Legislative Actors’ Resources


Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
The staff resources of the U.S. Congress substantially surpass those of any other national legislature. First, there are three large congressional agencies that perform research and analysis: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congressional Research Service and Government Accountability Office. The CBO, a nonpartisan body, is the most credible source of budget analysis in the government. Secondly, each congressional committee has a sizable staff, divided between the majority and the minority parties. In addition, each member of Congress has personal staff, ranging from about 14 personnel, including at least one or two legislative specialists, for a member of the House, to more than 50, with several legislative specialists, for a senator from a large state.

The magnitude of Congress’s resources reflects three features: First, Congress is constitutionally independent of the executive, and thus seeks to avoid depending on it entirely for information and analysis. Second, Congress’s own structure has traditionally been decentralized, with much of the legislative work done in committee. And third, individual members are politically independent of the parties, and use staff both for participating in policymaking and for providing electorally beneficial services to constituents.

Importantly, Congress has cut staff personnel significantly in recent years. This reflects an increasing reliance on ideologically oriented think tanks for policy advice and centralization of control in the party leadership. The role of individual members and committees in policymaking has been diminished. Nevertheless, Congress’s staff levels remain unmatched globally.
Members of parliament have considerable resources at their disposal for monitoring government activity and obtaining relevant information to advance policymaking. The parliamentary library is well-resourced with many skilled researchers and is able to respond to requests rapidly, producing reports on policy issues at the request of members. In addition, each senator or member may hire employees in four full-time electorate officer positions. Members who have a second electorate office at federal expense may hire employees in an additional full-time electorate officer position. However, individual members of parliament do not receive allowances to fund independent research.
Belgium is a parliamentary democracy. During the political crisis of 2010 – 2011, when the government was unable to be formed, the parliament took over policymaking from government without much problem. Thanks to Belgium’s strong party system, information flows well between the government and parliament. As party heads are central figures in any political agreement, they can coordinate action at each level. Individual members of parliament as well as party parliamentary groups are also well-supported by state-funded expert staff and by parliamentary assistants – their overall level of resources is thus high, even if there is often a high level of party discipline in the federal parliament.

In addition, parliament can summon any person, even ministers, to request information. It can initiate special investigations through ad hoc committees, and the Audit Office (Cour des Comptes/Rekenhof), which monitors all Belgian institutions, is a collateral institution of the federal parliament.
In Czechia, members of parliament can draw on a set of resources for monitoring government activity. In addition to their basic salary, members of parliament receive additional pay for their membership in parliamentary committees, commissions and other duties. They also have a budget for assistance and expertise. Parliamentary committees have an office staff of two to three persons and a secretary, and both a parliamentary library and a Parliamentary Institute are available to members. The latter serves as a research center providing information and training for members of both chambers. The research is provided on demand (to deputies and senators) and the institute also publishes regular reports on subjects of interest to the body.
Parliamentarians’ resources for obtaining information were greatly improved in the 1990s through the creation of a parliamentary assistant system. Currently, some 130 assistants work in a parliament of 200 sitting legislators. However, critics have argued that this system has become too comprehensive and expensive. The assistants perform a variety of tasks, some of which relate closely to the procurement of information and general expertise. Members of parliament are also assisted by the Parliamentary Office, whose task it is to establish the necessary conditions for the parliament to carry out its duties. Employing a staff of 450, the office is also responsible for providing personal assistants. Furthermore, members of parliament are assisted by the Information and Communication Department, which includes the Library of Parliament, the Research Service and the Parliament Information Office. The Library of Parliament has about 40 employees and maintains a number of service entities. A Committee Secretariat provides secretarial services for the parliamentary committees and handles the preparation of matters brought before the committees. Additionally, the Research Service supplies information, documents, publications and other materials that are required by members of parliament and other actors involved in parliamentary work. As legislators each serve on an average of two parliamentary committees, they also benefit from the information and knowledge provided by the various experts regularly consulted in committee hearings.
The German Bundestag has adequate personnel and structural resources to effectively monitor government activity. Members of parliament can conduct their own research or obtain information from independent experts. The parliamentary library and the parliamentary research unit respectively have staffs of 175 and 450 individuals. Every member of parliament receives a monthly income of €10,083 (since July 2019), as well as an additional budget of more than €20,000, allowing him or her to maintain two offices and employ, on average, two experts. The German Bundestag has a staff of around 6,000. Parliamentary groups also have resources to commission independent research studies. Compared to the United States, German members of parliament are equipped with modest structural and personnel resources.

Members of parliament as a group have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activities in an effective way. They have resources including personal staff; personnel assigned to parliamentary committees, commissions and other structures; and access to the Parliamentary Research Unit. Expenses incurred by calling experts for testimony or consultation can be reimbursed. Despite these resources, political parties are frequently unable to engage in professional parliamentary oversight, in part due to the parliament’s heavy focus on lawmaking. For instance, during its 2012 to 2016 term, the parliament passed more than 2,500 legislative acts. During the spring 2017 session, the parliament adopted 421 legal acts (i.e., about seven legal acts per every sitting), a record for a parliamentary session. The large number of laws adopted undermines the quality of these laws. After President Nausėda vetoed two bills during his first two weeks in office, the president’s team criticized the quality of laws adopted by the parliament.

