Spanish Constitution of 1978 (annotated)/Part III
The Cortes Generales (Parliament)
Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament Structure1.68, 69 C1. The Cortes Generales represent the Spanish people and shall consist of the Congress and the Senate.
Functions81-92, 134, 108-1162. The Cortes Generales exercise the legislative power of the State and adopt its Budget, control the action of the Government and have the other competences assigned by the Constitution.
Inviolability56, 71 C3. The Cortes Generales are inviolable.
No membership of both Houses or of Congress and regional parliaments66, 68, 69, 70.2 C1. No one may be a member of both Houses simultaneously, or be a representative in the Assembly of a Self-governing Community and a Member of Congress at the same time.
No compulsory mandate66 C 22 SO2. Members of the Cortes Generales shall not be bound by any compulsory mandate.
Convocation72, 79 C 1,35.1,3. Meetings of members of Parliament which are held without having been called in 39.1, 42; 54, 56.4 SOthe statutory manner, shall not be binding on the Houses, and members may not exercise their functions nor enjoy their privileges.
Congress Composition81 C1. The Congress shall consist of a minimum of three hundred and a maximum of four hundred Members, elected by universal, free, equal, direct and secret suffrage, under the terms to be laid down by the law.
Constituencies141.1 C2. The electoral constituency is the province. The cities of Ceuta and Melilla shall be represented by one Member each. The total number of Members shall be distributed in accordance with the law, each constituency being allotted a minimum initial representation and the remainder being distributed in proportion to the population.
Proportional representation3. The election in each constituency shall be conducted on the basis of proportional representation.
Duration of Congress115 C 22 SO4. The Congress is elected for four years. The term of office of Members thereof ends four years after their election or on the day on which the Congress is dissolved.
Franchise and eligibility13.2, 23 C5. All Spaniards entitled to the full exercise of their political rights shall be electors and may be elected.
The law shall recognise and the State shall facilitate the exercise of the right of vote by Spaniards who are outside Spanish territory.
Date of elections and first meeting of Parliament62 b) C 1 SO6. Elections shall take place between thirty and sixty days after the end of the previous term of office. The Congress so elected must be convened within twenty-five days following the holding of elections.
Senate Composition2, 137 C1. The Senate is the House of territorial representation.
81, 141.1 C2. In each province, four Senators shall be elected by the voters thereof by universal, free, equal, direct and secret suffrage, under the terms to be laid down by an organic act.
Senators from insular areas3. In the insular provinces, each island or group of islands with a Cabildo or insular Council shall be a constituency for the purpose of electing Senators; there shall be three Senators for each of the major islands—Gran Canaria, Mallorca and Tenerife—and one for each of the following islands or groups of islands: Ibiza-Formentera, Menorca, Fuerteventura, Gomera, Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma.
Senators for Ceuta and Melila4. The cities of Ceuta and Melilla shall elect two Senators each.
Senators appointed by Autonomous Communities147 C5. The Self-governing Communities shall, in addition, appoint one Senator and a further Senator for every million inhabitants in their respective territories. The appointment shall be incumbent upon the Legislative Assembly or, in default thereof, upon the Self-governing Community's highest corporate body as provided for by its Statute which shall, in any case, guarantee adequate proportional representation.
Term of Senate115 C6. The Senate is elected for four years. The Senators' term of office shall end four years after their election or on the day on which the House is dissolved.
Causes of ineligibility and disqualification32.2, 68.5, 81, 127, 159.4 C 19 SO1. The Electoral Act shall establish grounds for ineligibility and incompatibility for Members of Congress and Senators, which shall in any case include those who are:
a) Members of the Constitutional Court.
b) High officers of the State Administration as laid down by law, with the exception of the members of the Government.
c) The Defender of the People.
d) Magistrates, Judges and Public Prosecutors when in office.
e) Professional soldiers and members of the Security and Police Forces and Corps in active service.
f) Members of the Electoral Commissions.
Control of validity of election67.1, 81, 117 C2. The validity of the certificates of election and credentials of members of each House shall be subject to judicial control, under the terms to be laid down in the Electoral Act.
Freedom of speech10 SO1. Members of Congress and Senators shall enjoy freedom of speech for opinions expressed in the exercise of their functions.
Freedom from arrest11-14 SO2. During their term of office, Members of Congress and Senators shall likewise enjoy freedom from arrest and may be arrested only in the event of flagrante delicto. They may be neither indicted nor tried without prior authorization of their respective House.
