Dictionary of terms








Last revision 09/01/2024


Absolute majority.

Rule for the adoption of an agreement by virtue of which over half of the rightful members of the House or Committee must vote in favour.


Manifestation of will expressed in a ballot or voting procedure in which a member of parliament, without avoiding an issue, decides to vote neither for nor against a motion.

Acceptance or rejection of amendments.

Stage of parliamentary debate of a motion in which the author of the motion accepts or rejects any amendments presented by other members.

Affiliated staff.

Staff from the General State Administration service units who are posted to the House for the performance of security functions and others not attributed statutorily to Parliamentary Civil Service units. Said staff, regardless of their permanence in their original units in the situation of active service, will report, to all intents and purposes, to the Speaker and the Secretary General of the House.

Aged Bureau.

Transitory body established after the opening of the constituent meeting of the Senate until the definitive Senate Committee is established. Its functions are limited to solving the initial procedural issues. It is chaired by the oldest senator and the four youngest senators act as secretaries.


List of matters which a parliamentary body will examine at a meeting. The agenda is established prior to a meeting, thereby avoiding matters being raised by surprise or without the knowledge of any of the members of the House. The drafting and any modifications made to the agenda are extremely important because it determines the priority given to the different initiatives currently being debated.

In the Senate, the agenda for Plenary Sittings is established by the Speaker in accordance with the Bureau, having consulted the Board of Spokespersons. The representative of the Government can include a single priority matter. The agenda for Committee meetings is established by their Speaker, having consulted the respective Bureau and taking into account the schedule of the House. A third of the members of a Committee can include a single priority issue.

Agreements between Self-Governing Communities.

Agreements between Self-Governing Communities are instruments of regional cooperation. They are examined by Parliament. Agreements reached between Self-Governing Communities that pertain to the management and provision of services within said Communities must be communicated to Parliament so that the Houses are aware of them. In other cases, cooperation agreements will require Parliamentary authorisation.


Proposal for modification formulated by members of Parliament or Parliamentary Groups by virtue of which the aim is to suppress, add or alter a section or fragment of a parliamentary bill. In the case of legislative bills, amendments must be congruent and fulfil the formal requirements of presentation demanded by the House Standing Orders.

Assent (voting).

Procedure whereby a proposal is approved if, once it has been announced by the Speaker of the sitting, there is no opposition voiced by the members in attendance.


Means of adopting agreements within parliamentary bodies, which involves the Speaker of the corresponding body announcing the agreement reached without the members present raising objections or opposition.

Association of European Senates.

Inter-parliamentary cooperation forum in which the Speakers of the Senates from the European Member States participate. It aims to develop relationships of cooperation between its members, to promote bicameralism within the framework of parliamentary democracies and to strengthen European identity and awareness.

Authorisation of international treaties.

Function attributed by the Constitution to Parliament in the conclusion and denunciation of international treaties (sections 93 and 94.1 of the Constitution).


Procedure whereby collegiate bodies adopt decisions. In the case of Parliament, its status as a deliberative body means that it is normally preceded by a debate about the matter that will be put to the vote. There are various ballot or voting systems: by assenting, ordinary, by roll call, which may in turn be public or secret, and, if secret, by casting ballots or by black or white balls.


Model of parliamentary organisation characterised by the existence of two Houses. When, as is the case in Spain, the two Houses have a different function or weighting in parliamentary proceedings, the term asymmetrical or imperfect bicameralism is used.

Blue bench.

Row of seats occupied by the Speaker and other members of Government in the Chamber of Sittings in the Senate or the Congress of Deputies.

Budget of the Senate.

The financial autonomy of the Houses implies that each of them independently approves its own budget, determining the volume of revenues required to carry out its tasks. The Bureau is responsible for drawing up and approving the Senate Budget. Once approved, it is sent to the Government for its inclusion in the Draft General State Budget. Autonomy also encompasses budget management and execution. Fiscal matters are handled by the Senate Inspection, and the Bureau is responsible for approving payment.


Governing body of the House, comprising the Speaker, Deputies Speakers (two in the Senate and four in the Congress of Deputies) and four Secretaries. Its election for each Legislature takes place in the constitutional session of the House. Its major competences are parliamentary and administrative in nature.

Call (back) to the matter.

Power held by the Speaker of the House aimed at maintaining order in debate, requesting a member of parliament who currently has the floor to limit his or her intervention to the matter at hand, if it is felt that said member is digressing to issues beyond the scope of the debate or returns to a matter that has already been discussed or voted on.

Call to order.

Power held by the Speaker of the House aimed at maintaining order in discussions and directing debates when a member utters words that are offensive to the decorum of the House or to its members, the institutions of State, or any other person or entity, or when the course of the debate is altered by means of interruptions or in any other manner. Having called a member to order three times within a single sitting or session, the Speaker may forbid said member, without discussion, from attending the rest of the session and may even extend this prohibition to the following sitting.

In the case of repeated offence or failing to comply with the requirements to abandon the chamber or room, more serious penalties may be imposed, including suspension from the parliamentary position for a maximum of one month.

Chamber of sittings.

Physical space that holds parliamentary sittings. The term chamber is reserved for the main room in parliament where the Plenary Sitting meets, to distinguish it from smaller rooms used for Committees and Reporting Bodies.


Room where Plenary Sittings are held, distributed in the form of a semicircle.

Collective agreement for Senate staff.

Agreement reached between the representatives of the Parliamentary Administration and the union representatives of staff working at the Senate, approved by the Senate Bureau, which regulates the legal conditions and status of members of staff who work in the Senate, establishing conditions governing access to such positions, rights and obligations, and disciplinary proceedings.

