File photo: A general view shows members of the Egyptian parliament attending the opening session at the main headquarters of Parliament in Cairo, Egypt, January 10, 2016 Reuters
Egypt's parliament ended a two-month summer recess on Tuesday, with MPs returning to a new session with a different legislative agenda.
In an opening procedural sitting on Tuesday, parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal informed MPs that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has asked parliament in an official letter to open new debates on a law regulating clinical trials and medical research.
El-Sisi's letter said that the implementation of the law, passed by parliament last May, has exposed fundamental flaws.
"Some of the most controversial articles of this law have sparked serious reactions and divided public opinion into either strong sceptics or feverish supporters," said El-Sisi's letter, adding that "the president's office has also received important remarks from some scientific and professional circles and all indicate that some of the law's articles are still a matter of severe controversy."
El-Sisi's letter said articles 4, 5, 9, 11, 19, 20, and 22 need a new debate that takes all different points of view into consideration.
"One of these articles, for example, stipulates the approval of the general intelligence, and the national watchdog authorities on research, a task which is very difficult to implement, noting that number of researches in this respect exceed 16,000 per year," El-Sisi's letter said.
In response, speaker Abdel-Aal said that as the president is authorised by the constitution to refer laws back to parliament to open new debates on them, the law regulating clinical trials and medical research will be referred to parliament's general committee.
"It will open a new debate on it and prepare a report to be discussed and voted on in a plenary session," said Abdel-Aal.
Abdel-Aal urged MPs to put national interests above all considerations. "This does not mean we are against criticism as long as it aims to correct positions and pushes the country forward," said Abdel-Aal.
Deputy parliament speaker El-Sayed El-Sherif told reporters that "the two laws regulating local councils and criminal procedures will feature prominently on parliament's agenda in the new session."
"We have other laws on traffic regulations and new education systems, in addition to the amendment of the clinical trials law," said El-Sherif.
Abdel-Hadi El-Qasabi, the newly-elected head of parliament's majority coalition Support Egypt, told MPs that the majority is ready to open its heart and mind to all, particularly opposition and independent MPs.
"But all should know that we are in a critical stage and so we say welcome to all views as long as they aim to push Egypt forward," said El-Qasabi.
Speaker Abdel-Aal said that MPs can change their membership in parliament's 25 committees until 2pm Tuesday.
"MPs can lodge official requests with parliament's secretary-general, asking to change their positions from one committee to another, but only until 2 pm," said Abdel-Aal, indicating that "the election of the leading posts of the 25 committees will be held on Wednesday afternoon."
Abdel-Aal referred a number of foreign agreements and one law to committees to review and prepare reports. Topping the list is an agreement on the implementation of Russia's industrial area in the Suez Canal zone. Another agreement is on Egypt joining the Arab League's Charter on Human Rights.
A law regulating the performance of the Public Organisation of National Archives and Documents was referred to the culture and budget committees to be discussed.
In its procedural sitting on Tuesday, parliament approved President El-Sisi nominating three officials to the post of deputy ministers. Parliament endorsed the appointment of ambassador Hamdy Loza as deputy foreign minister; Amr Abdel-Salam as deputy transportation minister; and Tamer El-Sayed Essam as deputy health minister.
At the end of the debate, MPs, upon an invitation from Minister of Defence Mohamed Ahmed Zaki, moved to visit the headquarters of the Egyptian air force in Nasr City east of Cairo.
Deputy speaker El-Sherif said MPs will review the latest modernisation of Egypt's air force.
"This includes new weapons, buildings and techniques," said El-Sherif, adding that "MPs will seize the opportunity to congratulate the minister of defence on the anniversary of the 6 October War of 1973."