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Standing Orders of the Council of States
of 20 June 2003 (Status as of 1 June 2015)
The Council acknowledges the notifications by the Cantons concerning the results of elections to the Council of States.
1 After the Council has acknowledged the notifications by the Cantons concerning elections to the Council of States, the newly-elected Council members shall swear the oath or make the solemn promise. Council members who have been directly re-elected are not sworn in again.
2 All persons present in the chamber and in the gallery shall rise for the swearing-in.
3 The President shall request the Secretary-General to read out the solemn promise or oath.
4 Persons swearing the oath raise shall three fingers of their right hand and say the words "I swear"; persons making the solemn promise say the words "I solemnly promise".
1 The Council shall elect the members of the Presiding College and of the Bureau individually at the beginning of each winter session.
2 Immediate re-election to the same office is not possible, apart from to the office in accordance with Article 5 paragraph 1 letter d.
3 If the office of a member of the Bureau becomes vacant during the term of office, the Council shall elect a substitute member for the remaining period; if the post of President becomes vacant, the Council shall hold a substitute election if the President leaves office before the start of the summer session.
1 The President shall fulfil the tasks conferred on him or her by law and:
- chair the Council meetings;
- establish the agenda, subject to Council decisions to the contrary, taking into consideration the programme of the parliamentary session established by the Bureau;
- chair the Presiding College and the Council Bureau;
- represent the Council in its external dealings.
2 If the President is unable to chair the meeting, or wishes by way of exception to participate in a debate, he or she shall be replaced provisionally by the First Vice-President, or if need be by the Second Vice-President.
3 If neither Vice-President is able to chair the meeting, the presidency shall be assumed by the following persons:
- a predecessor; if more than one is present in the Council, the council member who more recently exercised the office shall take precedence;
- the council member who has served the most terms of office; if two or more council members have served the same term, the older member shall take precedence.
4 The Vice-Presidents:
- support the President;
- carry out with the President the tasks conferred on the Presiding College by law.
5 Decisions of the Presiding College require the approval of at least two of its members.
1 The Bureau comprises:
- the three members of the Presiding College;
- a Teller;
- a Deputy Teller;
- a further member from each group of the Federal Assembly with at least five members in the Council of States which is not represented among the members of the Bureau under letters a-c.
2 The Bureau is subject to the procedural rules of the committees.
1 The Bureau:
- plans the activities of the Council and establishes the session programme, subject to decisions by the Council to modify the list of items of business, or to add or withdraw such items;
- sets the remit of the standing committees and institutes special committees;
- allocates business to the committees for preliminary debate, co-reporting or final examination and sets deadlines; it may delegate this task to the President;
- coordinates the activities of the committees;
- examines, at the request of the Finance Committee, whether a committee responsible for the preliminary examination of a matter should seek an opinion from the Finance Committee under Article 49 paragraph 5 ParlA;
- schedules the meetings of the committees for the year;
- elects the presidents, vice-presidents, and members of the committees, unless the law provides otherwise;
- ascertains the results of elections and votes; the President may call on other members of the council if the Tellers and their replacements are impeded;
- examines whether incompatibilities exist under Article 14 letters b-f ParlA, and, if necessary, requests the Council to confirm the existence of any incompatibility;
- handles all other issues of organisation and procedure in the Council;
2 The Bureau shall consult the presidents of the committees before taking decisions on matters concerning paragraph 1 letters b, c, and f.
3 Council members have three days in which to contest an election under paragraph 1 letter g and propose the nomination of another member of the Council; the decision rests with the Council.
1 The following standing committees exist:
- Finance Committee (FC);
- Control Committee (CC);
- Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC);
- Science, Education and Culture Committee (SECC);
- Social Security and Health Committee (SSHC);
- Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy Committee (ESPEC);
- Security Policy Committee (SPC);
- Transport and Telecommunications Committee (TTC);
- Economic Affairs and Taxation Committee (EATC);
- Political Institutions Committee (PIC);
- Legal Affairs Committee (LAC);
In exceptional cases, the Bureau may institute special committees. Prior to doing so, it shall consult the presidents of the standing committees whose area of competence may be affected.
Unless otherwise provided in an act or ordinance of the Federal Assembly, the provisions on committees set out in the Parliament Act and in these Standing Orders apply mutatis mutandis to the standing and non-standing delegations.
The Legislature Planning Committee is constituted in the first session of the legislative period of the National Council as the special committee for the preliminary examination of the Federal Council's report on the legislature plan.
1 Every committee may, with the approval of the Bureau, establish its own sub-committees.
2 The committee shall issue the sub-committee with an assignment that specifies its task and sets a deadline for the submission of its reports.