Commissions Bureau.

Body composed, unless agreed otherwise, by a President, two Deputy Presidents and two Secretariats. They are elected in the first meeting of this body, pursuant to the same rules established for electing the Senate Committee.

Committee Speaker.

Committees choose a Bureau from among their members to act as their governing body, made up of a Speaker, two Deputy Speakers and two Secretaries. The Speaker of the Committee performs a number of functions within the sphere of the Committee, including the convening of Committee meetings, establishing the agenda, having consulted with the respective Bureau, chairing meetings and structuring debates.


Functional parliamentary body, made up of a small number of members of the House in proportion to the numerical weight of their Group in the House, with authority in certain matters and which occasionally acts as a preparatory body for the activity of the Plenary Sittings and, in other cases, as a body with its own competences. There are several types of Committees: standing (legislative and non-legislative), investigative, special and mixed (Congress of Deputies and Senate). The key competences of Committees are to rule on legislative texts and hold informative sessions with members of Government, authorities, civil servants and other figures, and to channel oral questions and motions.

Conference of Parliament Speakers from the European Union and the European Parliament.

Forum made up of the Parliamentary Speakers from all the Member States of the European Union and the Speaker of the European Parliament. The latest meetings have also included the Speakers of Assemblies from candidate countries. The aim is to promote dialogue and the exchange of good practices among the member Parliaments and to coordinate inter-parliamentary cooperation between them. It meets on an annual basis.

Conference of Parliamentary Speakers from around the world.

Forum that brings together Parliamentary Speakers from all around the world under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and which aims to express, at the highest level, the commitment of parliaments to strengthening multilateral international systems, peace, democracy and human rights. It meets every five years.

Conference of Speakers for European Parliamentary Assemblies.

Forum made up of the Speakers of the national Parliaments from the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe and those which are classed as official observers in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. It meets on a biannual basis. The aim is to tackle specific current affairs and issues on the basis of discussion documents prepared previously by the host country.

Confidence motion/vote.

Instrument demanding political responsibility from the Government regulated by section 112 of the Spanish Constitution, which enables the President of the Government, having previously consulted with the Council of Ministers, to raise a request for the Congress of Deputies to express its confidence in the programme or general policy statement of the Government itself. Confidence will be understood to have been given when a simple majority of Deputies vote in favour. If the Congress does not give its confidence to the Government, the latter must tender its resignation to the King.

Congress of Deputies.

Parliamentary House comprising 350 Deputies, chosen by universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage in the terms established by law. It represents the Spanish people and has legislative functions, as well as political supervisory functions and the authority to appoint members of constitutional bodies, among others.


In the initial stage of the legislative procedure, and to perfect the legislative initiative when the proposal is made by the members themselves, parliamentary groups, regional parliaments, or if it is a legislative initiative of the people (section 87.2 and 3 of the Constitution), the Senate Plenary Sitting (when dealing with proposals from Senators or Parliamentary Groups from the House) or the Plenary Sitting of the Congress of Deputies (in the other cases outlined above) must make said proposal their own by debating the initiative as a whole and subsequently voting through a ballot which requires a simple majority.

Considered opinion.

Document send by the Senate to the Congress of Deputies at the conclusion of legislative proceedings informing the Congress if it has approved the veto or amendments submitted by said House with regard to a legislative initiative, setting forth the reasons for the agreements reached.

Constitutional allowance.

One of the remunerative packages received by members for the performance of their functions, which is allocated in the House Budget.

Constitutional bodies.

Institutions outlined in the Constitution which make up the political structure of the State. They are the Crown, Parliament, Government, the General Council of Judicial Power and the Constitutional Court.

Constitutional reform.

Modification of the constitutional text by virtue of which content is added or removed, or the existing text is replaced. The Spanish Constitution is classed as rigid because any reforms require supermajorities (sections 167 and 168).

Constitutional sitting of the Senate.

First sitting of the Senate following general elections, which marks the start of the Legislature. At the constitutional sitting of the Senate, the members of the Senate Bureau are elected: the Speaker, two Deputy Speakers and four Secretaries. Additionally, Senators swear an oath of allegiance or observance of the Constitution.


Act of calling on members of collegiate bodies to meet and validly adopt agreements. In the case of Parliament, section 67.3 of the Constitution establishes that meetings of members which are held without being officially convened will not be binding for the Houses and cannot perform their functions or enjoy their privileges.

Furthermore, section 79.1 of the Constitution determines that in order to adopt agreements, members of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate must meet in accordance with the stipulations of the Standing Orders, which set out the need for a meeting to be convened in advance.


Stage in the ballot which involves counting all the votes cast.


Document issued by the Provincial Electoral Board which certificates that a candidate standing for Senator or Deputy has been elected in the corresponding elections. In the case of Senators appointed by Self-Governing Communities, credentials are issued by their respective regional Parliament.

Debate on the Nation State of Self-Governing Communities.

Debate which takes place within the Senate's General Committee of the Self-Governing Communities. The Senate Standing Orders dictate that this Committee shall meet on an annual basis. This debate incorporates interventions from the President of the Government, the heads of regional parliaments in the Self-Governing Communities and cities with a Statute of Autonomy, as well as members of the General Committee, to examine the situation of the State from a territorial perspective.


An essential part of parliamentary proceedings which involves setting out and comparing opinions and arguments. Debates are usually public and allow members to express their stance in favour or against the matter debated.