Parties that form a part of governing coalitions are often unwilling to engage in self-monitoring, while opposition parties are frequently incapable of constructive external oversight. Although the parliament does not often commission independent research, it can produce internal conclusions or reports, or invite experts to various parliamentary meetings. In addition, the parliament utilizes the results of audit reports produced by the National Audit Office. It is also often the case that members of parliament employ their party colleagues as advisers or assistants on the basis of trust rather than because these individuals have a particular expertise.
Slovenian members of parliament command sufficient resources to perform their jobs effectively and to monitor government activity. Each member of parliament has a personal budget for education and literature acquisition as well as access to research and data services provided by the Research and Documentation Section. Additional resources are available to parliamentary party groups for organizational and administrative support, and for hiring expert staff. Parliamentary groups must have a minimum of three members of parliament. During the 2014 – 2018 parliamentary term, only three members of parliament did not belong to a parliamentary group. Since the early parliamentary elections in June 2018, all members of parliament have been part of a parliamentary group.
Members of the parliament can collectively monitor all aspects of government activities. They can find some support for these and other activities from the parliament’s (Riksdag) administrative support (Riksdagens Utredningstjänst, RUT). RUT conducts inquiries requested by groups of members of parliament. Individual members of parliament in Sweden receive rather little administrative support; instead, support is given to the political party organizations within parliament.
The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
Parliamentary committees have staff, as do political parties. The parliament also has its own library and recently opened a (small) unit offering consultation on economic issues. In 2017, the total number of parliamentary staff was about 400 (full-time equivalent), which is not huge. More than a quarter of staff are secretaries, a little less than a quarter are academic staff, followed by security personnel and IT staff. In general, the members of parliament depend a lot on the government for information and expertise. To gather information, they ask written and oral questions of ministers, and use hearings, independent sources as well as contacts within interest organizations and think tanks. There is, however, no tradition in Denmark for major independent investigations initiated by the parliament. This can weaken its power vis-à-vis the government. Party discipline is also a strong factor in Danish politics, which can weaken individual members’ possibilities.
Anders Henriksen, “Folketinget er for svagt i forhold til regeringen,” Politiken. 24 August 2010. http://politiken.dk/debat/kroniken/article1042660.ece (accessed 26 April 2013).

Året der gik i Folketinget: Beretning om Folketingsåret 2015-2016. http://www.ft.dk/~/media/sites/ft/pdf/publikationer/aarsberetning/aaret-der-gik-i-folketinget-2015_16.ashx (Accessed 19 October 2017).

Året der gik i Folketinget: Beretning om Folketingsåret 2016-2017. https://www.ft.dk/~/media/sites/ft/pdf/publikationer/aarsberetning/aaret-der-gik-i-folketinget-2016_17.ashx?la=da (Accessed 7 October 2018).

Folketingets administration, http://www.ft.dk/Folketinget/Folketingets_administration.aspx (Accessed 1 December 2016).

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske System. 4. udg. Chapter 4. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.
Compared to many other countries, the Estonian parliament (Riigikogu) has a rather modest support structure. All administrative staff are employed by the Chancellery of parliament and can be divided into three categories. The first category includes analysts working in the research department who provide expert advice and produce information sheets and study reports. Because of budget and personnel limitations (12 advisers in total), their studies are typically very limited. In addition to in-house experts, the parliament can also commission studies from universities or private companies on a public-procurement basis. Between 2018 and 2019, three such studies were commissioned. The second category includes standing committee support staff. A standing committee typically has three to five advisers. The third group is made up of the advisers of party groups. In total, there are 31 people working for the six parliamentary party groups. Legislators can use a reading room in the parliamentary building and the National Library, which also serves as a parliamentary library, is located nearby. Members of parliament also benefit from allowances that they can use to order expert analyses, studies or information overviews. Though there is little evidence that the allowances are extensively used.
Two major Knesset departments, the Knesset research center, and the Knesset’s legal advisory department serve as structural resources for acquiring information. The role of the research center is to equip Knesset members, committees and departments with information and research to meet the requirements of their parliamentary work, including reports on government activities. The research center is a massive document producer. According to information provided on the center’s official website, the Knesset’s research center receives on average 500 research requests and produces 300 documents annually, which amounts to a total of about 6,500 documents since its establishment in 2000. In addition, according to the same source, most of the research documents are produced by the center’s staff, but – in cases that require specific expertise – the research center employs external research services. The research topics are highly diverse.

As of October 2019, the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit (KATEF) has published several papers, which are available on its website and mostly comprise pamphlets. While the papers lack uniformity, a general direction is slowly and steadily emerging. One example of this is the series of pamphlets called Gate to the Government, which provide advice (including links) on how to access government information. There are three pamphlets, two published in October 2018 and one in May 2019. Following the elections to the 21st Knesset, the unit published a 12-page pamphlet explaining to new members of parliament the unit’s activities and methods of government oversight, which the members of parliament can use. However, the unit is still very new and recent instability in the political system has not contributed to its path-finding processes. Indeed, over the past year or so, the entire political system in Israel has been in a state of instability, mainly due to two rounds of national elections. Consequently, the Knesset’s ability to monitor the government will have been disrupted, as well as its many other operations.
A Pamphlet Explaining About the Katef Unit’s Vision, Fields of Operation, and Its Short History of Establishment, Undated. Available Online Through the Katef Unit’s “About” Webpage (see link below). (Hebrew)

Alon, Gideon. “The fa is on the Shoulder [also Katef].” In: Israel Today website. July 23rd, 2017. (Hebrew): https://www.israelhayom.co.il/article/492397

Arlozorov, Meirav. “How the Knesset Broke the World Record in Proposing Private Bills.” In Themarker. May 16th, 2017 (Hebrew): https://www.themarker.com/news/politics/1.4091536

Azulay, Moran. “Exposure: On the Way to a Revolution in Legislation and Oversight of the Knesset over the Government.” In Ynet. February 2nd, 2017. (Hebrew): https://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4917549,00.html.

Ben-David, Lior, “A comparative survey on the status, function and employment conditions of parliamentary assistants,” Knesset research institute 4.11.2004 (Hebrew)

Blander, Dana. “Opinion as to the corrections to Base Law: the Knesset, Base Law: the Government and the Knesset Act Regarding the Authorities of Parlamentary Committees of Public Inquiry.” The Israeli Democracy Institute. July 4th, 2017. (Hebrew)

“Correction: Debate on ‘Hok Ha-Hesderim 2013,” Open Knesset website (Hebrew)

“Is Bagatz mocking the petition against the treasury?,” Globes website 18.6.2014: http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1000947260 (Hebrew).

