One of the Riksdag’s most important tasks is to make laws. Proposals for new laws, or amendments to existing laws, normally come from the Government in the form of a government bill. However, proposals can also come from one or several members of the Riksdag.
New laws can only be made by the Riksdag. A law that has been adopted can only be stopped or amended if the Riksdag passes a new law. A law may deal with anything from the penalty for shoplifting to the phasing-out of a nuclear power station.
The legislative process - from proposal to law
Find out more about the process of making a law, from start to finish.
The legislative process normally starts with the Government submitting a proposal – a government bill. Members of the Riksdag can also submit proposals to the Riksdag. The members’ proposals are known as private members’ motions. Private members’ motions are often counter-proposals to proposals from the Government.
After a proposal has been submitted, the Speaker informs the Chamber of this. The proposal is then forwarded to one of the parliamentary committees. The committee examines the proposal in greater detail and in turn submits a proposal on the decision it considers the Riksdag should take. The committee’s proposal is known as a committee report. The committees can also submit a proposal for a decision by the Riksdag on their own initiative. This is called a committee initiative.
The parties in the Riksdag discuss the proposal in their party groups and decide what position they are going to adopt.
A debate is then held in the Chamber, where members from the various parties represented in the Riksdag present their opinions on the committee's proposal for a decision by the Riksdag.
The 349 members of the Riksdag then adopt a position on the committee's proposal for a decision. They can vote yes, no or abstain. For a legislative proposal to be adopted, a majority of members of the Riksdag voting must vote in favour of it.
The Government is informed of the Riksdag's decision by way of a written communication from the Riksdag. The Government must then ensure that the decision comes into force.
Commissions of inquiry
Before the Government submits a proposal for a new law to the Riksdag it may need to examine the various alternatives available. The Government appoints a commission of inquiry for this purpose. The commission can comprise one or several people. It may include experts, public officials or politicians.
The commission of inquiry submits its proposals in the form of a report to the Government. The report is then published as part of a series called the Swedish Government Official Reports (SOU). If a Government ministry has carried out the inquiry, the report is published in a series called the Ministry Publications Series (Ds).
An inquiry may, for example, have the number SOU 2021:58. 2021 shows that the inquiry was completed that year and 58 that it was the 58th inquiry of the year.
Referral for consideration
When the report is completed, the Government forwards it to relevant public agencies, organisations and municipalities in order to hear their opinions on the proposals. This is known as referral of a report for consideration. Anyone, including private individuals, is entitled to obtain a copy of the report and to submit comments.
Those wishing to comment on a report normally have at least three months in which to do so. As a rule, their answers should be given in writing so that all parties involved can access them.
Proposals from the Government
The Government writes down its proposals for new legislation in what is called a government bill. Before presenting a new bill, the Government adopts a position on the commission of inquiry’s report and the comments of the referral bodies. If a large proportion of these referral bodies have been negative to the commission of inquiry’s proposals, the Government may decide not to proceed with the new law or may try to find another solution.
Faster decisions in connection with serious incidents
If a government bill requires prompt consideration, the Riksdag may decide, following a proposal from the Government, to reduce the period for submission of private members’ motions. If proposed by the committee or the Speaker, the Riksdag can decide that a matter receive quicker consideration in the committee and the Chamber. In this way, the Riksdag can take a decision on a proposal from the Government three days after the proposal was submitted by the Government.
Fast-track decisions have been taken for several proposals since the spring of 2020 in connection with COVID-19.
The Council on Legislation examines legislative proposals
The Government normally sends draft government bills to the Council on Legislation, which examines whether the proposed legislation contains any problems of a legal nature. It may, for example, conflict with the Constitution or other Swedish laws. It may also go against the rule of law and lead to unfair treatment of the country’s citizens. The Council on Legislation is made up of judges from the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court.
In addition to the Government, the parliamentary committees and the Riksdag Board can also send legislative proposals to the Council on Legislation for comment. The Council on Legislation’s conclusions can then be read in the Government’s or Riksdag body’s proposal.
Once the Government has completed its bill, it sends the proposal to the Riksdag. Each year, the Government presents just over 200 bills to the Riksdag.
Law or ordinance
The Government can also adopt rules that everyone residing in Sweden must follow, without having to present a proposal to the Riksdag first. Such rules are known as ordinances. The Instrument of Government, which is one of Sweden’s fundamental laws, sets out what must be decided by law and what can be decided in an ordinance.
Proposals from members of the Riksdag
The members of the Riksdag may submit proposals to the Riksdag in the form of private members’ motions. These proposals may be submitted by one member or by a group of members.
There are rules that govern when private members' motions can be submitted and what topics they may deal with. Motions can be submitted in conjunction with a proposal from the Government. Members may then submit a counter-proposal no later than 15 days after the Government’s proposal has been presented to the Riksdag. Such motions must concern the same topic as the bill.
General private members’ motions period in the autumn
Once a year, during the general private members’ motions period, members of the Riksdag can write motions on virtually any subject. The general private members’ motions period begins when the Riksdag opens in the autumn and ends 15 days after the Government has submitted the Budget Bill to the Riksdag.
The proposals are received by the Riksdag
When the Government or members of the Riksdag have submitted their proposals to the Riksdag, the Chamber defers (“tables”) its decision. It sends the proposals to the committees which then continue to work with them.
Normally, no debate is held when the Chamber tables a proposal. However, a member of the Riksdag can ask for the floor, and the debate that follows is known as a tabling debate. Members can also ask for the floor when proposals are sent to a committee, even if this is not a common occurrence either. The debate that follows is then known as a referral debate.