Department of Budgets and Contracts.

Unit within the Senate Secretariat General responsible for advising and managing matters pertaining to contractual procedures, movable assets and artistic heritage, budgets and accounting within the House.

Department of Committees.

Unit within the Senate's Secretariat General responsible for preparation, advice, assistance, support and implementation in matters within the scope of the House Committees.

Department of Documentation.

Unit within the Senate Secretariat General responsible for carrying out documentation work related with the activity of the House.

Department of Human Resources and Internal Governance.

Unit within the Secretariat General responsible for management, advice and control in matters pertaining to staff members who provide services to the Secretariat General in the Senate, with regard to any benefits for Senators, to security and to health and safety services provided to members, in addition to any matters not specifically attributed to other Departments and which affect the internal governance of the Senate.

Department of Information and Communication Technologies.

Unit within the Senate Secretariat General responsible for providing advice and management with regard to Senate's computer and communications system.

Department of Institutional Relations.

Unit within the Senate Secretariat General responsible for providing support, assistance and advice with regard to media relations, institutional image, and Senate protocol, as well as internal and external information and supervision of the Senate webpage.

Department of International Relations.

Unit within the Senate Secretariat General responsible for preparation, organisation and management of international affairs and inter-parliamentary coordination within the Senate.

Department of Research.

Unit within the Senate Secretariat General responsible for carrying out research and analysis related with constitutional and parliamentary activity, as well as matters pertaining to the European Union.

Department of Technical Parliamentary Assistance.

Unit within the Senate's Secretariat General responsible for preparation, advice, assistance, support and implementation in matters within the scope of the Plenary Sitting, the Permanent Deputation, the Bureau and the Board of Spokespersons.

Deputy Speaker of the Senate.

Member of the Senate Bureau elected at the constitutional sitting of the House from among its members. Deputy Speakers, in the established order, deputise for the Speaker, performing the functions of the Speaker if this position is vacant, or the current Speaker is absent or unable to perform said duties. They also perform any other duties entrusted by the Speaker or the Bureau. (See "Bureau").

Dissenting opinion.

Proposal whereby members or Parliamentary Groups manifest their intention to defend at the Plenary Sitting the amendments made to a governmental or non-governmental bill which, having been debated within a Committee, have not been incorporated into the Committee's ruling.


In most cases, a decision made by means of a Decree issued by the President of the Government, following from deliberations by the Council of Ministers, which brings to an end the mandate of Deputies, Senators or both and which leads to the calling of elections. Following dissolution, the Permanent Deputation enters into effect. Automatic dissolution occurs in the event of an extraordinary reformation of the Constitution (section 168) or a vote of no confidence (section 99). (See "Permanent Deputation").

Electoral district or constituency.

Geographical area to which one or several electoral seats are allocated. One of the essential elements of the electoral system.

Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA).

Inter-parliamentary cooperation forum aimed at fostering political dialogue between parliamentarians from Mediterranean countries and assisting, promoting and helping to consolidate and develop the "Barcelona Process".

Extraordinary sitting.

The Constitution allows for extraordinary sittings to be held outside of the two ordinary periods of sittings at which the House meets annually; the first from September to December and the second from February to June. They are held to discuss issues that need to be debated immediately without waiting until the start of the following period of sittings. They must be convened with a specific agenda and will be closed once the agenda has been concluded.

The Senate may meet in extraordinary sittings at the request of the Government, the Permanent Deputation or the absolute majority of Senators.

Fill the Standig Orders.

Function assigned to the President of the Chamber in order to fill any regulatory gaps present in the Regulations. In the Senate, this function is carried out pursuant to the Regulation Commission Committee.

Friendship Group.

Bilateral parliamentary forum aimed at promoting and developing international relations between Spain and countries with which it has particularly important bonds. Their creation is agreed by the Bureau.

General Committee of the Self-Governing Communities.

Unique committee in the Senate, characterised by the fact it contains double the number of Senators than any other House Committee and because the regional heads of government from the different Self-Governing Communities can intervene, with voice but no vote. This Committee discusses the concept of Spain as a Nation of Self-Governing Communities.

General debate.

Stage in legislative proceedings which takes place during the deliberations in plenary sittings to discuss a whole governmental or non-governmental bill.

In the Senate, a general debate is held immediately after the Committee has presented their opinion. It consists on a speech for and an speech against the entire text, plus the speeches of the spokespersons of any parliamentary groupings who wish to take the floor. Immediately afterwards, any relevant veto proposals and dissenting votes, as well as any amendment not incorporated to the opinion by the Committee, shall be discussed.

General State Budgets.

Coded, combined, systematic expression of the obligations and rights to be liquidated during the year by each of the bodies and entities which are part of the state public sector.

The Senate, together with the Congress of Deputies, approves the General State Budgets. The process by which the Draft Budget is debated follows the ordinary legislative procedure, with a few peculiarities including its prioritisation over other work of the House, the fact that amendments which imply complete opposition to a section are channelled as veto motions and that amendments which would increase credit must also contemplate a measure to reduce the same section by the same amount.

Government Memorandum.

Instrument that allows the Government to send information to the House which can then be debated to ascertain the House's views thereof. Following the debate of a memorandum, Parliamentary Groups can present motions to the Senate and proposals for resolutions to the Congress of Deputies.


Body that wields executive power. It directs domestic and foreign policy, civil and military administration, and national defence. It performs the executive function and holds regulatory authority. It is made up of the President of the Government, who must have the confidence of the Congress of Deputies and who, a posteriori, elects the Vice Presidents and any Ministers. It is subject to the supervision of the two Houses. (See "Supervision of Government and political impetus").