Israel. The Knesset. Katef – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. Gate to the Government: A Pamphlet to Make the Government’s Activities Accessible to the Knesset. First issue. October, 2018. Retrieved from https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Oversight/Pages/OversightSupervisoryProducts.aspx (Hebrew)

Israel. The Knesset. Katef – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. Gate to the Government. Third issue. October 2018. Retrieved from https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Oversight/Pages/OversightSupervisoryProducts.aspx (Hebrew)

Israel. The Knesset. Katef – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. Gate to the Government: A Pamphlet to Make the Government’s Activities Accessible to the Knesset. Third issue. October, 2018. Retrieved from https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Oversight/Pages/OversightSupervisoryProducts.aspx (Hebrew)

Israel. The Knesset. Katef – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. The Initiation Event of the Katef Unit – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. A press release. February 19th, 2018. (Hebrew)

Israel. The Knesset. Katef – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. The Law for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment, 1998: Oversight Report; Implementation Examination in Marking 20 Years to the Law. For deliberation in the State Audit Committee. February 27th, 2018. Retrieved from https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Oversight/Pages/OversightSupervisoryProducts.aspx (Hebrew)

Israel. The Knesset. Katef – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. The Parliamentary Oversight and the Government’s Work: An Exposure Pamphlet to the Members of Knesset towards the 21st Knesset’s Inauguration. Self-published online pamphlet. May, 2019. Retrieved from https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Oversight/Documents/oversightdayworkplans3PDF1.pdf (Hebrew)

Israel. The Knesset. Katef – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. Oversight Process of the Implementation of the recommendations of the Committee for the War on Poverty – February 2018. February 2018. Retrieved from https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Oversight/Pages/OversightSupervisoryProducts.aspx (Hebrew)

Israel. The Knesset. Katef – the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit. Oversight Process of the Implementation of the Committee for the War on Poverty’s Report. Second Report. June 2018. Retrieved from https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Oversight/Pages/OversightSupervisoryProducts.aspx (Hebrew)

Friedberg, Chen. How to Improve the Knesset as a Legislative and Oversight Body: Key Recommendations. Updated Edition. Israel: the Israel Democracy Institute, 2018. (Hebrew)

Galnoor, Itzhak, and Dana Blander. The Political System of Israel: Formative Years; Institutional Structure; Political Behaviour; Unsolved Problems; Democracy in Israel. Tel Aviv: Am Oved Publishers Ltd., 2013, two volumes. (Hebrew) “Information and research in the Knesset,” Knesset website (Hebrew)

“In the Knesset corridors,” IDI website (September 2010) (Hebrew)

“Katef Unit – About.” In the Katef unit’s website. https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Oversight/Pages/OversightAbout.aspx

Knesset Legal advisory department (list of legal research) http://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Info/Pages/LegalDeptSurveys.aspx

Knesset Research Center Summary of 2016 https://www.knesset.gov.il/mmm/data/pdf/m03933.pdf (Hebrew)

Lapid, Yair, and Ayelet Shaked. “Stopping the Legislation’s Madness.” In Hashiloach website. March 15th, 2017. (Hebrew) https://bit.ly/2UkXAPm
Public Inquiry Commissions Act, 1968 (Hebrew)
Shapira, Asaf, “A decade to the Knesset’s research and information center,” IDI website (September 2010) (Hebrew)

Lis, Johnathan. “Rivlin in the Knesset’s Inauguration: There are Times in Which the President is Compelled to Intervene,” Ha’aretz, October 4th, 2019, p. 6. (Hebrew)

The Knesset’s Rules of Procedure, up to date as of June 14th, 2018. (specifically article 135, “the Authorities of a Parliamentary Committee of Public Inquiry and the Presentation of a Report to the Knesset,” clause A; also article 127, “Failure of Arrival [to a committee] and Failure of Presenting of Information”). (Hebrew)
“The MK’s will get a third Parliamentary Assistant. How much will that cost us?” The Marker 28.10.2015: http://www.themarker.com/news/1.2761401 (Hebrew)

“The Relationship with the Knesset.” In the State Comptrollers’ official website in English. http://www.mevaker.gov.il/En/About/Pages/KnessetContact.aspx

Zerahia, Zvi, “The treasury is deliberately holding out information from PMs so we can’t supervise it,” The Marker 7.1.2014: http://www.themarker.com/news/1.2210843 (Hebrew)
Members of parliament can draw on significant resources of highly qualified personnel to monitor the activities of the government. The permanent staff of both chambers is quite large and is selected through highly competitive mechanisms. Most staff members possess highly qualified legal expertise. The parliamentary staff regularly produces studies on issues and reforms under discussion. A special office of the parliament (the Ufficio Parlamentare di Bilancio, Upb), created in 2015 following the Fiscal Compact Treaty and successive decisions of the European Council, is now responsible for providing parliamentarians with a detailed evaluation of the government’s fiscal proposals. The two chambers have quite extensive libraries. Members of parliament also have at their disposal resources for hiring personal parliamentary assistants. The selection of these assistants is much less merit-based and their quality highly variable. Whether in general members of parliament are really interested in using systematically the available resources for monitoring the government is another matter. Probably only a minority fully utilizes these resources.
Luxembourg’s members of parliament must balance a heavy workload with dual mandates and other professional activities, including municipal councils and/or professional employment. According to the regulations of the unicameral Chamber of Deputies, members can employ a personal assistant and recuperate some costs within the limits of eligible expenses. In practice, the parliamentary groups instead employ a pool of assistants who work for all the members of parliament of their group, rather than each member of parliament having his or her own assistant. Members of parliament can consult with external experts as part of the functioning of parliamentary commissions. In addition, they have access to a central state computer system to review databases, surveys, reports, agendas and other important information.
Règlement de la Chambre des Députés du 1.6.2015.
Reimen, Frank/Jeannot Krecké (1999): Die Abgeordnetenkammer: Theorie und Praxis parlamentarischer Kontrolle, Passerelle.
Bossaert, Danielle (2019): How size matters. In: forum, Kleinstaat Luxemburg, 2019,no. 394, pp. 39-43.
Members of parliament do not have personal staff but can draw on support from general staff allocated to each party and paid for by parliament. The number of general staff members is related to party size. As such, the system creates a slight bias toward political parties rather than to the parliament and individual parliamentarians.

