100 of the Constitution).
Term of office of the executive and coincidence with the term of the legislature The post of King is inviolable and is held for life, even though he may renounce his mandate. Government, Congress and the Senate are elected for four years (Article 68, paragraph 4 of the Constitution).
Incompatibility of the functions of member of the executive and member of Parliament No Members of Government may not perform representative functions other than those derived from their parliamentary mandate, nor any other public function not deriving from their office, nor engage in any professional or commercial activity whatsoever (Article 98, paragraph 3 of the Constitution).
Dissolution of Parliament Yes
  • Circumstances
The President of Government, after deliberation by the Council of Ministers, and under his or her sole responsibility, may propose the dissolution of Congress, the Senate or the Cortes Generales, which is proclaimed by the King (Article 115 of the Constitution).

The King may dissolve both Chambers and call for new elections if no candidate has obtained the confidence of Congress.
  • Modalities
Every decree of dissolution sets a date for the elections. The proposal for dissolution may not be submitted while a motion of censure is pending. There may be no further dissolution until a year has elapsed since the previous one. If within two months of the first vote for investiture no candidate has obtained the confidence of Congress, the King dissolves both Chambers and calls for new elections, with the countersignature of the Speaker of Congress. Between 1990 and 2000, Parliament was dissolved three times, always at the political convenience of the political party that supported Government.
Accountability of Government to Parliament Yes Government is jointly accountable before Congress for its conduct of political business (Article 108 of the Constitution). The King's acts are countersigned by the President of Government and, when appropriate, by the competent ministers (Article 64 of the Constitution). The persons countersigning the King's acts are liable for them.
Modalities of oversight
  • Oral and written questions of parliamentarians
Government and each of its members are subject to interpellations and questions put to them in the Chambers (Article 111 of the Constitution). The standing orders set aside a minimum weekly time for this type of debate. Any interpellation may give rise to a motion in which the relevant Chamber states its position.
  • Government reports to Parliament
Not applicable
  • Vote of confidence on Government programs and/or legislative proposals
The President of Government, after deliberation by the Council of Ministers, may ask Congress for a vote of confidence in favour of his or her programme or of a general policy statement (Article 112 of the Constitution). Confidence is obtained when a simple majority of the members of Congress vote in favour.
Motions of censure and votes of no confidence (sub-report)
  • Circumstances
Congress may call Government to account politically by adopting a motion of censure by overall majority of its members (Article 113 of the Constitution). A motion of censure does not have to be linked to any specific circumstance.
  • Modalites
The motion of censure must be proposed by at least one tenth of the members of Congress and must include a candidate for the office of Presidency of Government. It may not be voted until five days after it has been submitted. During the first two days of this period, alternative motions may be submitted. If a motion of censure is not adopted by Congress, its signatories may not submit another during the same period of sessions.
  • Consequences
If Congress adopts a motion of censure, Government submits its resignation to the King, and the candidate proposed in the motion of censure has the confidence of Congress. The King appoints him or her President of Government. Between 1990 and 2000, no motions of censure were tabled.
Dismissal and/or impeachment of Government and other public officials (sub-report)
  • Circumstances and persons concerned
Parliament does not have a procedure for dismissal of the members of Government. However, the President and other members of Government may be held criminally liable, should the occasion arise, before the criminal section of the Supreme Court (Article 102 of the Constitution).
  • Modalites and procedure
If the charge is treason or any offence against the security of the state committed in the course of a person discharging the duties of his or her office, it may only be brought against the person on the initiative of one quarter of the members of Congress and with the approval of the overall majority thereof.
  • Consequences
The royal prerogative of pardon may not apply to any of the cases provided for under this section.
  • Have these procedures been applied?
Not applicable
Oversight over the actions of the Government administration Yes Government heads the administration and is jointly accountable before Congress for the conduct of political business (Article 108 of the Constitution). The member of Government countersigning the King's acts is liable for them.
Means and modalities of oversight
  • Hearings in Committees
The Chambers and their committees may summon members of Government (Article 110 of the Constitution). It is compulsory for them to appear when summoned by the Chambers.
  • Committees of inquiry and missions to Government departments
  • Oral and written questions of parliamentarians
Parliamentarians may put questions to the cabinet and to any of its members. Questions must be submitted in writing. Unless otherwise stated, it is deemed that the person submitting the question requests a written answer, and if an oral reply is requested and nothing further is specified, it is deemed that such reply is to be given in the appropriate committee. Questions for oral reply may also be included on the agenda of the following plenary sitting according to a system of quotas between political groups. In that sitting, after the question has been asked concisely by the member, the Government replies. The member may then rejoin or ask a further question, and following the Government's further reply the debate concludes. The time is allocated by the Speaker between the members concerned, but in no case may the consideration of the question exceed five minutes in Congress and six in the Senate (or 15 minutes in committees).