Governmental bill.

Legislative initiative presented by the Government to be debated and passed as a law by Parliament.

Group discipline.

Parliamentary use by virtue of which members follow the instructions given by Parliamentary Groups in relation to the different activities carried out in the House, especially with regard to which way they vote.

Ibero-American Parliamentary Forum.

Inter-parliamentary cooperation forum for the Parliaments of the 22 Member States of the Ibero-American Community of Nations. It meets once a year prior to the Summit of Heads of State and Government in the host country of this Summit. It was set up in 2005 as a Parliamentary initiative. Its objectives include participating in the development and consolidation of the Ibero-American Community of Nations and establishing a framework for mutual cooperation.


Prerogative by virtue of which parliamentarians cannot be charged or brought to trial without the prior authorisation of the House which must be requested. Through this requirement, the House can ascertain, without judging the matter in depth - whether or not a crime has been committed - whether behind the accusation of a Senator or Deputy there is a hidden agenda of political persecution.

To this end, a procedure is followed within the House, with the participation of the affected party, which culminates with the corresponding decision made via a secret ballot. This prerogative is not applied in the case of a flagrant crime.

Imperative mandate.

Model of political representation whereby a member of the assembly does not perform their functions independently but rather on the direct orders of their elector, be it an institution or person. The Spanish Constitution prohibits this action when it expressly indicates in section 67.2 that members of Parliament shall not be bound by an imperative mandate.

Incidental motion.

Question that can be raised during the course of any debate with a view to resolving doubts that arise when debating an initiative.


Regime established in electoral legislation, applicable to members of parliament, to guarantee their independence when performing their functions, by virtue of which certain professions or political positions cannot be held simultaneously to a parliamentary post. To this end, when being sworn in, members of parliament must make a statement of activities which is judged by the Committee responsible for incompatibilities.

If any incompatibilities are observed, the affected party must choose between their seat and the condition or position that is the cause of the incompatibility. Furthermore, they are required to notify of any alteration in their situation during the Legislature.


Situation in which a person, on account of the positions or functions held, cannot stand as a candidate in the general elections. The causes for ineligibility are determined by electoral legislation. They can be general, applicable to all kinds of elections, or specific to certain elections; they can refer to the whole territorial scope of elections or only to certain constituencies or districts.


International Agreements.

Also known as international treaties, these are binding agreements between States and other entities with an international legal status. In some cases, these agreements must be authorised by Parliament. (see "Authorisation of international treaties"), whereas in other cases it is sufficient for the Houses to be informed of their conclusions (section 94.2 of the Constitution).

International parliamentary assembly.

Inter-parliamentary cooperation forum made up of members of national parliaments, normally within an international organisation, which provides political impetus and supervises their executive bodies.

(See: "Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe", "Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)", "Parliamentary Assembly of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)", "Inter-Parliamentary Union" and Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly").

International parliamentary conference.

Meeting, usually held periodically, for delegations of national Parliaments with the purpose of debating and make political statements regarding matters within their realm of competence.

Inter-Parliamentary Union (UIP).

International Organisation of Parliaments from Sovereign States created in 1889. This global forum for dialogue works to promote peace and cooperation among all peoples and to consolidate representative democracy, supporting the efforts of the United Nations, whose goals it shares, working in close collaboration with it. The webpage and publications of the IPU are a renowned source of information about parliamentary matters.


Initiative by virtue of which a parliamentarian raises a question with Government with a view to examining the Cabinet's policy in matters of general interest. The inclusion of interpellations on the agenda, having first consulted the Board of Spokespersons, will be carried out in accordance with a quota system for each Parliamentary Group.

Interpretation of the Standing Orders.

Power of the Speaker of the House to clarify any doubts regarding the House Standing Orders.

Interterritorial Compensation Fund.

Budgetary fund set out in section 158.2 of the Constitution with a view to correcting interterritorial economic imbalances between the different Self-Governing Communities and to make effective the principle of solidarity. This fund will be used to cover investment costs and will be disbursed by Parliament.


Each of the times a speaker makes use of having the floor during parliamentary debate.

Investigative Committee.

Committee created with a view to investigating any matter of public interest. It is regulated by section 76 of the Constitution and the Standing Orders of the Houses. Its conclusions are not binding for the Tribunals and will not affect judicial resolutions, although the findings of its investigations may be communicated to the Fiscal Ministry to take any corresponding action.

Citizens have the Constitutional obligation to appear before these Committees if called to do so. For the Senate to establish a Investigative Committee it must be approved by a resolution of the full Senate at the proposal of the Government or of twenty-five Senators that do not belong to the same parliamentary grouping .


Formal procedure by means of which the Congress of Deputies, formally installs a candidate as the President of the Government after such candidate has exposed their government programme and has been granted the trust of the Congress.


Prerogative enjoyed by parliamentarians whereby they cannot be held accountable for written and oral statements made during a parliamentary session or sitting, or for any votes they might cast in relation to the parliamentary decisions with which they are involved.

Journal of sittings.

Official publication of the transcriptions of sessions held for Plenary Sittings, the Permanent Deputation and Committees. It reproduces the interventions of speakers, keeping a record of any incidents and the results of any ballots.

Legislative procedure for a competence delegated to a Committee.

Special legislative procedure which entails eliminating the need for the Plenary Sitting to give final approval. Section 75.3 of the Constitution stipulates that this cannot be used for certain matters.

