In addition to its legislative function, Parliament also has other important functions such as that of policy setting and scrutiny of the Government's activity. In order to carry out their various tasks the two Houses also have all the fact-finding tools they need to acquire information (from the Government but also from other sources).
The Chamber (as well as the Senate) also possesses other instruments with which to define guidelines specifying or completing the programme underlying the relationship of confidence:
Written questions are addressed to the Government by one or more parliamentarians in order to ascertain whether a given fact is true, whether the Government is informed thereof and what action, if any, it intends to take (Rule 128, paragraph 2).
Questions may involve an oral answer given on the Floor of the House or in the Committees, or a written answer.
Among the different questions there are the so-called questions with immediate answers (similar to the British Question Time) on the Floor of the House (with live TV broadcasting) or in the Committees and whose procedure is faster and more immediate than the normal procedure.
Interpellations, which only take place on the Floor of the House, are written, substantiated questions addressed by individual parliamentarians to the Government concerning its conduct on given issues and the action the Executive intends to take (Rule 138, paragraph 2).
In practice, the Government, also at the request of the Groups, may disclose urgent information to the Chamber of Deputies on matters that are particularly important or topical.
Committees have the power to carry out fact-finding investigations into matters that fall within their scope of competence in order to gather elements useful to their work and to the work of the Chamber of Deputies as a whole, and may hold hearings with any person who is able to offer evidence useful for the purposes of the enquiry. A verbatim report is published of the meetings of Committees acting in an investigating capacity.
The Committees frequently hold hearings with members of the Government to seek clarification on administrative and policy issues relating to their scope of competence. The Committees may also take testimony from managers in the public sector and public authorities as prescribed by Rule 143, paragraph 2.
These hearings are subject to a particular set of rules relating to public disclosure (in particular, the verbatim report of the hearing is published). In practice, the Committees have by now established the right to take testimony from other parties, though on an informal basis (without the publication of verbatim reports). For example, they may hold informal hearings with persons representing important sections of civil society, professional bodies and, indeed, with anyone who has expertise in the subject being examined.
One of the prerogatives of the Chamber of Deputies is to hold enquiries into matters of public interest by setting up Committees of Enquiry (including joint Committees), which have the same powers and limitations as judicial authorities.
The law specifies that Parliament should give its opinion on many Government legislative instruments. Generally speaking, the opinion is required for all appointments of presidents and chairpersons of public authorities and for all draft legislative decrees that allow the exercise of delegated powers for more than two years.
Further, many laws require the preliminary opinion of Parliament in relation to the enabling provisions for their implementation (legislative decrees, rulings and other provisions).
In this case, the Government, having approved its legislative instruments (be it a proposed appointment, draft legislative decree or regulation), passes it to the Houses of Parliament whose Presidents assign it to the appropriate Standing Committees (though in some cases, special Committees, including joint Committees, may be set up for the purpose). The Committees examine the instrument and issue an opinion on it.