(Yomiuri: March 31, 2015 – p. 4)
Diet commissions tasked with inspecting the government’s management of the state secrecy law held their first meetings on March 30 since the law came into effect three months ago. The panels have been set up in both Diet houses. Although the panels can issue recommendations for improvements in the government’s designation and declassification of special secrets, they are not legally binding. Therefore, the effectiveness of the law will be an issue. With an eye on the first government report envisaged in June, the two panels intend to come up with operational rules from now on.
Fukushiro Nukaga, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, was elected as chairman of the commission for the House of Representatives. Each panel has eight members.
The two commissions are permanent panels that receive annual reports from the government on its designation and declassification of special secrets. The panels can call on the government to submit special secrets if necessary and if they judge that there is a problem with the government’s designation and declassification, they can issue recommendations. However, since the recommendations are not legally binding, the government can reject them.
The government announced in January that it has designated 382 secrets as special state secrets. It will likely submit its first report to the commissions in June. The Lower House commission consists of five LDP members, and one member each from the Komeito party, the Democratic Party of Japan, and the Japan Innovation Party. The commission for the House of Councillors is made up of four LDP members, one Komeito member, two DPJ members, and one JIP member. More than one-third of the panel members’ attendance is required for the panel to hold a meeting. A majority of the attendees at a meeting must approve decisions, including those calling for the government to submit special secrets. These rules pose major obstacles for the opposition parties.
The opposition camp has been criticizing the fact that the commissions have no legal authority. DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano told reporters in the Diet building on March 30: “We are not satisfied at all because the system is inadequate.”
In response, Genjiro Kaneko of the LDP, who was selected as the chairman of the commission for the Upper House, responded by saying, “Recommendations carry weight. They are certainly not toothless. (Slightly abridged)