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French government rams through economy law against left opposition

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Prime Minister Manuel Valls (L) with Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

France's government has resorted to enabling legislation to ram through economic reforms that have aroused opposition on the left of the ruling Socialist Party. The bill is set to become law on Saturday, since the right-wing opposition has not tabled a motion of no-confidence over the procedure.


For the third time President François Hollande's government has invoked article 49.3 of the constitution that allows a government to pass a law without parliament's approval.

All three times have been to force through the Macron law, named after banker-turned-Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, and have allowed the government to avoid the embarrassment of having to rely on right-wing or centre votes or abstention to pass a law that the left considers to be inspired by free-market liberalism.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The bill is actually something of a grab-bag of proposals, which Macron and Prime Minister Manuel Valls argue are needed to modernise France's economy and administration.

"It is perahps even more useful today," Valls told parliament on Thursday, "at a moment when the world faces a crisis, that of Greece, but also with concerns over what is happening in China [where the government has intervened to try to stop a slide on the Shanghai stock exchange]."

The most controversial measures include extending Sunday trading, increasing competition for the rail network by coach companies and placing a cap on the amount that employment tribunals can award to employees they find have been unjustly treated.

The right did table a no-confidence motion when the government used the measure during a previous reading but the Socialist rebels, who had threatened to vote against the bill, refused to back the move because it would have brought down the government.

Since the opposition hasn't bothered to go through the motions this time, the bill will become law 24 hours after the government invoked 49.3, on Saturday afternoon.