Right of initiative (legislative)

The right of (legislative) initiative is the constitutionally defined power to propose a new law (bill).

The right of initiative is usually attributed to parliaments, which in most countries have the right to make law proposals, alone or sharing this right with the government.

In parliamentary systems it is common that both the government (executive) and the parliament have legislative initiative, but it also can be restricted to the government and the lower house of parliament, or even to the government alone.

In presidential systems which follow a separation of powers, legislative initiative usually only rests with the legislature, such as in the United States. This, however, does not preclude the executive from suggesting the introduction of certain laws to their backers in the legislature.

Groups with a right of initiativeEdit

Almost all countries give the right of legislative initiative to members of parliament, both as individuals and as part of a group. Depending on the country other groups of people may the ability to initiate legislation including:[1]


The power to make a legislative proposal in the Netherlands is held by the members of the Dutch government and other members of the House of Representatives. Both have the right of initiative . The right of initiative is regulated in the Dutch Constitution:

  • Article 82 paragraph 1: Bills can be submitted by or on behalf of the King and the House of Representatives of the States General.

The Senate has no right of initiative as an independent body. There is, however, a right of initiative for the joint meeting of the States General (House and Senate together).

The right of initiative of the Crown and the States General had already been formulated in Article 46 of the Constitution for the United Netherlands of 1814:

  • Article 46. The Sovereign Prince has the right to propose laws and other proposals to the States General, as well as to approve or not approve the nominations made by the States General to Him. (...)

In more than 95% of all cases, the government takes the lead in drafting a law. A member of the House of Representatives can receive assistance from the Legislation Bureau . MPs will make more frequent use of their right of amendment, or the right to propose amendments to a bill.


In Belgium the King as well as members of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives have the right of initiative. The King must always exercise his right of initiative in the House (according to Belgian separation of powers, the executive also has the right of initiative).

If the Senate or the House exercises its right of initiative, it is referred to as a bill . If the King does so, this is referred to as a draft law . If the King submits a bill, it must be sent to the Legislation Department of the Council of State for advice . This is a substantial requirement of form, ie non-compliance can lead to the annulment of the law.


In France, ministerial bills are called law projects and parliament's bills are called law proposals.

Law projectsEdit

In France, bills are proposed by the government. One of the ministers propose the bill to those concerned by his or her application. Then, if the different ministers agree, the bill is sent to the secrétariat général du gouvernement and then to the Conseil d'État, the Council of Ministers, Parliament, and so on... The Conseil d'État (and sometimes the Constitutional Council) has the duty to advise the government on projects of law.

Law proposalsEdit

Any MP can propose a law to Parliament. Law proposals, unlike law projects, can be directly deposed if they do not increase the state's expenditure.

Both kind of bills can first be deposed either to the Senate or the National Assembly

Only 10% of laws that are passed are proposed by Members of Parliament. This is mainly because the government has several means to limit the power of Parliament: the Government fixes most of the agenda of both chambers, and the Government can, under certain conditions, prevent Parliament from modifying its texts.

The legislative initiative of Parliament has both good and bad points. The principal criticism is that lobbies could persuade Parliament to satisfy them before other citizens. On the other hand, legislative initiative is the best way for Parliament to defend itself against possible encroachments to its power.

European UnionEdit

The European Commission has a near monopoly for legislative initiative, whereas in many Parliamentary systems there is a mechanism whereby members of the parliament may introduce bills. This ranges from insignificant in the UK Parliament (see Private Members' Bills in the Parliament of the United Kingdom), to quite significant in the US Congress. In most parliaments, the ability of members to introduce legislation is severely limited in practice. Under the Treaty of Maastricht enhanced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has an indirect right of legislative initiative that allows it to ask the Commission to submit a proposal, though to reject the request the Commission only needs to "inform the European Parliament of the reasons".[2][3][4][5] Member states also have an indirect right of legislative initiative concerning the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Over 80% of all proposals by the Commission were initially requested by other bodies.[6]

Some politicians, including Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, feel that the Commission's monopoly on legislative initiative prevents the emergence or development of real democratic debate.[citation needed]

Citizens also have legislative initiative in the EU by the procedure of a European Citizens' Initiative, in which at least a million signatures by EU citizens need to be obtained[7] in at least a quarter of EU member states.

Further readingEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Council of Venice. "Report on Legislative Initiative adopted by the Venice Commission at its 77th Plenary Session (Venice, 12-13 December 2008)".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Article 225 TFEU
  3. ^ "Legislative powers". European Parliament. Retrieved 13 Feb 2019.
  4. ^ "Parliament's legislative initiative" (PDF). Library of the European Parliament. 24 Oct 2013. Retrieved 13 Feb 2019.
  5. ^ "About Parliament". About Parliament. Retrieved 2021-05-06.
  6. ^ Nugent, N: The European Commission (2001), S.236
  7. ^ "Home – European citizens' initiative – portal". European Commission. 2020-11-13. Archived from the original on 2020-11-01. Retrieved 2020-11-13.

External linksEdit