Government may, on reasonable grounds, request at any time, and once only with respect to each question, that it be deferred to the agenda of the next sitting. Questions with respect to which an oral answer in committee is sought may be entered on the agenda after seven days have elapsed from their publication. Questions may be answered by secretaries of state and under-secretaries. At the end of a session, any outstanding questions are considered as questions for written reply to be answered prior to the beginning of the next session. Written replies to questions must be given within 20 days following their publication, a term which may be extended, upon a reasoned request from Government and by resolution of the bureau, for an additional period of up to 20 days. If Government fails to submit a reply within this period, the Speaker, at the request of the questioner, causes the question to be entered in the agenda of the next meeting of the appropriate committee, where it is treated as an oral question.

In weeks when there is an ordinary plenary sitting of Congress, a minimum of two hours is set aside, as a general rule, for questions and interpellations. In the Senate, in each plenary sitting, the first 60 minutes at the most are devoted to asking questions, unless the agenda has been completely assigned to the considerations of other subjects. Questions can never give rise to a general debate in parliament. The Speaker is entitled to group interpellations and questions on the agenda together for simultaneous debate if he or she considers they relate to the same or connected subjects. The bureau, upon consultation with the board of spokesmen, may declare some questions or interpellations not admissible for consideration.
  • Role of Parliament in the appointment of senior Government officials
Not applicable
  • Activity reports of the Government administration and of public services or establishments
There are some public services or establishments that must report to or inform the parliament, such as the nuclear security council, the Bank of Spain, or the national energy council.
  • Representation of Parliament in governing bodies of the Government administration
Not applicable
Existence of an ombudsman Yes
  • Method for appointing the executive
The People's Defender is nominated by the two Chambers by a majority of three fifths of its members for a term of five years. He or she is then appointed by the Speakers of both Chambers.
  • Relationship to Parliament
A joint commission is appointed by the parliament to be responsible for the liaison with the Ombudsman and for reporting thereon to their respective plenums whatever necessary. The Ombudsman is assisted by two Deputy Ombudsmen to whom he or she may delegate some of his or her duties. The People's Defender, as a high parliamentary commissioner, is in charge of defending citizens' fundamental rights and public liberties. He or she has the authority to investigate the activities of ministers, administrative authorities, civil servants and any person acting in the service of public administration. The Ombudsman informs the parliament annually of the action that he or she has taken in a report submitted to it when meeting in ordinary session and when the urgency or seriousness of the situation makes it advisable to do so. He or she may submit special reports.
Consultation of Parliament in the preparation of the national budget No It is incumbent upon Government to draft the state budget (Article 134 of the Constitution). Government must submit the draft state budget to Congress at least three months before the expiration of the budget for the previous year.
Modalities of oversight
  • Examination of the budget / finance act by Parliament
It is incumbent upon the parliament to examine, amend and adopt the state budget (Article 134 of the Constitution). The budget is drafted annually and includes the entire expenditure and income of the state public sector and a specific mention is made of the amount of the fiscal benefits affecting state taxes. Once the budget bill has been adopted, Government may submit bills involving increases in public expenditure or decreases in the revenue corresponding to the same financial year. Any non-governmental bill or amendment that involves an increase in appropriations or a decrease in budget revenue requires previous approval by Government before its passage. The budget act may not establish new taxes. It may modify them, wherever a tax law of a substantive nature so provides.
