French PM forces pro-business bill through parliament

French Economy and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron (L) with Prime Minister Manuel Valls  at the French National Assembly
French Economy and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron (L) with Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the French National Assembly CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
3 min

France’s Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday justified his decision to bypass parliament on a controversial pro-business economic reform bill, saying that France “badly needs a bit of authority”.


“I am determined to make France go forward,” he said in an interview on TF1 television on Tuesday night. “France is in a serious situation, particularly in terms of unemployment and the health of [French] businesses. These reforms will go through with the authority of the government and the president.”

“Don’t think for a second that I’m going to waste any more time with those who have other [partisan] objectives,” he added.

Earlier on Tuesday Valls announced that the bill, authored by France’s energetic and youthful banker-turned-economy minister Emmanuel Macron, would be forced through after opposition and backbench rebels threatened to block its progress.

Under French law, the government can invoke a special power that would allow bills to be passed in the lower house without a vote, using Constitutional Article 49-3.

Rivals have 24 hours to file a censure motion that would force a vote of confidence on the government, a move that is not considered likely.

The so-called Macron Law (all French bills are named after their sponsors) is aimed at freeing up France's stringent labour rules to invigorate hiring and investment.

It contains a patchwork of measures from easing layoffs to boosting Sunday shopping – the issue at the heart of the battle.

Only a scant number of French shops, mainly in tourist areas, are open on Sundays at the moment.

The areas where this is allowed would be multiplied under the Macron Law and could include some Riviera cities.

Importantly, shops would be able to stay open until midnight. In non-tourist areas, the law would allow shops to be open up to 12 Sundays a year instead of the five now permitted.

Hollande is pinning his hopes on the Macron reforms, plus a package of tax breaks for business in return for job pledges, known as the Responsibility Pact.

He has vowed not to seek re-election in the next presidential vote in 2017 if he fails to reduce unemployment.

These reforms are going to go through with the necessary authority [to stop any unwelcome spanners in the works],” Valls said. “No one should doubt our determination on this score. We will continue making the necessary reform right through till 2017.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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