Special jurisdiction vested in Supreme Court123 C3. In criminal proceedings brought against Members of Congress and Senators, the competent court shall be the Criminal Section of the Supreme Court.
Salary8 SO4. Members of Congress and Senators shall receive a salary to be determined by the respective House.
Autonomy of Congress and Senate31, Final Prov. 2 and 4 SO1. The Houses lay down their own Standing Orders, adopt their budgets autonomously and, by common agreement, regulate the Personnel Statute of the Cortes Generales. Freedom to establish own Rules of ProcedureThe Standing Orders and their reform shall be subject to a final vote over the whole text, which shall require the overall majority.
Election of Speaker and other members of Bureau36-38 SO2. The Houses elect their respective Speakers and the other members of their Bureaus. 74 C Final Prov. 3 SOJoint sittings shall be presided over by the Speaker of the Congress and shall be governed by the Standing Orders of the Cortes Generales approved by the overall majority of members of each House.
Speakers' powers32 SO3. The Speakers of the Houses shall exercise on their behalf all administrative powers and disciplinary functions within its premises.
Sittings61.1 SO1. The Houses shall meet annually for two ordinary periods of sessions: the first from September to December, and the second from February to June.
Extraordinary sittings61.2 and 3 SO2. The Houses may meet in extraordinary sessions at the request of the Government, of the Permanent Deputation or of the overall majority of members of either of the two Houses. Extraordinary sittings must be convened with a specific agenda and shall be adjourned once this has been dealt with.
Joint meetings57.3, 57.4, 59.2, 59.3 60.1, 61, 63.3, 72.2 C Final Prov. 3 SO1. The Houses shall meet in joint sittings in order to exercise the non-legislative powers expressly conferred upon the Cortes Generales by Part II.
Joint conciliation Committee72.2, 94.1 145.2, 158.2 C2. The decisions of the Cortes Generales specified in sections 94(1), 145(2) and 158(2) shall be taken by a majority vote of each of the Houses. In the first case, the procedure shall be initiated by the Congress, and in the remaining two by the Senate. Final Prov. 3 SOIn any case, if an agreement is not reached between the Senate and the Congress, an attempt to reach agreement shall be made by a Mixed Committee consisting of an equal number of Members of Congress and Senators. The Committee shall submit a text which shall be voted on by both Houses. If this is not approved in the established manner, the Congress shall decide by overall majority.
Plenary meetings and committees40-55 SO 72 C 148-149 SO1. The Houses shall convene in Plenary sittings and in Committees.
Delegation of legislative power to committees2. The Houses may delegate to Standing Legislative Committees the approval of Government or non-governmental bills. However, the Plenary sitting may at any time demand that any Government or non-governmental bill that has been so delegated be debated and voted upon by the Plenary itself.
Exceptions to delegation3. Excluded from the provisions of the foregoing paragraph are constitutional reform, international affairs, organic acts, acts of basic principles and the Budget.
Committees of Enquiry72, 75, 117.3, 124.1 C1. The Congress and the Senate and, when appropriate, both Houses jointly, may appoint enquiry committees on any matter of public interest. Their conclusions shall not be binding on the Courts, nor shall they affect judicial decisions, 52 SObut the results of investigations may be referred to the Public Prosecutor for the exercise of appropriate action whenever necessary.
Compulsory attendance before enquiry committees2. It shall be compulsory to appear when summoned by the Houses. The law shall regulate penalties to be imposed for failure to comply with this obligation.
Peticions addressed to either House of Parliament29 C1. The Houses may receive individual and collective petitions, always in writing; 49 SOdirect submission by citizens' demonstrations is prohibited.
Referal of petitions to Government2. The Houses may refer such petitions to the Government. The Government shall provide an explanation regarding their content, when required to do so by the Houses.
Permanent Deputation72, 73, 86, 116 C, 23-29, 56-69, 151, 207 SO1. In each House there shall be a Permanent Deputation (Diputación Permanente) consisting of a minimum of twenty-one members who shall represent the parliamentary groups in proportion to their numerical importance.
2. The Permanent Deputations shall be presided over by the Speaker of the respective House and their functions shall be that provided in section 73, that of assuming the powers of the Houses in accordance with sections 86 and 116 in case that the latter have been dissolved or their terms have expired, and that of safeguarding the powers of the Houses when they are not in session.