In the Senate, the Plenary Sitting makes the decision to use this procedure. If a veto motion is approved within a Committee, the Plenary Sitting must ratify or reject it.

Legislative procedure.

Succession of parliamentary acts required for the House to approve a law when exercising legislative power. The elements required are publicity, the possibility of proposing amendments (about the whole bill or specific sections or wording), contradictory debate and ballot. It is carried out through different bodies: Reporting Body, Committee and Plenary Sitting.

In the Senate, the legislative procedure takes place within a period of two months, which is shortened to twenty calendar days in emergency situations (section 90 of the Constitution).

Legislative reporting body.

Functional body created within a legislative Committee, made up of representatives of Parliamentary Groups, with a view to reporting on legislative texts. In general, in the Senate, it has fifteen days to issue its report following the deadline for the presentation of amendments.


Period of time for which a Parliament is elected or the duration of the mandate enjoyed by the members of a House. In the Congress of Deputies and the Senate, the Legislature concludes the moment the Houses are dissolved and, in all cases, four years after the date of the general elections.


Formal document which records the holding of a meeting for an official House body, the names of those in attendance and any agreements reached.

Mixed Committee.

Committee made up of Deputies and Senators. In addition to any committees set up as joint working committees between the two Houses, section 74.2 of the Spanish Constitution also contemplates their creation for the resolution of certain conflicts that might arise between the Congress of Deputies and the Senate, and section 167 states that such a committee can be constituted to resolve discrepancies in the ordinary reformation of the Constitution.

Mixed Group.

Parliamentary group which incorporates all members of parliament who are not part of another Group. Although its participation in the activities of the House will be identical to that of the other Groups, its internal function is distinctive since it is made up of parliamentarians from diverse political forces.

Motion resulting from an interpellation.

Initiative originating in the debate of an interpellation in which the reply given by the Government has not been satisfactory to the interpellant member. The content and procedure are similar to those of ordinary motions, although the interventions are shorter.


Initiative tied to supervision and political impetus, which is presented so that the Government makes a statement regarding an issue or submits a governmental bill to Parliament, or for the House to deliberate and present its findings with regard to a non-legislative bill, accompanied by an evaluation of its economic cost. They can be presented to be debated at a Plenary Sitting or within a Committee. The debate will incorporate interventions from the author of the initiative in addition to representatives of the Parliamentary Groups. They are put to a vote. (See "Motion resulting from an interpellation").

Motion Non-Legislative.

Initiative linked to supervision and political impetus, which contains a proposed resolution formulated by Parliamentary Groups asking the House to urge the Government to take a certain measure or stance, or to make a declaration regarding an issue along specific lines. They have no binding legal effects, so the consequences of non-observance can be channelled through the routes open for the political supervision of Government.

In the Senate, these kinds of initiatives are called motions. (See "Motion").

Non-governmental bill.

Legislative initiative which can be authorised by the Congress of Deputies, the Senate, a Self-Governing Community or a minimum of 500,000 citizens. Once debated and approved in Parliament, it will become law.

Observance of the Constitution.

Promise or oath made by members of parliament to respect and abide by the Constitution. The act of observance is an indispensable condition required by the House Standing Orders to be a member.


Behaviour of a member of parliament aimed at impeding the discussion and processing of matters or the adoption of agreements within parliamentary bodies, on occasion through the abuse of regulatory means and resources available to members. Examples of parliamentary obstruction are: abuse of the turn-taking; reiterated or unjustified petitions of quorum to deliberate and vote; requests for roll-call ballots; or absenteeism which prevents the reaching of the quorum required for the adoption of agreements.

Official Bulletin of Parliament (BOCG).

Official publication featuring bills put forward by parliamentary members (Senators, Deputies, Parliamentary Groups) and decisions reached by parliamentary bodies (Plenary, Committees, Bureau, etc.), both parliamentary and administrative in nature. It is divided into three sections: Congress of Deputies, Senate and Parliament.

The section of the BOCS devoted to the Senate is divided in six sections: legislative initiatives, motions, authorisations, other parliamentary activity, regulations on parliamentary issues and Senate Administration.

Official publications.

Within the sphere of parliament, official publications are the Official Bulletin of Parliament (BOCG), which in turn is divided into three sections (Parliament, Congress of Deputies and the Senate), and the Journal of Sittings. All official publications can be viewed on the webpage. (See "Official Bulletin of Parliament" and "Journal of Sittings").

Official trip.

Trip made by a member of parliament, a parliamentary delegation or a body of the House to attend official events or meetings, which might be national or international in nature.

Official visit.

Visit made to the House by members of parliament, delegations or authorities from other countries, as part of official public acts and meetings.

Opening of the sitting.

Act performed by the Speaker, during a Plenary Sitting or a Committee Meeting, indicating that the relevant body is beginning its agenda and that, therefore, everything that is done, said or agreed thereafter will be recorded and have legal validity.

Oral question in Plenary Sittings.

Questions that require an oral response in a Plenary Sitting must contain the strict formulation of one question only. The inclusion of questions in the agenda is carried out by means of a quota system for each Parliamentary Group. There is the possibility of replacing the questions presented with others pertaining to matters agreed by the Council of Ministers or matters of particular urgency or topicality. Questions are formulated from the member's seat. Firstly, the member asking the question speaks, formulating the question for response by a member of Government. The member then has a turn to reply, and the member of Government has another turn to formulate a rejoinder.

In the Senate, each of the intervening parties has three minutes in total to make use of the two turns described above.

Oral question within a Committee.