Legislators, all whom serve on committees, are also supported by committee staff; most of the legislative work is in fact done in committee. The parliamentary library is well regarded by representatives for its ability to provide support in research and documentation. Support resources are not lavish, but neither do they represent an impediment the effective functioning of parliament or its individual members. The parliament has a limited capacity to independently collect and analyze information, but routinely asks the government to answer questions and to provide additional information. The parliament has increasingly exercised its right to hold hearings.

In recent years, some parliamentarians’ reputation has suffered in the wake of scandals involving the illegal reimbursement of travel expenses.
The two-chambered Austrian parliament, in which the National Council (Nationalrat) or lower house holds more power than the Federal Council (Bundesrat), is divided along two main cleavages. First, the strength of political party groupings within the parliament reflect the results of direct national elections (in the National Council) as well as indirect provincial elections (in the Federal Council). Second, the formation of coalitions creates a government and a parliamentary opposition.

All party groups that have at least five members in the National Council can use infrastructure (office space, personnel) paid by public funds and provided by parliament. All party groups are represented on all committees, in proportion to their strength. In plenary sessions, speaking time is divided by special agreements among the parties, typically according to the strength of the various party groups.

Individual members’ ability to use resources independently of their respective parties has improved in recent years. Members of parliament can now hire a small number of persons for a personal staff that is funded by parliament and not by the party. This improves members’ independence. However, this independence is still limited by the strong culture of party discipline, which is not defined by explicit rules but rather by the party leadership’s power to nominate committee members and electoral candidates.

A significant step was taken in 2014 to improve the National Council’s capacity. The right to install an investigating committee, which has been the prerogative of the ruling majority, has now become a minority right. Considering the rather strict party discipline in Austria’s parliament, this must be considered a significant improvement of parliamentary democracy. Also, recently a new subgroup in the parliament was founded which is checking laws for economic costs and benefits.

At the moment, the working conditions of members of the Austrian parliament are better than ever before. The new situation following the elections of 2017 has already intensified conflicts between the government and opposition in parliament. The result of the 2019 elections is unlikely to reduce (legitimate) inter-party conflicts in parliament. The structural prerequisites for parliamentary confrontations exist and this will be used by the opposition in confrontations with the governing majority.
Members of the House of Commons and the Senate have access to the research staff of the Library of Parliament, and these staffers are responsible for drafting parliamentary committee reports. Parliamentary committees or individual members of parliament can also request audits from the Auditor General of Canada, an officer of parliament that is independent of the government and is mandated to provide parliament with objective, fact-based information and expert advice on government programs and activities. Another important source of information for parliamentarians is the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), which was given additional independence and resources in 2017.

The Liberal government has indicated its intention to provide more influence, resources and autonomy to parliamentary committees. A House of Commons committee put forward a number of legislative suggestions that would give more monitoring resources to members of parliament.
French legislators have fewer resources at their disposal than, for instance, their American colleagues, but they are reasonably equipped should they wish to make use of all facilities offered. In addition to two assistants, whom parliamentarians can freely choose, they receive a fixed amount of funds for any expenditure. There is a good library at their disposal, and a large and competent staff available to help individuals and committees. These committees can also request the support of the Court of Accounts or sectoral bureaucracies, which are obliged to provide all information requested. There are still problems, centered on the long tradition of parliamentarians holding several political mandates. Until 2017, three-quarters of the members of parliament were also elected local officials, and many of them dedicated more time to local affairs than to parliamentary activities. A new piece of legislation,, in force since June 2018, forbids parliamentarians to hold executive positions in local or regional councils, forcing them to choose between local and national mandates. This is a true revolution. Since absenteeism was one of the major problems of the French parliament both in the plenary sessions and within the specialized committees, one might hope that the control and evaluation functions of parliament will improve in the future. Macron’s proposed constitutional revision, slated for debate in 2020, will provoke a discussion over reducing the number of members of parliament by one-third, while maintaining the overall level of parliamentary resources. According to the president, this would strengthen the resources of the remaining representatives. However, the opposition has argued that the quality and intensity of representation would be further weakened in a system in which parliament is already subordinated to the executive. Given most senators’ fierce opposition to the proposal, it appears unlikely to obtain the required majority.
Members of the Greek parliament are granted full access to the well-resourced library of the parliament. They are also entitled to hire up to two research advisers who are paid out of the parliament’s budget, and three other assistants who may be transferred from any ministry or state agency to the parliament. However, many members of parliament hire family members or friends who in effect do administrative and secretarial work rather than conducting research. This practice was continued in the period under review. Nevertheless, each party represented in parliament has its own research support group that is funded by the state budget.

Nowadays, updated academic advice is available also through two other institutions. The first is the Office of the Budget, a policy-oriented committee of university professors with economic expertise who work independently of the government. They have published policy reports on the prospects of the Greek economy which diverge from official government predictions. There is also the more academically oriented Foundation of the Parliament, which focuses on historical issues and constitutional matters.

