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Parliament squares up to busy weeks ahead

Parliamentarians have a lot of reading to pack into the next three weeks

(Keystone)

The autumn parliamentary session begins on Monday with a full agenda spread over three weeks.

In that time, the House of Representatives has to scrutinise amendments to the asylum law and the liberalisation of the electricity market, while debates in the Senate will focus on health insurance.

Three days of discussion are scheduled for the House to iron out differences on revisions to legislation on asylum and foreigners' rights.

While the House of Representatives more or less follows the line of the cabinet and the Senate, agreeing that asylum law has to be tightened, there is one main difference.

It is against the Senate's decision to withhold emergency benefits from failed asylum seekers, who are able to return to their country of origin.

Liberalisation

The House of Representatives will also be taking a new look at liberalising the electricity sector.

A parliamentary commission has recommended that the market should be opened up in one go for both large customers as well as for households.

The unions have threatened to hold a referendum should the market be liberalised in this way.

The commission has separate plans to look at renewable-energy sources.

Ad ban

The new radio and television law is also set to be discussed.

A parliamentary committee is proposing that the ban on advertising alcoholic drinks should be extended to private regional and national television programmes.

The two houses have still to agree on how much of the licence fees paid to the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation should go to private companies. The future of swissinfo will also be under discussion.

Hospital finance

The Senate will be the first house to analyse new ways of funding hospitals.

Its advisory commission has already rejected a proposal by the cabinet, which called on cantons and health insurers to equally divide the costs of financing hospitals. It proposed instead its own model.

However, the sharing of the costs of the basic health-insurance system will remain unchanged – the insurers will pay 70 per cent, 30 per cent of which the cantons will refund.

Child benefit

The House of Representatives' drive to harmonise child benefit across Switzerland will be discussed by the Senate.

A Senate commission has already agreed that each child should receive SFr200 ($158) a month, while young people in education would get SFr250.

However, a people's initiative is calling for a minimum of SFr450 per child and the Senate has to respond to this.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Parliament opens for business on Monday for the autumn session with a packed agenda.

Matters to be discussed include: asylum legislation, child benefit, hospital finance, the radio and television law (which includes the future of swissinfo) and the liberalisation of the energy market.

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