Questions to be answered orally within a Committee must fulfil the same requirements as oral questions raised at a Plenary Sitting, although they are not subject to a timescale for formulation. In the Senate, once they have been classified by the Bureau and after seven days from their publication, they can be included in the agenda of the Committee. The time slots allocated to each turn on the floor are longer than responses in Plenary Sittings. Only Ministers and Secretaries of State may appear in order to respond to these kinds of questions.

Parliament (Cortes Generales).

The Spanish parliament is a two-house system and is known as the Cortes Generales. The Spanish parliament represents the Spanish people and is made up of the Senate and the Congress of Deputies. Parliament exercises the legislative power of the State, approves its budgets, supervises the action of Government and any other competences and authorities attributed to it by the Constitution.

Parliamentary allowance.

Part of the remuneration package received by a member of parliament to compensate them for certain expenses incurred when performing their functions, including accommodation and living expenses.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Inter-parliamentary cooperation forum comprising parliamentarians from the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe, who meet to discuss and adopt resolutions pertaining, among other issues, to human rights and democracy.

Parliamentary Assembly of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Inter-parliamentary cooperation forum comprising parliamentarians from the 29 member states of the North Atlantic Alliance, who meet to discuss and adopt resolutions about issues related with defence, security and cooperation.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Inter-parliamentary cooperation forum in which parliamentarians from the 57 member states of the OSCE take part, with the aim of strengthening democracy, preventing crises and managing the consequences of conflicts that arise within its area through dialogue and negotiation. It participates actively in the supervision of electoral processes.

Parliamentary autonomy.

Capacity of the Houses recognised by section 72.1 of the Spanish Constitution to decide their own rules of operation (normative autonomy), their funding model and their budgets (financial autonomy), their governing bodies and their administrative apparatus (organisational and functional autonomy).

Parliamentary Civil Servants.

(See "Parliamentary Civil Service Staff").

Parliamentary Civil Service Staff.

Parliamentary staff who, by virtue of their legal appointment, are incorporated into the Parliament permanently, by means of a statutory relationship of professional services and remunerated from the Parliamentary budget. They provide their services to the Congress of Deputies, the Senate or the Central Electoral Board, by performing the tasks contained in the corresponding functional diagrams.

Currently, the following Parliamentary Civil Service units are in existence: Counsellors, Archivists-Librarians, Advisers, Editors, Shorthand Clerks and Stenotypists, Technical Administrators, Administrators and Ushers.

Parliamentary courtesy.

Series of unwritten rules of decorum which members must abide by as a sign of respect towards other members, the House and citizens.

Parliamentary delegation.

Member or members designated by the bodies of the Houses or Parliamentary Groups with a view to participating in international bilateral or multilateral parliamentary relations.

Parliamentary diplomacy.

Activity carried out by Parliaments in the international arena with a view to complementing the foreign policy pursued by Governments.

Parliamentary discipline.

Measures taken by the Speaker of the House with a view to maintaining order in debates and in meeting rooms. To this end, depending on the gravity of the action, the Speaker may make calls to order or to point, prohibit a member from attending a meeting, and even agree to suspend the member from parliamentary duties, in accordance with the terms outlined in the House Standing Orders.

Parliamentary Group.

Group of members of parliament defined by their political affiliation. They are constituted in the Houses at the start of each Legislature.

In the case of the Senate, each Parliamentary Group will be composed of at least ten Senators. No Senator may be a member of more than one Parliamentary Group. Senators who have stood for election as part of the same party, federation, coalition or group may not form more than one Parliamentary Group. Senators who do not join a specifically named Parliamentary Group will join the Mixed Group.

Parliamentary initiative.

Act whereby parliamentary proceedings are initiated which can be legislative in nature or might pertain to authorisation, supervision and political impetus or the election of other bodies. It receives the same name as the parliamentary report being channelled.

Parliamentary law.

Parliamentary prerogative by virtue of which any criminal trials brought against Senators and Deputies are tried by the Criminal Section of the Supreme Court.

Parliamentary Non-Civil Service Staff.

Staff responsible for performing functions not attributed statutorily to the Parliamentary Civil Service, in positions of such a nature as required by the staff structure. Non-Civil Service staff are recruited by each House. The Senate employs the following professional groups: doctors, analysts, programmers, nurses, computer assistants, audiovisual assistants, maintenance team, drivers and motorcycle drivers .

Parliamentary prerogatives.

Inviolability, immunity and special legislation are part of the legal statute for members of parliament. The purpose of such prerogatives is not to give parliamentarians special protection or preferential treatment over other citizens, but rather to guarantee that they are able to fully perform the functions corresponding to their respective House, ensuring their independence from other powers. (See "Inviolability", "Immunity" and "Parliamentary law").

Parliamentary proceedings.

Series or succession of acts which must be followed in order to substantiate an initiative. The debating and processing of each kind of initiative, whether it is aimed at passing a law or another legislative text, issuing authorisation, supervising the Government, impelling Government action in a certain direction, or the election of certain positions, are governed by a specific procedure.

Parliamentary standing orders.

Superior regulations governing parliamentary organisation which contain the rules of organisation and functioning of the House. They are approved by each House through the exercising of autonomy constitutionally attributed to it. In spite of the name, Parliamentary Standing Orders have the equivalent force to laws. The Standing Orders and their reformation must be approved by an absolute majority of the House.

Period of sittings.

Timeframe that establishes when the Houses can ordinarily meet. The Spanish Constitution establishes that the Houses will meet annually in two ordinary periods of sittings: the first from September to December, and the second from February to June. However, the Houses frequently meet outside of these two ordinary periods, in extraordinary sittings.

