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Powers of the Senate

The duty of the Senate - as well as of the Chamber of Deputies - is not only to make the laws, but also to provide guidelines for Government action and to hold the Government to account.

The Constitution requires the Government to obtain the confidence of both houses. This is the first instance of the Senate's role as a provider of guidelines to the Government, which starts with the passage of a resolution of confidence to approve the political programme proposed by a new Government and then unfolds through motions, resolutions and recommendations to the Government.

After the Government's political programme has been approved, Parliament contributes to its implementation through its law-making function. The law-making function, as laid down by the Constitution, is performed jointly by the two Houses. A bill becomes law only after it has been passed by both Houses of Parliament in the same wording.

The Government is accountable to Parliament through a variety of means. Each senator may put questions (in order to ask a Minister for information or explanations on a specific subject or a particular measure taken or planned to be taken) and interrogations (in order to ask the Government for the reasons or intentions with regard to action on general or particular questions).

Ad-hoc committees (either unicameral or joint) may be established to investigate on questions of public interest; such committees shall be vested with the same powers and limits as the judiciary. Information and documents may be acquired by standing committees through fact-finding enquiries. On the conclusion of such enquiries, the relevant committee may publish a report.