Parliamentary committees are also quite active in organizing hearings and in discussing a variety of issues. However, the parliament lacks a research unit (such as, for example, the Congress Research Service or the Research Service of the House of Commons Library) that could provide members of parliament with expert opinion.
Parliamentarians have substantial resources at their disposal to independently assess policy proposals. Every member of parliament can employ one policy secretary and two public secretaries paid through an annual fund totaling JPY 20 million (about €165,000 as of October 2019). However, in many cases these secretaries are primarily used for the purposes of representation at home and in Tokyo. Both houses of parliament have access to a 560-staff-member Research Bureau tasked with supporting committee work and helping in drafting bills. A separate Legislative Bureau for both houses, with around 160 staff members, assists in drafting members’ bills and amendments. The National Diet Library is the country’s premier library, with parliamentary support among its primary objectives. It has a Research and Legislative Reference Bureau with over 190 staff members whose tasks include research and reference services based on requests by policymakers and on topics of more general interest such as decentralization. For such research projects, the library research staff collaborates with Japanese and foreign scholars.

Notably, the substantial available resources are not used in an optimal way for purposes of policymaking and monitoring. The Japanese Diet tends toward being an arena parliament, with little legislative work taking place at the committee level. Bills are traditionally prepared inside the parties with support from the national bureaucracy. Ruling parties can rely on bureaucrats to provide input and information, while opposition parties can at least obtain policy-relevant information from the national bureaucracy.
Jun Makita, A Policy Analysis of the Japanese Diet from the Perspective of ‘Legislative Supporting Agencies,’ in Yukio Adachi, Sukehiro Hosono and Iio Jun (eds), Policy Analysis in Japan, Bristol: Policy Press 2015, pp. 123-138

Junko Hirose, Enhancing our Role as the “Brains of the Legislature”: Comprehensive and Interdisciplinary Research at the National Diet Library, Japan, paper for the IFLA Library and Research Services for Parliaments Section Preconference 2014, http://www.ifla.org/files/assets/services-for-parliaments/preconference/2014/hirose_japan_paper.pdf
A comprehensive study on the information exchange between the States General and government in the Netherlands over the past 25 years concludes: “In a mature democracy the primacy of information provision to parliament ought to be in the hands of parliament itself; but in the Netherlands in 2010 de jure and de facto this is hardly the case. … De facto the information arena in which the cabinet and the parliament operate is largely defined and controlled by the cabinet.” This state of affairs reflects the necessity of forming government coalitions supported by the majority of the States General. As an institution, the States General is not necessarily a unified actor. As basically every parliamentary vote can result in the downfall of a government, this creates mutual dependence for survival: parliamentary groups supporting the government (part of the legislature) and government ministers (the executive) become fused, which threatens the democratic principle of control and accountability.

Moreover, the States General’s institutional resources are modest. Approximately 600 staff assist parliamentarians in developing legislation, knowledge storage and use, and ICT issues. Dutch members of parliament in large parliamentary factions have one staffer each, while members of parliament of smaller factions share just a few staffers. Members of parliament of coalition parties are usually better informed than opposition members of parliament. Members of parliament do have the right to summon and interrogate ministers, although the quality of the question-and-answer game is typified as: “Posing the right questions is an art; getting correct answers is grace.” Oversight and control in the Dutch States General is the prerogative of the departmentally organized permanent parliamentary committees, usually composed of members of parliament with close affinity to the policy issues of the department involved. The small Parliamentary Bureau for Research and Public Expenditure does not produce independent research, but provides assistance to the parliament.

Policy and program evaluations are conducted by the departments themselves, or by the General Audit Chamber (which has more information-gathering powers than the States General). Another more standardized mechanism is the annual Accountability Day, when the government reports on its policy achievements over the last year. Direct day-to-day contacts with officials are fuzzy and unsatisfactory due to the nature and interpretation of guidelines, and formal hearings between members of parliament and departmental officials are extremely rare. Members of parliament can ask officials to testify under oath only in the case of formal parliamentary surveys or investigations, but this is considered an extraordinarily time-consuming instrument and is used only in exceptional cases.

At present, members of parliament are exploring the possibility of creating a so-called light parliamentary investigation as a less time-consuming format that is somewhere between a hearing and an investigation. In 2016, a majority of parliament requested such an investigation-light procedure following the publication of the Panama Papers. Formally, the States General may use the expertise of a governmental advisory body, but this process is closely supervised by the minister under whose departmental responsibility the respective advisory body functions. Only the Rathenau Institute (for scientific and technological issues) works exclusively for the States General.
Guido Enthoven (2011), Hoe vertellen we het de Kamer? Een empirisch onderzoek naar de informatierelatie tussen regering en parlement, Eburon


Parlementaire enquêtes (tweede kamer.nl, consulted 10 November 2016)

Wikipedia, Parlementaire enquête in Nederland (nl.m.wikipedia.org, accessed 3 November 2018)

Krouwel, A. P. M., & Koedam, J. (2015). The Netherlands: Investiture behind closed doors. In B. E. Rasch, S. Martin, & J. A. Cheibub (Eds.), Parliaments and Government Formation: Unpacking Investiture Rules (pp. 253-274). Oxford: Oxford University press.
The National Congress is furnished with a multidisciplinary staff of consultants in order to support deputies and senators in their representative, legislative and control functions as well as in the field of congressional diplomacy. Nevertheless, this support tends to be asymmetric in comparison with ministerial analytical and investigatory capacities. The National Congress’ oversight function is based in the Chamber of Deputies. However, this function in many cases tends to operate as a reaction to journalistic complaints or political conflicts rather than as a proactive mechanism for monitoring the government’s ongoing activity.
The members of the Croatian parliament (Sabor) are supported by some parliamentary staff. The Sabor has an Information and Documentation Department that keeps track of the Sabor’s legislative activity and responds to queries for information from members of parliament and parliamentary staff about bills in progress and transcripts of plenary sessions. There is also a parliamentary library with various collections in the fields of law, politics, history, economics and sociology. However, the support staff for individual members of parliament is relatively small, as the budget of the Sabor allows for a secretary for every parliamentary group and one additional adviser for every 15 group members. Moreover, the Sabor does not have an office for policy analysis, and formal legalistic thinking characterizes is prevalent among Sabor staff.
The members of the Sejm, the Polish parliament, have permanent support staff and can draw on the Sejm’s library and the expertise of the Sejm’s Bureau of Research (BAS). In addition to researching legal issues, the BAS publishes a newsletter, discussion papers and a peer-reviewed quarterly Law Review (Zeszyty Prawnicze BAS). Since PiS’s victory in the 2015 parliamentary elections, however, the BAS has been progressively streamlined so as to reflect the political will of the ruling party. As a result, the quality of its expertise has declined, and it no longer issues critical studies. More generally, the PiS majority has made it difficult to monitor the government by circumventing normal legislative procedures, allowing individual members of parliament to submit draft laws, and passing legislation very quickly.
The Romanian parliament has a Department of Parliamentary Studies and EU Policies, which is divided into two divisions: the Division for Legislative Studies and Documentation and the EU Division. Together, these divisions offer members of both chambers, as well as parliamentary group leaders and committee chairs, useful documentation, studies and research materials, expertise and assistance. In addition, all members have equal access to the parliamentary library which provides references as well as research and bibliographic services. However, members of parliament have relatively limited individual resources. In practice, they tend to rely on assistance from former parliamentarians or political-party staff rather than on the expertise of the Department of Parliamentary Studies and EU Policies or independent experts.