Permanent Deputation.

Body responsible for calling extraordinary sittings and safeguarding the powers of the House when it is not in session or when its Mandate has expired or it has been dissolved, until the new House is constituted. The Speaker of the House presides over the Permanent Deputation, which has a minimum of 21 members of parliament chosen by the Parliamentary Groups in proportion to their numerical importance. It is constituted at the start of the Legislature.


(See "Right of petition").

Plenary Sitting.

Deciding body of the Chamber formed by all parliament members. The most relevant aspects are submitted to this plenary sessions, which usually has the last decision on a discussion, and in charge of approving any initiative submitted to it by the different Commissions for deliberation. (See “Plenary Session”).

Plenary Session.

Formal meeting of the members of the House Plenary Sitting to debate and approve matters within its realm of competence. In the Senate, as a general rule, Plenary Sittings are held between Tuesday and Thursday. The agenda for Plenary Sittings is established by the Speaker in accordance with the Bureau, having consulted the Board of Spokespersons. The representative of the Government can include a single priority matter.

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.

Point of order.

Request regarding the observance of the Standing Orders which can be raised by a member at any point during a debate, citing the applicable section or sections.

Presidency of the Government.

Position held by a single individual responsible for presiding over and directing the action of Government and coordinating other Government members whom he or she is free to appoint and dismiss. The inauguration of the President requires a vote of confidence to be passed by the Congress of Deputies. Confidence must be maintained because if it is denied through a vote of no confidence or the failure of a vote of confidence, the Government must tender its resignation to the King.


In addition to official publications, the Senate guarantees public access to information through its webpage.

Qualified majority or Supermajority.

Rule for the adoption of an agreement by virtue of which specific percentages, such as two thirds or three fifths, of the rightful members of the House or Committee must vote in favour. However, on occasions, an absolute majority is also considered a qualified majority.


Supervisory initiative which can be used by members to interrogate the Government about matters that fall within their realm of competence. Questions must be submitted in writing to the Speaker of the House. Questions can require a written or an oral response, which shall be given at the Plenary Sitting or within a Committee. Questions are not admitted if they are of exclusive personal interest to the asker or any other individual person, nor if they entail a strictly legal query.


Number of members who should be present for a parliamentary body to be able to deliberate or adopt agreements.

Register of interests.

Public register constituted in each of the Houses to record the declarations of activities, assets and earnings which must be made by Deputies and Senators at the beginning of their mandate, when there are modifications in any of the situations declared, and when they cease being members of parliament. Any citizen can view the content of these declarations through the webpage of the corresponding House.

Regulation fills.

Function assigned to the President of the Chamber in order to fill any regulatory gaps present in the Regulations. In the Senate, this function is carried out pursuant to the Regulation Commission Committee..


Turn of speech which involves responding to a reply, which usually closes the debate about a question, interpellation or taking of possession in relation to the pertinent parliamentary initiative.


Intervention in a debate which occurs after the author has received a response to a question, interpellation or a stance in relation to a parliamentary initiative. They are usually brief turns which give rise to the rejoinder which brings the debate to a close.

Report of a Reporting Body.

Document that contains the proposal or result of the work carried out by the members of the Reporting Body created as part of a Parliamentary Committee to study a government bill or a specific matter. (See "Study Reporting Body").

Right of initiative.

Power that is constitutionally attributed to certain subjects to validly initiate the procedure aimed at passing, modifying or repealing a law. This is the case of governmental bills, presented by the Government which are prioritised, non-governmental bills which originate in the Houses or the Legislative Assemblies of the Self-Governing Communities, or popular legislative initiatives.

Right of petition.

Fundamental right regulated in the Constitution (sections 29 and 77). By exercising this right, a citizen or a collective can request that a public institution makes a certain decision or acts in a specific way.

The Senate provides for an special procedure to guarantee the right of petition, which must be exerted in writing; direct submission by citizens’ statements are forbidden. Once such petitions have been submitted, they shall be assessed by the Petitions’ Committee.

The decisions adopted with regard to each petition must be included the report that shall be issued for each ordinary session and subject to the consideration of a Senate plenary session, stating, when appropriate, to which authority such petition has been sent for response. Any response received shall be transferred to the promoters of the petition. .

Roll call (voting).

Voting procedure whereby the names of voters are registered. It can be public or secret. In the Senate, in public roll calls, a Secretary calls each of the members of the House, in alphabetical order, and they must respond whether they are voting "for", "against", or if they wish to abstain. Public roll calls can also be carried out electronically. In secret roll calls, which can be carried out using ballot slips or a system of black balls and white balls, a Secretary calls each of the members of the House, in alphabetical order, and they must then deposit their ballot slip or ball in the corresponding place.


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


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.

Secretariat General of the Senate.

All administrative services that make up the Senate Administration. Its role includes legal, technical and administrative assistance, consultancy and support of the bodies of the Congress. 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..

Senate Inspection.

Unit, reporting to the General Secretariat of the Senate, in charge of monitoring and accounting, through different methods, of all acts, documents and proceedings of the General Secretariat of the Senate, from which rights and obligations of financial nature arise and which also involves consultancy in financial matters.

Senate Secretariat.

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.

They are the highest position in management of legal, technical and administrative assistance, consultancy and support to the bodies of the Congress, as well as the head of the administrative services that make up the parliamentary Administration. In the performance of these tasks, it shall report to the Senate Committee and President. They are appointed by the Senate Committee at the proposal of the Presidency, from among the civil employees serving as as Counsellors of the Parliament.

