Initiation of legislation

The Federal Government, the Bundesrat - the organ through which the La¨nder participate in the legislation and administration of the Federation - and the Members of the Bundestag themselves have the right to introduce bills to be deliberated on by the Bundestag (right of initiative). Bills tabled by Members must be signed by at least 5 per cent of Members (i.e. 36 at present) or by a parliamentary group. In the other two cases the organ concerned - the Federal Government or the Bundesrat - must take a decision to this effect.

About two thirds of bills are introduced by the Federal Government. This is not surprising; in particular, it cannot be regarded as an indication that Members themselves show too little initiative as regards legislation or merely accept what the Government dictates. Rather, it is typical of the parliamentary system of government provided for by the Basic Law. In line with the Basic Law, the Federal Chancellor is elected by the Bundestag; that is, following elections to the Bundestag the majority in the Bundestag, which corresponds to the election result, forms the Government. Because the Government and the parliamentary majority are identical in political terms, it is appropriate for the bills which this parliamentary majority wishes to adopt to be drawn up and drafted in substantive and technical terms by the Government and its civil servants. The Bundestag’s control mainly concerns the question as to which of these legislative proposals will ultimately be adopted and which will not, and which of them will be amended by the Bundestag. The majority in the Bundestag does not automatically agree to everything submitted to it by the Government which it has voted into office.

The draft law the various stages of which we shall consider in the following pages is a bill introduced by the Government, which is a common and typical kind of bill.