3. On the expiration of the term or in case of dissolution, the Permanent Deputations shall continue to exercise their functions until the constitution of the new Cortes Generales.
4. When the House concerned meets, the Permanent Deputation shall report on the matters dealt with and on its decisions.
Quorum72 C 78 SO1. In order to adopt agreements, the Houses must meet in statutory manner, with the majority of their members present.
Majority79.1 SO2. In order to be valid, such agreements must be approved by the majority of the members present, without prejudice to the special majorities that may be required by the Constitution or the organic acts and those which are provided for by the Standing Orders of the Houses for the election of persons.
Vote to be exercised personally79.2, 80-89 SO3. The vote of Senators and Members of Congress shall be personal and may not be delegated.
Meeting to be held in public9.3, 72, 75 C 63-66 SOPlenary meetings of the Houses shall be public, except when otherwise decided by each House by overall majority, or in accordance with the Standing Orders.
8.2, 15-29, 53.1, 54, 55.2, 75.3, 86, 87.3, 92.3, 93, 104.2, 107, 116, 122.1, 136.4, 144, 147.3, 150.2, 151.1, 157.3, 165, Trans. Prov. 5 C
Drafting of Bills
Organic Acts1. Organic acts are those relating to the implementation of fundamental rights and public liberties, those approving the Statutes of Autonomy and the general electoral system and other laws provided for in the Constitution.
130-132 SO2. The approval, amendment or repeal of organic acts shall require the overall majority of the Members of Congress in a final vote on the bill as a whole.
Legislative delegations81, 83-85, 106, 161.1 a) C
152-153 SO1. The Cortes Generales may delegate to the Government the power to issue rules with the force of an act of the Parliament on specific matters not included in the foregoing section.
Acts of Basic Principles2. Legislative delegation must be granted by means of act of basic principles when its purpose is to draw up texts in sections, or by an ordinary act when it is a matter of consolidating several legal statutes into one.
Limits to delegation3. Legislative delegation must be expressly granted to the Government for a concrete matter and with a fixed time limit for its exercise. The delegation shall expire when the Government has made use of it through the publication of the corresponding regulation. It may not be construed as having been granted implicitly or for an indeterminate period. Nor shall sub-delegation to authorities other than the Government itself be authorized.
4. Acts of basic principles shall define precisely the purpose and scope of legislative delegation, as well as the principles and criteria to be followed in its exercise.
5. Authorization for consolidating legal texts shall determine the legislative scope implicit in the delegation, specifying if it is restricted to the mere drafting of a single text or whether it includes regulating, clarifying and harmonizing the legal statutes to be consolidated.
6. The acts of delegation may provide for additional control devices in each case, without prejudice to the jurisdiction of the Courts.
Limitations on Acts of Basic Principles9.3, 82-85 CThe acts of basic principles may in no case:
a) Authorise the modification of the act itself.
152-153 SOb) Grant power to enact retroactive regulations.
Private Members' Bills or amendments contrary to a legislative delegation82-85, 87, 89 C 152 SOIn the event that a non-governmental bill or an amendment is contrary to a currently valid legislative delegation, the Government may oppose its processing. In this case, a non-governamental bill may be submitted for the total or partial repeal of the delegation act.
Legislative Decrees82-84 C 152-153 SOGovernment provisions containing delegated legislation shall bear the title of «Legislative Decrees».
Decree-Laws81, 97, 106, 161.1 a) C1. In case of extraordinary and urgent need, the Government may issue temporary legislative provisions which shall take the form of decree-laws and which may not affect the legal system of the basic State institutions, the rights, duties and freedoms of the citizens contained in Part 1, the system of Self-governing Communities, or the general electoral law.
Ratification of Decree-Laws78.2 C2. Decree-laws must be inmediately submitted for debate and voting by the entire Congress, which must be summoned for this purpose if not already in session, within thirty days of their promulgation. The Congress shall adopt a specific decision on their ratification or repeal in the said period, for which purpose the Standing Orders shall provide a special summary procedure.
151 SO3. During the period referred to in the foregoing subsection, the Cortes may process them as Government bills by means of the urgency procedure.
Initiative of bills81, 88, 89, 166 C1. Legislative initiative belongs to the Government, the Congress and the Senate, in accordance with the Constitution and the Standing Orders of the Houses.