1 The President of the committee:
- a. plans the work of the committee;
- b. sets the agenda, subject to contrary decisions by the committee;
- c. chairs the meetings of the committee;
- d. represents the committee in its external dealings.
2 If the President is unable to act, Article 4 paragraph 2 and 3 applies mutatis mutandis.
3 The President shall participate in votes held by the committee. In the event of a tie, he or she has the casting vote.
1 The term of office of all committee members is four years, subject to contrary provisions contained in the Parliament Act or in an ordinance of the Federal Assembly. It ends at the latest with the total renewal of the committees in the first session of the new legislative period. Re-election is possible.
2 The term of office of presidents and vice-presidents of the standing committees is two years. Immediate re-election to the same office is not possible.
3 The term of office of the members of a special committee corresponds to the duration of the committee's activity.
4 If a seat on the committee becomes vacant, the person elected to fill the seat on the committee serves out the remainder of the term of office.
1 A committee member may be substituted for a single meeting or individual meeting days.
2 If a committee member leaves the Council, the parliamentary group shall nominate a replacement, as long as the Bureau has not assigned another member to the position.
3 The committee secretariat shall be notified of the replacement member under paragraphs 1 and 2 without delay.
4 Members of the Control Committee and members of a Parliamentary Investigation Committee, or their sub-committees, may not be substituted by another member.
5 A member of a sub-committee may only be replaced by another member of the main committee.
1 The president or members selected by the committee shall inform the media in written or oral form of the main results of the committee's deliberations.
2 The information provided generally includes the main decisions taken, the results of any votes and the principal arguments presented in the course of the deliberations.
3 Persons present at the meetings shall not release any information before the committee has released its official communication.
4 Any information regarding views expressed by persons present at the meeting or how they voted shall remain confidential, unless they decide to submit a minority proposal to the Council.
1 For every item of business, the committee shall nominate one of its members to report to the Council and to present the proposals of the committee.
2 The committee may deliver a written report to the Council. It does so particularly if no other official explanatory document exists.
1 Items of business under Article 71 ParlA is subject to preliminary examination by the responsible committees; exceptions there from are:
- procedural requests by the members of the council and groups;
- candidates for election;
- points of order;
- statements made by the Federal Council;
- other items of business stipulated by law or by these Standing Orders.
2 At the request of the cantons, the committees shall hear the opinions of the cantons with regard to the feasibility of implementation of legislation enacted by the Federal Assembly.
3 A procedural request may be subjected to preliminary examination if the responsible committee or the Council so decides.
1 New items of business are generally allocated to a committee for preliminary examination as soon as possible.
2 A Federal Council report may be allocated directly to the responsible committee. The committee may request the Bureau to include the report in the session programme.
1 A parliamentary initiative or procedural request submitted by a member of the Council shall be examined for its formal legality by the President on its submission.
2 The evaluation of formal legality according to Article 71 ParlA is only conducted by the President on request. If the item of business is pending in the Federal Assembly, the President of the National Council shall be consulted.
3 If an item of items of business is declared inadmissible by the President, the author may appeal to the Bureau. The decision of the Bureau is final.
1 Legislative bills produced by a committee or proposals submitted by the committee responsible for the preliminary examination of a legislative bill put forward by the Federal Council must be sent to members of the Council at least fourteen days before they are due to come before the Council; this rule does not apply to legislative bills examined by both chambers in the same session (Art. 85 ParlA).
2 If the documents are not submitted in time, the Bureau shall consider removing the item of business from the session programme.
A member of the Council may submit a parliamentary initiative or a procedural request in writing during the Council sitting.
1 The wording of a parliamentary initiative and of a procedural request must not contain a statement of reasons.
The addressee of a procedural request shall respond to the request in writing by the next ordinary session following submission of the request. If the addressee of a procedural request is unable to respond to the request within the specified period, he or she shall inform the Bureau and the author stating a reason for the delay.
1 Motions, postulates and interpellations shall generally be considered during the ordinary session following their submission.
2 If a procedural request and an item of business pending in the Council relate to the same matter, the two may be considered together.
3 An interpellant may declare his or her satisfaction with the Federal Council's response, even if the Council refuses to debate the interpellation.
1 A parliamentary initiative or procedural request may be signed by more than one council member. The member signing first is considered the author.
2 The author may withdraw the initiative or request without approval of the co-signatories.
1 An interpellation or a question may be declared urgent.
2 The Bureau is responsible for the declaration of urgency.
3 An urgent interpellation or an urgent question must be submitted at the latest by the beginning of the third sitting of a three-week session. It shall be answered by the Federal Council in the same session.
