A total of 101 members of parliament have been fined for missing parliamentary committee meetings, according to a report from the Regards Citoyens pressure group.

"/> A total of 101 members of parliament have been fined for missing parliamentary committee meetings, according to a report from the Regards Citoyens pressure group.

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Absent MPs fined for not showing up

A total of 101 members of parliament have been fined for missing parliamentary committee meetings, according to a report from the Regards Citoyens pressure group.

A law in 2009 stipulated that any MP who failed to give advance warning of absence from the meetings would be fined after missing two of the sessions. MPs are expected to pay up to €355 for each missed meeting.

The lower house of the French parliament, the Assemblée Nationale, has eight permanent committees (known as commissions) covering subjects including foreign affairs and public finances. The membership of the committees reflects the balance of parties in the chamber and they meet most Wednesday mornings.

The president of the Assemblée Nationale confirmed that “20 to 30 MPs are fined each month,” but declined to give names.

However, the Regards Citoyens group has published the full list on its site nosdeputes.fr for the 2010-2011 session. The total of all fines comes to €95,140.

Top of the list is Patrick Balkany, an MP with Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party. He missed all 33 of his committee’s meetings, landing a fine of €4,615. Newspaper Le Parisien reported that he admitted being fined but contested the amount claimed. 

Balkany told the newspaper “during this session I’ve missed a certain number of meetings before and after my operation and I’m still convalescing.”

A total of six MPs missed all their committee meetings, including the leader of the UMP group in parliament, Jean-François Copé and Socialist primary contender Arnaud Montebourg.

Montebourg’s opponent in the race to win the party’s nomination to be its presidential candidate, François Hollande, missed 15 of his committee meetings and incurred a €1,065 fine.

As for the MPs who attended most meetings, it seems that having the name Jean is a sign of good behaviour. The top three attendees, missing just 14 meetings out of a total 97 were, in order of merit, Jean-Yves Le Bouillonec (Socialist party), Jean-Louis Christ (UMP) and Jean-Paul Lecoq (Communist party).

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Mittal seen as winner in steel plant deal

Lakshmi Mittal has emerged as a clear winner in his battle with the heavyweights of French politics according to ringside observers of the Indian tycoon's bruising bout over the future of a threatened steel plant.

Mittal seen as winner in steel plant deal
Lakshmi Mittal (Photo: ArcelorMittal)

French President Francois Hollande on Monday warned Mittal that he would be held to the letter of an 11th-hour deal in which he agreed to preserve threatened jobs at the plant in northeastern France and to provide 180 million euros ($235 million) of investment over the next five years.

The accord was concluded on Friday night, hours before a deadline after which the government had threatened to nationalise the plant.

It emerged on Monday that Arnaud Montebourg, the industrial renewal minister who had issued the nationalisation threat, was so disappointed with the terms of the deal that he had threatened to resign before being talked out of it by Hollande.

The president on Monday played down divisions in his cabinet, instead turning the focus back onto Mittal.

"The entire government is behind this accord and wants to see it implemented and respected," Hollande said.

"All the force of the law will be brought to bear if it is not."
But according to industry experts, the fine print of the 'deal' struck with Mittal bore little difference to what his company ArcelorMittal had always planned.
"There were no significant concessions," said Guy Dolle, a former boss of Arcelor.

Jean-Louis Pierquin, another former director of the group, added: "Mittal is only implementing his initial plan.

"The 180-million-euro investment would have been made in any case — it adds up to 36 million euros a year, which is not that different to the 30 million a year they have spent on the plant for the last seven or eight years."

Dolle said the absence of a redundancy programme was also an illusory victory for the government, as staff numbers will be whittled down by natural wastage.

"It wasn't necessary given the age profile of the staff," he pointed out.

Pierquin agreed: "No redundancy programme does not mean that jobs won't be eliminated."

ArcelorMittal has said it will be negotiating with unions to allow for some workers to leave on a voluntary basis and the government has conceded that the total number of jobs at the plant may fall due to early retirement/redundancy deals.

At the heart of the row between the company and the government was the future of two idled blast furnaces on the site, which Mittal wanted to close.

The weekend agreement ensures they will be kept in a mothballed state which, theoretically, means they could be reopened quickly and the government has talked up plans for a potential conversion to a more environmentally friendly use.

Mittal however has only agreed to delay temporarily a definitive closure of the furnaces and the conversion depends on EU financing.

If that is not forthcoming, the full closure will go ahead.

The confrontational stance adopted by Montebourg in the row with Mittal —  seen in India as having xenophobic overtones — prompted criticism from business leaders that potential foreign investors in France would be deterred by the prospect of government meddling in company decision-making.

On a visit to Paris on Monday, British Business Secretary Vince Cable highlighted a significant difference between the way Mittal had been treated in France and Britain's relationship with Tata, the Indian company which owns much of the British steel industry.

"Tata take a long-term view and we are very pleased with them," Cable said.

"The problem is there is massive overcapacity in the steel industry so there is going to be contraction.
"We would encourage producers to do it in as humane and thoughtful a way as possible but there is not point attacking them for it."