A new set of regulations for the organization and functioning of the departments assisting the Chamber of Deputies was adopted in February 2019. It brought no changes to the Department of Parliamentary Studies and EU Policies and the Divisions for Legislative Studies/Documentation and the EU. The Senate had adopted similar regulations in 2018.
Members of the National Council, the Slovak parliament, can draw on a set of resources for monitoring government activity. Members of parliament have a budget for assistants and expertise and tend to have a support staff of at least two persons. They can draw on the Parliamentary Institute, an information, education and research unit providing expertise for parliamentary committees, commissions and individual legislators. In addition, there is a parliamentary library.
South Korea
Members of parliament have a staff of nine, including four policy experts, three administrative staffers and two interns. Given the large quantity of topics covered, this staff is scarcely sufficient, but is enough to cover legislators’ main areas of focus. Tight schedules and the record-high number of agencies monitored by the National Assembly have generated skepticism regarding the effectiveness of legislative oversight. Observers familiar with parliamentary affairs have voiced concern that parliamentary audits are inevitably superficial, as lawmakers have little time to study dossiers thoroughly or prepare their questions. Moreover, some lawmakers lack the capacity and willingness to monitor government activities effectively.
Members of parliament have relatively few resources at their disposal in terms of personnel capable of monitoring government activity. Parliamentary parties have few additional resources and therefore can provide little support. In addition, if a party is in government, a substantial proportion of its members of parliament will be (junior) members of the government and therefore not too keen to monitor themselves.

Parties in opposition are granted some public funds to hire additional researchers to fulfill their duties of controlling the government. But in terms of resources this is still not much compared to those the governing parties can call on through the ministerial bureaucracy.

The Dame Laura Cox Report 2018 exposed the widespread problem of bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff. In response, the House of Commons Commission announced measures to prevent further bullying, which the House of Commons adopted. However, a fully independent complaints process has still not been introduced.
European Parliament / Directorate-General for Research 2000: Comparison of organizational and administrative arrangements in EU national parliaments; http://edz.bib.uni-mannheim.de/daten/edz-ma/ep/00/budg110_en.pdf
The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
The Hungarian parliament has a good library and even a small research section. The members of parliament are provided some funds for professional advice. However, since these funds are apportioned according to the share of seats in parliament, the democratic opposition parties receive only a small amount of money. This has made it difficult for the small and ideologically fragmented opposition to monitor the government’s hectic legislative activity. However, the key obstacle to effective monitoring of the government is not the lack of resources but the behavior of the Fidesz majority in parliament and its committees.
Nikolenyi, C. (2020): The Decline of the Hungarian Legislature since 2010, in: I. Khmelko, F. Stapenhurst, M. Mezey (eds.), Strong Executives and Weak Parliaments: Legislative Decline in the 21st Century. London/ New York: Routledge, forthcoming.
The Oireachtas Library and Research Service manages the Irish parliamentary library. The service’s primary users are the individual members of the houses of the Oireachtas, committees and staff of the houses.

Whereas ministers recruit advisers and experts, there is no system of internships that allows members to recruit researchers and no tradition of members or groupings commissioning and publishing evaluations of government activity. The main resource available to members for monitoring government activity is the committee system. This allows members to call expert witnesses and explore the implications of proposed legislation. The resources available to these committees appear adequate for their purpose.

These resources are complemented through the mechanism of Parliamentary Questions. Dáil Éireann allocates time during which deputies may ask questions of members of the government relating to their departments or to matters of administration for which they are responsible. Considerable civil service resources are devoted to researching the answers to these questions, of which a total of 50,000 were processed during 2014. This works out at an impressive average of 300 per deputy.
A statement of the services available from the Oireachtas Library and Research Services is provided here:


Michael Gallagher, ‘The Oireachtas: President and Parliament,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 2010.
The passage of a new act in 2016 giving parliament financial autonomy over its internal budget decisions (the Parliamentary Services Act), and an increase in funding in the 2017 and 2018 budgets, has left members of parliament in Malta with more resources than previously. Members of permanent parliamentary committees enjoy support from newly appointed research officers as well as academics and specialists. Greater participation of members of parliament in international conferences has helped bridge the resource gap, but more is required. These developments have improved the process for evaluating EU legislation and other social issues. Additional resources must be allocated to the parliamentary scrutiny committee dealing with pipeline aquis. Furthermore, despite improvements, legislators have too few resources to support their legislative work. In 2020, the opposition leader made a request for more parliamentary resources. Staff members are too few in number, and fully occupied by their primary duties. Members of parliament do not give up their private professional activities, since their role as legislator is a part-time occupation. This results in constraints on the amount of time dedicated to parliamentary business, and may also produce conflicts of interest. Members of parliament can now be fined for not attending sittings. The prime minister is pushing harder for a switch to a full-time parliament, but this, along with any change to current remuneration levels, would require consensus among a majority of the members of parliament. The practice of back-bench lawmakers sitting on government boards or working in government departments, and large cabinets that include a majority of government-party parliamentarians, also undermines their ability to monitor the government effectively.
Camilleri, I. Parliament is out of touch with Brussels. No feedback to Brussels’ documents. Times of Malta 14/06/11
Its too early to talk about what is in store for me Times of Malta 11/10/2015
MPs express different opinions on pay rise for politicians, full-time parliament proposals. Malta Today 6/01/2015
Parliamentary service Act Chapter 562 ACTXL11 of 2016
Most PN proposals to improve parliamentary work included in PL manifesto – government Times of Malta 19/08/17
The PN has seven suggestions for a better functioning parliament Times of Malta 18/08/17
Speaker concerned about incomplete security coverage around parliament. Times of Malta 30/11/17
Times of Malta 22/01/2020 Executives dominance of Parliament
Times of Malta 20/01/20 PN requests more parliamentary resources
The Mexican presidential system, with its emphasis on the presidential government, and the electoral system have systematically weakened parliament and members of parliament. Formally, Congress is well staffed and sufficiently financed to fulfill its duties. Members of Congress were until recently prohibited from running for re-election. This system was intended to bring legislators closer to civil society, but it had weakened the legislative role and increased the power of party bosses. The most senior members largely control Congress. They tend to control the careers of more junior congressional members because the effect of Mexico’s strong no re-election rule prevents members of Congress from using their constituency as a political base. In turn, members tended to lack resources and legislative scrutiny was often perfunctory. Similarly, members have had little incentive to take a deep interest in lawmaking, because their term as incumbents was so short. Moreover, good legislative performance often went unrewarded in local or national politics.

However, since 2018, local representatives, city council members and mayors will be able to run for re-election. Senators and federal representatives will have to wait until 2024 and 2021, respectively, to run for a consecutive term.
New Zealand
While New Zealand members of parliament are not generously equipped with financial or personnel resources to monitor government activity, they do have access to party research budgets, which fund party research units. Each party’s research unit follows up on parliamentarians’ requests, especially in preparation for parliamentary debates. Other personnel available to individual members of parliament include an executive assistant (in parliament) and electorate staff, with constituency members being more generously funded than those on the party lists. The Clerk’s Office provides other research support for members through the independent Parliamentary Research Service and, for members of select committees, via various secretariat. The parliament budget also provides research support for other intra-party groups within parliament. Despite the availability of these resources, opposition parties are sometimes placed at a distinct disadvantage relative to the breadth of staff, research and other resources made available to the parties in government.
K.-U. Schnapp and P. Harfst, Parlamentarische Informations- und Kontrollressourcen in 22 westlichen Demokratien, Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen, 36 (2005), pp. 348–70.
The Assembly of the Republic has a very robust committee structure composed of standing and ad hoc committees, as well as committees to assess implementation of the Plano do Governo and the Orçamento de Estado. Moreover, it can call members of the executive to explain issues and has some degree of autonomy in terms of its budget allocations. However, there remains a substantial lack of expert support staff.

Members of parliament do not generally have their own staff and, in most but not all cases, have little ability to rely on expert support. However, this is not due to a lack of funding for support staff. Legislation provides parliamentary party groups with fairly generous subsidies to hire support staff. In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, total subsidies granted amounted to €8.8 million. As subventions are granted based on the legislation, the total is relatively stable over time.

Parliamentary groups are free to allocate this funding as they choose and set wages for staff accordingly. The overall number of support staff in 2018 was 250, which exceeds the number of parliamentary members (230) and is a small increase vis-à-vis 2016 (238) and 2017 (241). However, support staff for members of parliament are limited, because parliamentary party staff funds are frequently used to pay general party staff rather than staff for the parliamentary group specifically. The former head of ECFP (the independent body tasked with monitoring party financing and accounts) recently noted that funding for parliamentary staff has become “a means for financing parties.”

As such, parliament’s capacity to monitor government activity is mainly contingent on legislators’ own expertise. During the 21st constitutional government, a Socialist Party government supported by the parties to its political left, parliamentarians have shown a greater amount of interest in government monitoring, and the number of meetings involving these different political parties has increased substantially. However, this energy and interest does not imply that lawmakers in fact have adequate personnel and structural resources for the purposes of monitoring.
Assembleia da República, “Relatório da Conta de Gerência da Assembleia da República – 2018,” available online at: https://www.parlamento.pt/GestaoAR/Documents/oar/RelCGAR2018.pdf

Davim, Margarida. 2018. “O caso dos assessores-fantasma,” Sábado, September 13.
Every parliamentary group is assigned funds to hire personnel, with budget allocations dependent on the party’s electoral results. However, individual members of parliament lack even a single exclusive assistant, and the small number of staff members is shared. No real parliamentary research units exist, and economic resources for parliamentary committees are also scarce. The lack of technical support for deputies and senators, who cannot effectively oversee all dimensions of public policy, has been frequently criticized, but no improvements are in sight.