4 An urgent question must be submitted at the latest one week before the close of the session, and in one-week sessions on the first day. It shall be answered by the Federal Council in writing within three weeks.1
1 Amended by No I of the Decree of 21 June 2013 (Improvements in the Organisation and Procedures of Parliament)), in force since 25 Nov. 2013 (AS 2013 3695; BBl 2011 6793 6829).
2 Amended by No I of the Decree of 21 June 2013 (Improvements in the Organisation and Procedures of Parliament)), in force since 25 Nov. 2013 (AS 2013 3695; BBl 2011 6793 6829).
1 At the request of a member of the Council or a committee, the Council may make a statement on important events or on foreign or domestic policy matters.
2 The Council may decide to hold a discussion on the draft of a statement. It may approve or reject the draft or refer it back to the committee.
3 The draft of a statement shall be abandoned if it is not considered in the ongoing or subsequent session.
1 The Federal Council may make a statement to the Council on important events or on foreign or domestic policy matters.
2 At the request of a member, the Council may decide to hold a discussion on the statement.
The Legal Affairs Committee is responsible for dealing with requests to lift the immunity of a Council member, a member of the Federal Council, the Federal Chancellor or federal judges, or similar requests.
1 Notice is given of the agenda as follows:
- for the first sitting of a session: when the session programme is sent out;
- for other sittings: at the end of the preceding sitting.
2 The agenda lists all items of business.
3 The President may exceptionally add items to the agenda during the sitting, in particular in order to deal with differences and deferred matters for consideration.
1 The Clerk to the Council shall take the minutes of each sitting in the language of the President. The minutes shall state:
- the matters that have been discussed;
- the proposals made;
- the result of the votes and elections;
- the members of the Council who have been excused.1
2 The President shall approve the minutes.
The President shall verify whether the Council is quorate:
- before elections, votes on entire bills and final votes as well as votes on provisions that require the approval of a majority of the members of the Council in accordance with Article 159 paragraph 3 of the Federal Constitution1 in order to be accepted;
- at the request of a member of the Council.
1 The President opens the sitting. The roll is then called.
2 Members of the Council shall notify the Clerk to the Council, if possible before the sitting, if they are unable to attend.
All persons present in the chamber shall wear appropriate attire.
1 The President shall call persons attending a sitting to order who:
- make insulting or irrelevant remarks or infringe other procedural rules;
- by their conduct disrupt Council proceedings.
2 If the call to order is disregarded, the President may order that disciplinary measures be taken in accordance with Article 13 paragraph 1 ParlA.
3 The Council shall decide without discussion on objections made by the person concerned.
1 In the Council, no one may speak unless granted the right to do so by the President.
2 Anyone who wishes to speak must submit a request to do so to the President.
3 The President shall normally grant the right to speak in the following order:
- the committee rapporteur;
- committee members;
- members of the Council.
4 Members of the Council shall generally be granted the right to speak in the order in which their requests are received.
5 The committee rapporteurs and the representative of the Federal Council shall be allowed to speak when they request to do so.
6 Members of the Council shall be granted the right to speak out of turn if they wish to make a point of order or personal statement.
Any member of the Council may make a brief personal statement; this may be used to respond to a comment relating to his or her person or in order to rectify a statement that he or she has made.
1 The Council may dispense with an introductory debate, unless a proposal is submitted not to approve introduction.
2 It may decide to debate an item of business article by article, in sections or in its entirety.
1 A proposed amendment must be submitted to the President in writing and normally before the debate on the item of business concerned.
2 He or she shall examine the proposed amendments on their filing to confirm that they fulfil the formal requirements.
3 A proposed amendment shall be subject to a preliminary examination by the committee responsible if the Council so decides.
1 The Council shall usually deal with a point of order immediately.
2 It shall decide without discussion on any proposal for reconsideration, after hearing a brief statement of reasons for the proposal and any counter-proposal.
3 If the Council votes in favour of the proposal for reconsideration, the article or section shall be debated again.
The President closes the debate if there are no further requests to speak.
1 An item of business that has been substantially amended due to proposals from the floor of the Council shall be returned for editorial revision to the committee responsible for the preliminary examination, if the Council so decides.
2 The revised text shall be submitted to the Council for approval as a whole.
Before the vote, the President shall provide a brief summary of the proposed amendments made and submit proposals to the Council on the question and on the order of voting in accordance with Articles 78 and 79 ParlA.
1 No member of the Council is obliged to vote.
2 Prior to votes on entire bills and final votes on legislative bills, as well as votes in which the approval of a majority of members of the Council is required under Article 159 paragraph 3 of the Federal Constitution1, each member of the Council shall be entitled to state briefly the reasons for his or her vote or abstention.