  • Reports on the budget / finance act by Committees
The parliament exercises budgetary oversight through the reports from the finance committee.
Fields overseen
  • Defence budget
The parliament exercises oversight over all public funds.
  • Budget of special departments
There is a special parliamentary control over reserve funds. These funds only exist in certain departments, such as foreign affairs, defence, justice and interior affairs.
  • Role of Parliament in national development plans
Not applicable
Parliament's deadline for the examination and adoption of the budget / finance act In practice, the parliament examines the finance bill for three months, two in the Congress and one in the Senate.
Consequences of failure by Parliament to adopt the budget / finance act If the budget bill is not passed before the first day of the corresponding financial year, the budget of the previous financial year is automatically extended until the new one is approved.
Budgetary autonomy of Parliament Yes The Chambers adopt their budgets autonomously (Article 72 of the Constitution). The bureau of each chamber elaborates its budget, which is included in the general state budget.
Evaluation of Government spending
Parliament approves Government expenditures annually Yes Not applicable
Parliamentary oversight of public companies Not applicable Not applicable
Modalities of oversight
  • Body for auditing the Government's books and method for appointing
The auditing court is the supreme body charged with auditing the state's accounts and financial management, as well as those of the public sector (Article 136 of the Constitution). Its members are appointed by the parliament, by a majority of three fifths of the members of each Chamber. The court is directly accountable to the parliament and discharges its duties by delegation of the same when examining and verifying the general state accounts.
  • Reports of the public auditor's office
The state accounts and those of the state's public sector are submitted to the auditing court and are audited by the latter. The court, without prejudice to its own jurisdiction, sends an annual report to the parliament informing it, where applicable, of any infringements that may, in its opinion, have been committed, or any liabilities that may have been incurred. It may also present extraordinary reports.
  • Specialised committee
Government regularly reports on its spending to the finance committee.
Foreign Relations Committee (sub-report)
  • Functions of the Committee
The parliament exercises oversight over foreign policy through the foreign relations committee.
  • Powers of the Committee
Not available
  • Composition of the Committee
Not available
  • Bilateral visits of Parliament, inter-parliamentary conferences and information missions abroad
The parliament exercises oversight over foreign policy through bilateral visits, participation in inter-parliamentary conferences and information missions abroad.
  • Plenary debates on foreign policy issues
The parliament exercises oversight over foreign policy by organising plenary debates on foreign policy issues. There is a plenary debate in Congress after each European Council.
Involvement of Parliament
  • Participation of Parliament in inter-governmental meetings
Not applicable
  • Modalities and procedures for ratifying international treaties and agreements (sub-report)
It is incumbent upon the King to express the state's assent to international commitments through treaties (Article 63 of the Constitution). The giving of the consent of the state to enter any commitment by means of treaty or agreement, requires prior authorisation of the parliament in the case of treaties or agreements (i) of a political nature; (ii) of a military nature; (iii) affecting the territorial integrity of the state or fundamental rights and duties; (iv) that imply financial liabilities for the public treasury; and (v) that involve amendment or repeal of some law or require legislative measures for their execution (Article 94 of the Constitution). Congress and the Senate are informed forthwith of the conclusion of any other treaties or agreements. The conclusion of an international treaty containing stipulations contrary to the Constitution requires prior constitutional amendment. The Government or either Chamber may request the Constitutional Court to declare whether or not such a contradiction exists.

