The Members of the National Council
The Responsibilities of Members
The 183 Members of the National Council are under the obligation to attend the sittings of the National Council and of the committees of which they are members. If a Member is prevented from attending a committee sitting, it is either represented by a deputy member or by another National Council Member belonging to the same parliamentary group.
The work of Members is not confined to their central responsibilities such as the introduction, preliminary deliberation and adoption of laws and the supervision of the Government. They also see it as their duty to keep in touch with the public, in particular in the constituency in which they have been elected, and to take part in the far-flung international activities of Parliament.
The Legal Position of National Council Members
Newly elected Members take office already upon depositing their credentials with the Parliamentary Administration, not, as is often believed, when the National Council is sworn in. The “legal position of a Member of the National Council“ begins with the inception of the legislative period and ends, in general, with the first sitting of the new National Council, or – if the National Council is prematurely dissolved by the Federal President – on the day of dissolution.
National Council seats also fall vacant upon the resignation of a Member, on his/her death or loss of mandate – for instance for prolonged failure to attend National Council sittings without justification – and if his/her election has been invalid.
Incompatibility and Transparency
The legal position of a Member of the National Council is held incompatible with various other functions. Thus, Members of the National Council cannot at the same time be members of the European Parliament or the Federal Council, and they can only continue to work as judges, public prosecutors or civil servants in the public administration if an objective and impartial conduct of their business is deemed possible.
The President of the National Council and the chairpersons of parliamentary groups are, as a matter of principle, not allowed to pursue any other occupation side by side with their official functions.
In 2012 and 2013 the Incompatibility Act was thoroughly reformed under the new name Incompatibility and Transparency Act. It obliges the Members of the Federal and National Councils to disclose certain leading positions they hold in companies and foundations as well as certain professional and prominent honorary activities. This information is published on the parliamentary website.
To accomplish their manifold tasks a minimum of five Members of the National Council may unite to form a parliamentary group. A membership of five is also the prerequisite for the exercise of certain parliamentary rights, such as the right to table private Members’ motions or to move urgent questions or urgent motions.
Free Mandate and Immunity
The free mandate is a basic principle of representative democracies. This means that Members are not bound by any directives in the exercise of their duties. This freedom is also underpinned by what is called parliamentary immunity, which means that Members can never be held responsible for how they have voted, and can only be held responsible by the National Council itself for any oral or written statements they may have made before the National Council.
The prosecution of a Member for punishable offences presupposes the approval of the National Council if a connection between the alleged offence and his/her activity as a Member of the National Council is presumed.
The Remuneration of Members
The remuneration of Members is laid down in the Federal Remuneration Act of 1997, which introduced a uniform remuneration system and remuneration ceiling for politicians on both the federal and provincial levels. Remunerations are staggered in accordance with the level of responsibility (Remuneration Pyramid).
Gross monthly salaries of National Council members currently amount to EUR 8,755.80. Under the Parliamentary Assistants Act all National Council members are entitled to a fixed monthly allowance to cover the costs of employing one to two assistants.