The committees consider the proposals
Before the Chamber of the Riksdag decides whether to adopt a proposed law or amendment to law, the proposal must be considered in a parliamentary committee. There are 15 parliamentary committees, each with its own field of responsibility. Proposals on rail traffic are, for example, sent to the Committee on Transport and Communications and proposals on schools are sent to the Committee on Education. Sometimes temporary, joint committees are formed, for example the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
A considerable share of the work in the Riksdag is carried out in the committees. The members of the committees come from the different parties represented in the Riksdag. The larger parties have more members than the smaller parties. In this way, the composition of the committees usually reflects the balance of power in the Chamber.
The members of a committee start by reading up on the proposal, i.e., government bill or motion. They check, for example, how the bill corresponds to previous legislation They also examine whether the proposal is compliant with the committees’ earlier comments to the Government on the matter. Sometimes, the committee will invite experts or representatives of different organisations to obtain further information and to ask their opinions. Such hearings are sometimes open to the public. Other committee meetings are held behind closed doors.
The committee’s proposal for a decision
In the committees, the members discuss what they think of the proposals they are presented with. When the committee has decided what stand to take, it presents its proposal for a decision in a committee report.
The committee’s proposal is based on what the majority of members of the committee think. Members who do not agree may submit reservations on the matter. In their reservations, the minority give an account of their view of the matter.
Initiatives from the committees
A committee can also submit proposals to the Riksdag on subjects belonging to its area of responsibilities on its own initiative. In these cases, the proposal does not come in the form of a government bill or a private member’s motion, but as a committee initiative. The committee presents its proposal for a decision by the Riksdag in a report.
The members consult their party groups
Together, the members of a party form the parliamentary party group. In the party group the members discuss and prepare the matters that the committees are working with. The members of the various committees consult their party groups. Each member has an individual seat in the Riksdag, and there are no rules that compel the members to follow the party line and do what the party group thinks.
The Chamber debates and decides
The proposal – the committee report – that the committee has submitted to the Chamber presents how the committee considers that the Riksdag should decide on the matter. But before the Riksdag takes a decision, the members receive a copy of the report in order to give them time to read it. A debate is often held before a decision is taken. In other cases, the members agree and there is no need for a debate.
If a debate is held, the members of the committee that has considered the proposal begin by presenting their views. The debates are open to all members of the Riksdag. The official reporters of the parliamentary record write down everything that is said in the Chamber. The record and debates are all open to the public.
The Chamber takes a decision
Once the members have concluded their debate it is time for a decision. If there is just one proposal the Speaker, who presides over the Chamber, asks whether the Chamber can accept the proposal. If there are several proposals, they are set against each other. In this case, a vote is held. The record shows how the parties have voted. Most decisions in the Riksdag are taken by simple majority, that is, that more than half of the members voting support a certain position.
The Riksdag then sends a written communication to the Government to inform it of its decision. The communication from the Riksdag takes the form of a brief message. More detailed information about the decision is contained in the relevant committee report.
When EU legislation is implemented in Sweden
As a result of Sweden's membership of the European Union, the EU institutions can take decisions that involve the introduction of new laws in Sweden.
The European Commission can present proposals for EU legislation which, following a decision by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, result in a regulation or a directive. A directive is form of EU legislation that sets an objective to be achieved, but leaves the member states to decide how exactly to go about this. Directives require supplementary national legislation. A regulation, on the other hand, applies directly and in exactly the same way in all EU member states.
When new EU legislation is to be implemented in Sweden, the procedure is the same as when laws initiated in Sweden are adopted: the Government presents a proposal for new legislation, the parliamentary committees work with the proposal and the Chamber takes a decision to introduce the new law.
Before proposals in the form of government bills and motions are presented to the Riksdag, the Riksdag can submit its comments on the EU document on which the piece of EU legislation is based, and which in the longer term affects laws in Sweden. The committees do this by means of an examination known as a subsidiarity check. They present their conclusions in reasoned opinions which are contained in statements.
The Government implements the Riksdag’s decisions
After the Riksdag has decided to adopt a new law, the first task for the Government is to ensure that the law is published in the Swedish Code of Statutes (SFS). The Code of Statutes is available on the Internet, where it can be accessed by anyone.
It is the Government’s task to implement the Riksdag’s decisions, that is to ensure that they are enforced in the way intended by the Riksdag. The Government Offices, including the ministries, public agencies and state-owned companies, assist the Government in this task.
The public agencies and state-owned companies are all accountable to the Government and put into practice the decisions taken by the Riksdag and the Government. The Swedish Police, the Swedish Tax Agency and the National Board of Health and Welfare are all examples of public agencies. The public agencies are independent in their processing of matters, but the Government issues guidelines for their work. Within this framework, each agency works on its own responsibility. In Sweden “ministerial rule” is prohibited. This means that the Government can direct but cannot intervene in the everyday work of the public agencies.
The Riksdag follows up its decisions
Every year, the Government submits a written communication to the Riksdag in which it presents the measures taken as a result of the Riksdag’s various decisions. The Committee on the Constitution considers the communication, after which there is a debate and decision in the Chamber. This is a way for the Riksdag to follow up its own decisions.
There are a number of other ways for the Riksdag to follow up its decisions. If the Riksdag is not satisfied with the Government’s handling of a matter, the Riksdag can make an announcement to the Government, asking it to take another course of action in the matter. The parliamentary committees also evaluate and follow up various decisions by the Riksdag, for example, how new laws have functioned in practice.