1 Each member of the Council votes from his or her desk using the electronic voting system.
2 If sittings are held in camera or if the electronic voting equipment is defective, voting is by show of hands or roll call.
1 The electronic voting system counts and records the votes cast in every vote.
2 The way in which the members of the Council vote and the result are shown on electronic display panels.
3 The President announces the result.
4 The result is published in the form of a list of names:
- in the case of votes on entire bills;
- in the case of final votes;
- in the case of votes on provisions that require the approval of a majority of the members of the Council in accordance with Article 159 paragraph 3 of the Federal Constitution 2 in order to be accepted
- if at least ten members of the Council so request.
5 On the list of names, for each member it is indicated whether he or she:
- votes yes;
- votes no;
- does not participate in the vote; or
- is excused.
6 A person is regarded as excused if he or she gives notice of being unable to attend an entire day's sitting at the latest by the start of the sitting due to an assignment from a permanent delegation in accordance with Article 60 ParlA or due to close family bereavement, maternity, accident or illness.3
6bis A person is regarded as partially excused if he or she gives notice of being unable to attend part of a day's sitting at the latest by the start of the sitting due to an assignment from a parliamentary body.4
7 The office may on request authorise a scientific evaluation of unpublished voting results.
1 Inserted by No I of the Decree of 22 March 2013 (Electronic Voting Equipment), in force since 1 March 2014 (AS 2014 251; BBl 2012 9463).
2 SR 101
3 Amended by No I of the Decree of 20 March 2015 (Amendment of the Grounds for being excused), in force since 1 June 2015 (AS 2015 1295; BBl 2015 2239).
4 Inserted by No I of the Decree of 20 March 2015 (Amendment of the Grounds for being excused), in force since 1 June 2015 (AS 2015 1295; BBl 2015 2239).
2 The number of votes cast and the number of abstentions must be counted in every case in the case of:
- votes on entire bills;
- final votes;
- votes that require the approval of a majority of the members of the Council in accordance with Article 159 paragraph 3 of the Federal Constitution 3 in order to be accepted.
1 Voting takes place in the cases under Article 44 paragraph 2 by calling the roll if this is requested by at least 10 members of the Council.
2 In a vote by calling the roll, the members of the Council respond from their seats in alphabetical order of their names to question put to the vote by the President with a "Yes", "No" or "Abstain".
3 The only vote that counts is that cast immediately after the member's name is read out.
4 After each response, the Council Secretary announces the interim result.
5 The result is published in the form of a list of names, other than in the case of sittings held in camera.
1 The following persons are allowed access to the Chamber and its anterooms (the Lobby and Antechamber) during the sessions:
- members of the Federal Assembly;
- members of the Federal Council and the Federal Chancellor;
- members of the Federal Supreme Court representing the federal courts on matters of business in accordance with Article 162 paragraph 2 ParlA;
- Parliamentary Services staff, as their duties require;
- staff accompanying members of the Federal Council, the Federal Chancellor or members of the Federal Supreme Court, as their duties require;
- photographers and camera crew bearing a pass issued by Parliamentary Services.
2 During sessions, accredited journalists and the persons holding an entry pass in accordance with Article 69 paragraph 2 ParlA also have access to the antechambers.
3 The gallery is open to the public, while the press gallery is open to accredited journalists.
4 In the case of sittings in camera (Art. 4 para. 2 and 3 ParlA), only the persons specified in paragraph 1 letters a-d have access to the Chamber and to its antechambers. The galleries shall be cleared.
5 The President may issue further regulations on access to the Chamber, its antechambers and the galleries; in particular he or she may impose time limits on the right to visit the gallery when there are large numbers of visitors.
6 The President may issue regulations on the use of the rooms while the Council is not in session.
1 Visitors to the galleries shall remain quiet. They shall in particular refrain from any audible expression of approval or disapproval. Picture or sound recordings are only permitted with authorisation of the Parliamentary Services.
2 The President shall order unauthorised persons to be removed from the Chamber.
3 He or she shall order authorised persons who are not members of the Council to be removed from the Chamber or visitors to be removed from the gallery if, having been warned, they continue to behave inappropriately or to cause a disturbance.
4 The President shall suspend the proceedings if order in the Chamber or in the galleries cannot be restored immediately.
The Standing Orders of the Council of States of 24 September 19861 are repealed.
1 [AS 1987 2, 1991 2340, 1994 2151, 1995 4360, 1997 1475, 1998 785, 1999 2614, 2000 1 and 241]
These Standing Orders come into force together with the Parliament Act on 1 December 2003.