The same procedure for entering into international treaties and agreements is used for denouncing them. Any such decisions of the parliament are taken by a majority vote of each of the Chambers. The procedure is initiated by Congress. If no agreement is reached between the Senate and Congress, an attempt to reach agreement is made by a joint committee consisting of an equal number of members of Congress and senators. The committee submits a text that is voted on by both Chambers. If this is not approved in the established manner, Congress decides by overall majority. Note that in theory, the parliament can also re-qualify a treaty and consider that it requires its authorisation.
  • Other mechanisms for participation in foreign policy by Parliament
There are no other parliamentary oversight mechanisms in addition to the above.
National Defence Committee (sub-report)
  • Functions of the Committee
The parliament exercises oversight over defence policy through the national defence committee.
  • Powers of the Committee
Not available
  • Composition of the Committee
Not available
Parliamentary oversight of public arms manufacturing companies Not applicable
Circumstances and involvement
  • Modalities and procedures in case of war, an armed attack or a state of emergency
It is incumbent upon the King, following authorisation by the parliament, to declare war and to make peace (Article 63 of the Constitution).
  • Role of Parliament in sending troops abroad
Not applicable
  • Other mechanisms for participation in national defence policy by Parliament
In addition to the above, the parliament must authorise treaties in relation with national defence and security.
Circumstances A "state of alarm" is proclaimed by Government by means of a decree agreed in the Council of Ministers, for a maximum period of 15 days (Article 116 of the Constitution). Congress is informed and must meet immediately, and without its authorisation the said period may not be extended. The decree specifies the territory to which the effects of the proclamation apply. A state of emergency is proclaimed by Government by decree agreed in the Council of Ministers, after prior authorisation by Congress. The authorisation for and proclamation of a state of emergency must specifically state the effects thereof, the territory to which it is to apply and its duration, which may not exceed 30 days, subject to extension for a further 30 day period, with the same requirements. A "state of siege" (martial law) is proclaimed by overall majority of Congress solely on the Government's proposal. Congress determines its territorial extension, duration and terms.
Can parliament take the initiative to declare a state of emergency No
Consequences of a state of emergency for Parliament Congress may not be dissolved while any of the states referred to remains in force, and if the Chambers are not in session, they are automatically convened. Their functioning, as well as that of the other constitutional state authorities, may not be interrupted while any of these states is in force. If, in the event that Congress has been dissolved or its term has expired, a situation giving rise to any of these states should occur, the powers of Congress are assumed by its Permanent Deputation. Proclamation of states of alarm, emergency and siege may not affect the principle of liability of Government or its agents as recognised in the Constitution and laws.
Modalities of oversight
  • Body ruling on the constitutionality of laws
A specialised body / constitutional Court The Constitutional Court consists of twelve members appointed by the King (Article 159 of the Constitution). Four of these members are nominated by Congress by a three-fifths majority, four are nominated by the Senate with the same majority, two are nominated by Government, and two by the general judicial council. Members of the Constitutional Court are appointed from among magistrates and prosecutors, university professors, public officials and lawyers, all of whom must have a recognised standing with at least 15 years' practice in their profession. Judges are appointed for a period of nine years and are renewed by thirds every three years. The President of the Court is appointed by the King from among its members, on the proposal of the full Constitutional Court itself, for a term of three years.
  • Means and procedures
The Constitutional Court is entitled to hear (i) appeals against the alleged unconstitutionality of acts and statutes having the force of an act; (a declaration of unconstitutionality of a legal provision having the force of an act that has already been applied by the courts also affects the case-law doctrine built up by the latter, though the decisions already handed down do not lose their status of res judicata); (ii) individual appeals for protection (recursos de amparo) against violations of rights and freedoms; (iii) conflicts of jurisdiction between the state and the self-governing communities or between the self-governing communities themselves; and (iv) other matters assigned to it by the Constitution or by law (Article 161 of the Constitution). Government may appeal to the Constitutional Court against provisions and resolutions adopted by the bodies of the self-governing communities, which may bring about the suspension of the contested provisions or resolutions, but the court must either ratify or lift the suspension, as the case may be, within a period of not more than five months.

The following are entitled to lodge an appeal of unconstitutionality: the President of Government, the People's Defender, fifty members of Congress, fifty senators, the executive body of a self-governing community and its Assembly where applicable. The following are entitled to lodge an individual appeal for protection (recurso de amparo): any individual or body vested with a legitimate interest, as well as the People's Defender and the public prosecutor's office. In all other cases, the organic act determines which persons and bodies have the right of appeal to the court. If a judicial body considers, when hearing a case, that a regulation having the force of an act which is applicable thereto and upon the validity of which the judgment depends, might be contrary to the Constitution, it may bring the matter before the Constitutional Court.

The judgments of the Constitutional Court are published in the official state gazette (Boletín oficial del Estado), with the dissenting opinions, if any. They have the force of res judicata from the day following their publication, and no appeal may be brought against them. Those declaring the unconstitutionality of an act or of a statute with the force of an act and all those which are not limited to the acknowledgment of an individual right are fully binding on all persons. Unless the judgment rules otherwise, that part of the act not affected by the declaration of unconstitutionality remains in force.
Evaluation of laws Not applicable Not applicable

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