Initiative by Autonomous Communities108 ss. 124-127 SO2. The Assemblies of Self-governing Communities may request the Government to adopt a bill or may refer a non-governmental bill to the Bureau of Congress and delegate a maximum of three Assembly members to defend it.
People's Initiatives3. An organic act shall lay down the manner and the requirements of the popular initiative for submission of non-governmental bills. In any case, no less than 500.000 authenticated signatures shall be required. This initiative shall not be allowed on matters concerning organic acts, taxation, international affairs or the prerogative of pardon.
Government bills87, 97 C 109 128 SOGovernment bills shall be approved by the Council of Ministers which shall refer them to the Congress, attaching a statement setting forth the necessary grounds and facts to reach a decision thereon.
Private Members' bills87, 88 C1. The reading of non-governmental bills shall be regulated by the Standing Orders of the Houses in such a way that the priority attached to Government bills shall not prevent the exercise of the right to propose legislation under the terms laid down in section 87.
125 SO2. Non-governmental bills which, in accordance with section 87, are taken under consideration in the Senate, shall be referred to the Congress for reading.
Legislative powers of Senate75.2, 81, 87 C1. Once an ordinary or organic bill has been passed by Congress, the Speaker shall inmediately report on it to the Speaker of the Senate, who shall submit it to the latter for consideration.
Procedure in Senate120-123 SO2. Within two months after receiving the text, the Senate may, by a message stating the reasons for it, adopt a veto or approve amendments thereto. The veto must be adopted by overall majority. The bill may not be submitted to the King for assent unless, in the event of veto, the Congress has ratified the initial text by overall majority or by single majority if two months have elapsed since its introduction, or has reached a decision as to the amendments, accepting them or not by single majority.
Urgency procedure93-94 SO3. The period of two months allowed to the Senate for vetoing or amending a bill shall be reduced to twenty calendar days for bills declared by the Government or by the Congress to be urgent.
Royal Assent, promulgation and publication56, 62 a) 64, 66, 87-90, 151.2.4 CThe King shall, within a period of fifteen days, give his assent to bills drafted by the Cortes Generales, and shall promulgate them and order their publication forthwith.
Referendum1.2, 23.1, 62 c), 64, 149.1.32 C1. Political decisions of special importance may be submitted to all citizens in a consultative referendum.
2. The referendum shall be called by the King on the President of the Government's proposal after previous authorization by the Congress.
81, 151.1 and. 2, 152.2, 167, 168, Trans. Prov. 4 C3. An organic act shall lay down the terms and procedures for the different kinds of referendum provided for in this Constitution.
Constitutional powers may be transferred by international treaty63.2, 81, 94, 97 C
152 SOAuthorization may be granted by an organic act for concluding treaties by which powers derived from the Constitution shall be transferred to an international organization or institution. It is incumbent on the Cortes Generales or the Government, as the case may be, to ensure compliance with these treaties and with resolutions originating in the international and supranational organizations to which such powers have been so transferred.
Compulsory authorization63.2, 74.2, 93-96, 149.1.3 C1. The giving of the consent of the State to enter any commitment by means of treaty by Parilament for entering into certain treatiesor agreement, shall require prior authorization of the Cortes Generales in the following cases:
155-1 58, Final Prov. 3 SOa) Treaties of a political nature.
b) Treaties or agreements of a military nature.
c) Treaties or agreements affecting the territorial integrity of the State or the fundamental rights and duties established under Part 1.
d) Treaties or agreements which imply financial liabilities for the Public Treasury.
e) Treaties or agreements which involve amendment or repeal of some law or require legislative measures for their execution.
Houses of Parliament to be kept informed159 SO2. The Congress and the Senate shall be informed forthwith of the conclusion of any other treaties or agreements.
Prior constituional amendment9.1, 93-94, 161.1 d) C1. The conclusion of an international treaty containing stipulations contrary to the Constitution shall require prior constitutional amendment.
157 SO2. The Government or either House may request the Constitutional Court to declare whether or not such a contradiction exists.
Reception of treaties in domestic law9, 10.2 C1. Validly concluded international treaties, once officially published in Spain, shall be part of the internal legal system. Their provisions may only be repealed, amended or suspended in the manner provided for in the treaties themselves or in accordance with the general rules of international law.
Denunciation of treaties94 C 160 SO2. The procedure provided for in section 94 for entering into international treaties and agreements shall be used for denouncing them.