The scrutiny of EU policymaking illustrates the lack of resources, as the Joint Committee of the Congress and the Senate for European Affairs has at its disposal only two legal clerks, a librarian and three administrative personnel. Despite growing demands for greater parliamentary involvement in EU affairs, budgetary restrictions have prevented any change with regard to human and financial resources.
Kölling, M. and I. Molina. 2015. “The Spanish National Parliament and the European Union: Slow Adaptation to New Responsibilities in Times of Crisis.” In The Palgrave Handbook of National Parliaments and the European Union, eds. C. Hefftler et al. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
The Swiss parliament is not broadly professionalized. Officially, it is still a militia parliament, meaning that legislators serve alongside their regular jobs. However, this is far from reality. Almost 90% of members use more than a third of their working time for their political roles. Legislators’ incomes have also been increased over time. On average, the various components of remuneration total more than CHF 100,000 annually (about €85,000). However, legislators do not have personal staffs, and the parliamentary services division offers only very limited research services, though legislators do have access to the parliamentary library. Thus, from a comparative perspective, member of parliament resources are very limited.
Bütikofer, Sarah. 2014. Das Schweizer Parlament. Eine Institution auf dem Pfad der Moderne, Baden-Baden: Nomos
Vatter, Adrian (Hrsg.) 2018: Das Parlament in der Schweiz. Macht und Ohnmacht der Volksvertretung, Zürich: NZZ Libro
The administrative organization of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) consists of departments that support the Speaker’s Office. The conditions of appointment of the administrators and officers are regulated by law (Law 6253, 1 December 2011). The administrative organization (including the research services department and the library and archives services department) is responsible for providing information as well as bureaucratic and technical support to the plenary, the bureau, committees, party groups and deputies; informing committees about bills and other legislative documents and assisting in the preparation of committee reports; preparing draft bills in accordance with deputy requests; providing information and documents to committees and deputies; coordinating relations and legislative information between the Assembly and the general secretary of the president, the Prime Minister’s Office and other public institutions; organizing relations with the media and public; and providing documentation, archive, and publishing services (Article 3, Law 6253). Although the budget of the Assembly is part of the annual state budget, it is debated and voted on as a separate spending unit. The Assembly prepares its own budget without negotiation or consultation with the government; yet, it does follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Finance.

The new presidential system has centralized power in the hands of the executive and significantly undermined the parliament’s legislative and oversight functions. Since the 2018 general elections, parliament has been dominated by a bloc consisting of President Erdogan’s AKP and its de facto coalition partner, the MHP. Since July 2018, parliament has adopted 24 pieces of legislation, mostly presidential decrees and controversial changes to its rules of procedure. Voting largely follows the governmental bloc-opposition divisions, but on issues of “national pride,” opposition parties will vote in line with the AKP-MHP bloc.
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/20190529-turkey- report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Ö.F. Gençkaya, “The Grand National Assembly of Turkey: A Decline in Legislative Capacity,” I. Khmelko et al (eds) Legislative Decline in the 21st Century, Routledge (fortcoming).

26. Dönem, 1, 2 ve 3. Yasama Yılı, https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/komisyon/insanhaklari/faaliyet_raporlari_26.htm (accessed 1 November 2018) “TBMM personel alımı başvuru sonuçları açıklandı!” 15 November 2017, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/tbmm-personel-alimi-basvuru-sonuclari-aciklandi-40646332 (accessed 1 November 2017)
The Bulgarian parliament has a budget of only a little more than 0.15% of national public spending. About three-quarters of the budget are used for the remuneration of members of parliament and administrative staff. As a result, resources available to members of parliament for expert staff and independent research are very limited. This means that the capacity of the National Assembly to effectively assess and monitor the policies and activities of the executive is also limited. This limitation is not structural, since the Bulgarian parliament has full discretion over the central government budget and could secure the resources for enhanced monitoring.
Since 2016, the House of Representatives has taken measures to enhance the resources available for conducting legislative work. In its 2018 – 2019 session activity report, it enumerates technological upgrades and the piloting of an internal legal service. With the recruitment of specialized staff, the parliament has sought services that go beyond administrative and secretarial support. The research and studies section, for example, provided some support to deputies drafting legislation.

In addition to information received from ministers and other state officials, the parliament needs more resources to efficiently monitor government activities. It needs its own research and expertise capacities.
House of Representatives, Activity report for the season 2018-9, October 2019, http://www.parliament.cy/images/media/redirectfile/ΕΚΘΕΣΗ ΠΕΠΡΑΓΜΕΝΩΝ 2018-2019 τ. Α΄- ΜΕΡΟΣ Α΄.pdf
Parliamentarians have access to experts employed by parliament. While the 28-person Committee Department (Nefndasvið) is tasked with assisting the parliament’s standing committees, individual members can also turn to this department for assistance. However, the limited capacity of the Committee Department, combined with its primary mandate to assist the parliament’s standing committees, restricts its ability to effectively assist more than 50 of the 63 members of parliament. Ministers also have access to resources in their ministries. The 2007 – 2009 government enabled members of parliament whose constituencies are located outside of the capital area to hire half-time personal assistants. The aim of this was to improve members of parliament’s access to information and expertise. However, this policy was withdrawn after the 2008 economic collapse due to budget cuts and is still to be reintroduced. In late 2018, parliament passed a new budget for 2019, stipulating a substantial increase in the number of parliamentary assistants. At the time of writing, the number of staff is not higher than 29.
Parliament (Althingi). https://www.althingi.is/um-althingi/skrifstofa-althingis/skipurit-og-hlutverk/nefndasvid-/ Accessed 19. October 2019.
Parliament does not have adequate resources to monitor government activity effectively. Some limited expertise is available from parliamentary committee, legal office, personal administrative support and parliamentary library staff. However, this has not allowed for substantive policy analysis or the independent production of information. Until 2017, the Latvian parliament was the only legislature in the Baltic Sea region with no institutional research capacity.

In 2017, the parliament created a new parliamentary research unit. As of May 2017, it is in its start-up phase, with a director and staff of three. The 2018 budget for the unit is expected to include resources for outsourcing expertise. To date the unit has produced nine studies and reports. Their mandate for further research studies to be done in 2018 was approved by the presidium of the parliament in November 2017. The planned work is to be produced on a medium- to long-term schedule (i.e., issues to be addressed are broad and overarching, not narrow and tied to legislative work in progress). The mandate approved for the research unit does not, at present, enable the research unit to be responsive to in progress legislative work.
The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
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