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4 JUNE 2020


Dictionary of terms

General terms


Seat occupied by a member in Parliament or in the chamber where plenary sittings are held.

Secretariat General of the Senate.

Administrative services that make up the Senate Administration. It is bound by strict criteria of legality, impartiality and professionalism. It provides the services required for the House to perform its constitutional functions. It is governed by regulations approved by the Senate Bureau, to which is it subject at all times, and by the Statute of Parliamentary Staff. It is headed by the Senior Parliamentary Counsellor or Secretary General, appointed by the Senate Bureau, at the proposal of the Speaker, from among the Civil Service unit of Parliamentary Advisers, which oversees the staff at the Secretariat General, made up of Parliamentary civil servants, non-civil service staff at the senate and affiliated staff.


House of Parliament, which represents the Spanish people (section 66.1 of the Constitution) and which is also the House of territorial or regional representation (section 69.1 of the Constitution). It is made up of Senators who can be elected by electoral districts/constituencies, or appointed by Regional Parliaments. The Senate performs legislative functions, supervises the Government and approves General State Budgets. Its usual role in legislative procedure is to provide a second reading, with the ability to oppose or modify the decisions of the Congress of Deputies by means of vetoes or amendments. In its territorial function, it holds the powers outlined in section 155.1 of the Constitution. In the Senate there is a General Committee of Self-Governing Communities and there are periodic debates held about the National State of Self-Governing Communities.

Senate Inspection.

Unit within the Senate Secretariat General which carries out internal supervision and control of the execution of Senate accounts.
Senate Plenary Sittings are public, unless a reasoned petition is presented by the Government or by fifty Senators, agreeing for a Sitting not to be, with an absolute majority in the House. They will be secret when so determined by the Senate Standing Orders. The public nature of sittings implies that they may be attended by members of the press and media as well as the general public, who can following the Sitting from the gallery or watch a live broadcast of the Sitting on the webpage.

Senate Secretary.

Member of the Senate Bureau, elected at the constitutional sitting of the House from among its members. Secretaries supervise and authorise the minutes from Plenary Sittings and Bureau meetings, with the approval of the Speaker, as well as any certifications issued; they assist the Speaker during sittings and meetings to ensure the agenda of the debate is followed and that ballots are conducted correctly; they contribute to the normal development of work in the House; and they also perform any other functions attributed to them by the Speaker or the Bureau. See “Bureau”.


Member of the Senate. To be elected a Senator, the individual must be a Spanish national, of legal age and meet the legally established requirements. Senators can be elected directly by citizens in provincial constituencies/districts and individual candidates, or they can be appointed by a regional Parliament. All Senators have the right to participate in the exercising of Senate functions: legislation, Government supervision, approving the revenues and expenditure of State, and other functions stipulated in the Constitution and by Law.

Senior Parliamentary Counsellor of the Senate Secretariat General.

Head of the administrative services that make up Parliamentary Administration, reporting to the Speaker of the House. Appointed by the Senate Bureau, at the proposal of the Speaker, from among civil service unit of Parliamentary Advisers.

Simple majority.

Rule for the adaption of an agreement by virtue of which the number of votes in favour must be higher than the number of votes against, regardless of the total number of votes cast. This is the general rule applied to the adoption of agreements.

Single reading.

Special legislative procedure whereby the legislative text is debated directly and, if applicable, approved by the Plenary Sitting of the House without first being handled by a Committee or Reporting Body. It can be used in legislative initiatives in accordance with their nature or simplicity. The procedure must be agreed by the Plenary Sitting, at the proposal of the Bureau, having consulted the Board of Spokespersons. In the Congress of Deputies, amendments can be presented for the bill as a whole or to specific sections or wording; in the Senate, only veto motions can be presented. Its debate in a Plenary Sitting is scheduled for debates on the whole bill or any veto proposals.

Speaker of the Senate.

Position held by a single individual, the highest representative authority of the Senate. He or she is elected by the Plenary Sitting from among its members at the start of each Legislature. The most important functions of this position include convening and presiding over Plenary Sittings, directing debates, maintaining order, with the authority to impose sanctions and interpret the Standing Orders of the House. This individual also presides over the Bureau, the Board of Spokespersons and the Appointments Committee. See “Bureau”.

Speakers' platform.

Elevated platform with a lectern for members addressing the House in parliamentary debates.

Special committee.

Non-legislative and non-standing committee set up to study a particular matter of public interest. Generally they have a specific purpose, take place within a certain period of time and are usually concluded with the issuing of a report.


Person appointed by the Parliamentary Group to represent it before the different bodies of the House. The Spokespersons of Parliamentary Groups meet at the Board of Spokespersons.

Standing legislative committee.

Committee set up for the entire duration of the Legislature which, among other functions, is responsible for channelling legislative bills. Normally there is a standing legislative committee for each Government Ministry.

Standing non-legislative committee.

Committee set up for the entire duration of the Legislature which does not intervene in the legislative function of the House. It deals with a number of areas, including the condition of the members, the House Standing Orders, and the channelling of petitions formulated by citizens when exercising their right of petition.


The Speaker of a parliamentary sitting may give the floor to a member when, during the course of a debate, one of the intervening parties expresses value judgements or inaccuracies about the person or acts of said member.

Statute for Parliamentary Staff.

Regulations that govern the staffing regime of Parliament, in particular the civil service, establishing the conditions to access this service, situations, circumstances for resignation or dismissal, rights and responsibilities, and disciplinary proceedings. They are approved by the Bureaus of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate during a joint meeting.

Statute of the Senator.

Set of rights, responsibilities and prerogatives of Senators, established with a view to guaranteeing the full exercising of the functions corresponding to the House, ensuring its independence from other powers. It includes the right to present bills, intervene in debates and participate in ballots in the terms established in the Senate Standing Orders, the regime of incompatibilities established in electoral legislation, prerogatives of inviolability, immunity and the applicability of special legislation since any criminal trials brought against Senators and Deputies are tried by the Criminal Section of the Supreme Court.

Study reporting body.

Functional body created within a Committee, made up of a small group of members with a view to studying a specific matter. Its work usually concludes with the formulation of a report or a proposal submitted to the corresponding Committee; once this is done, the reporting body is dissolved.

Supervision of Government and political impetus.

Function of the Houses which involves obtaining information about the Government, subjecting its actions to debate and urging it to focus its policies in a specific direction. The parliamentary initiatives through which this function is articulated are questions, interpellations, motions (in the Senate) and non-legislative bills (in the Congress of Deputies), motions following an interpellation, debates about memoranda and reports issued by the Government, appearances and investigative and special committees.

Supplementation of Standing Orders.

Power corresponding to the Speaker of the House to fill in any regulatory gaps that might exist in the Standing Orders. In the Senate, this authority is exercised with the agreement of the Bureau of the Standing Orders Committee.


Judiciary instrument through which the Criminal Section of the Supreme Court requests authorisation from the House to bring one of its members to trial. The need for authorisation is part of parliamentary immunity since it allows the House to ascertain, without actually judging the matter in depth - whether or not a crime has been committed - if the accusation against a member conceals an agenda of political persecution.