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. For the Senate to establish a Investigative Committee it must be approved by a resolution of the full Senate at the proposal of the Government or of twenty-five Senators that do not belong to the same parliamentary grouping.


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.

Function assigned to the President of the Chamber in order to fill any regulatory gaps present in the Regulations. In the Senate, this function is carried out pursuant to the Regulation Commission 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.

Technical Department of Infrastructures.

Unit within the Senate Secretariat General responsible for providing advice and management with regard to Senate buildings and facilities.

Temporary advisory staff.

Staff providing direct advisory assistance to members of the Bureau, certain members of Parliament and Parliamentary Groups. Staff under temporary contracts will be appointed and dismissed freely by the Speaker of the House, at the proposal of the head of the body to which they will be providing assistance. In any case, this appointment will cease immediately when the individual in charge of the body served is no longer in this position.

Territorial Group.

Group of at least three Senators elected within the territory of a Self-Governing Community or appointed by the same Regional Parliament, and belonging to the same Parliamentary Group.

The Board of Spokespersons.

Body made up of the Speaker of the House and the spokespersons for the Parliamentary Groups. As well as the Spokespersons themselves, the meetings may also be attended by a representative of Government.

In the Senate, the Board of Spokespersons must be heard before setting the agenda for Plenary Sittings, which is determined by the Speaker together with the Bureau; it is heard in relation to various parliamentary initiatives and matters pertaining to the internal organisation of the House, which are in general resolved by the Bureau or the Speaker. Additionally, in practice, it has become a forum where, under the authority of the Speaker of the Senate, suggestions and observations are made about any aspect related to the functioning of the House.


Obtaining the same number of votes for as against in a ballot.

In the Senate, the means of breaking a tie will differ depending on the body in which the ballot has taken place. If it takes place within a Plenary Sitting, a second ballot will be held. If the tie is repeated, a third ballot will be held, and if this once again ends in a tie, it will be understood that the bill, ruling, section, proposition or question at hand has been rejected. In Committee ballots, the same rules as in Plenary Sittings will be applied, unless all the members are present, in which case it will be understood that there is no tie when the equality of votes, being identical in the sense in which all the members of the Committee belonging to the same Parliamentary Group would have voted, could be resolved by weighting the number of votes that each Group has in the Plenary Sitting.

Turn against.

A turn during a debate in which the intervening party makes a statement against the initiative or bill being debated, in other words, advocates its rejection.

Turn of the Spokespersons.

Turn used by the spokespersons of Parliamentary Groups to establish their position about the initiative that is being debated.

Turn to speak.

This is the period of time, distributed in a specific order, in which the member speaks or makes an oral intervention.


The declaration of urgency in legislative proceedings entails a reduction of the timeframes ordinarily established in each of its stages. A declaration of urgency may come from the Government, the Congress of Deputies or the Senate itself. (See "Urgent legislative procedure").

Urgent legislative procedure.

Special legislative procedure which reduces timeframes for channelling an initiative.

The Senate Standing Orders indicate that the declaration of urgency can be made by the Government, the Congress of Deputies or the Senate Bureau, ex officio, or at the request of a Parliamentary Group or a group of twenty-five Senators. If a state of urgency is declared, the Senate has just twenty calendar days to debate and process the initiative.

Use of joint official languages of the Self-Governing Communities.

The Senate Standing Orders regulate the use of joint official languages in the Senate. In addition to Spanish, in some debates and publications, joint official languages may be used as recognised in the Statutes of Autonomy of their respective Self-Governing Communities. This is true for the first intervention of the Senate Speaker when addressing the Senate Plenary Sitting; for interventions that take place within meetings of the General Committee of Self-Governing Communities; interventions that take place in Plenary Sittings when debating motions; the publication of initiatives when they are presented in Spanish and in any of the aforementioned official languages; and the presentation of written documents to the House Register by Senators and written documents submitted by citizens and institutions to the Senate.


Senate's rejection of a governmental or non-governmental bill submitted for its consideration, following debate, by the Congress of Deputies, which requires the approval of an absolute majority of Senators. To overcome this veto, the Congress of Deputies must ratify the text initially submitted by the same absolute majority, or by a simple majority if more than two months have passed since it was interposed.

Vote of no confidence.

Instrument of supervision and control whereby the Congress of Deputies demands political responsibility from the Government. It is rooted in the very essence of the parliamentary regime, founded on the relationship of trust between Parliament and the Government. The Constitution demands that, in order to pass, the absolute majority of Deputies must support the vote of no confidence, in which case the Government will tender its resignation to the King and the candidate proposed in the vote of no confidence will be sworn in as President of the Government.


Member's right to express his or her will regarding any issue that is put to the vote or ballot in the House or the Committee of which they are a member. It can be affirmative (in favour), negative (against), or the member can abstain. It is a personal right and cannot be delegated.

Weighted ballot.

Ballot at which a member of parliament, normally the Spokesperson of a Parliamentary Group, casts as many votes as seats held by the aforementioned Group.

Written question.

Questions requiring a written response by the Government may contain more than one matter. In the Senate, they are processed electronically in their entirety, and are published on the Senate webpage. They are presented in writing to the Speaker of the Senate. They are not subject to a timescale with regard to their formulation. The Government must send its reply within thirty days. If the Government does not provide a response within this timescale, the Senator asking the question may request that the question is included in the agenda of the following session of the relevant Committee with regard to the matter, where it will be treated as an oral question.