The Liberal Democratic Party and Liberal Party agreed Wednesday to introduce 26 deputy minister posts in January 2001, when the government must slim down the administration.

The 26 deputies will be appointed by their respective ministers or agency heads and be responsible for handling policy affairs, answering questions at Diet sessions and acting for the minister in times of absence, according to the agreement.

The agreement effectively concludes working-level talks begun in November on abolishing the Diet interpellation system, where bureaucrats answer questions addressed to Cabinet ministers. During the formation of the coalition government in January, the LDP and Liberal Party decided to abolish the system and create the post of deputy minister to give more power to administrative politicians. But specifics, such as the number of the new posts, had remained unresolved.

The two parties will call on opposition parties as early as today to jointly submit the bill to the current Diet session as soon as possible, Tadamori Oshima, a project team member from the LDP, said. The two sides also agreed they would appoint another 27 politicians at the same time to new posts within administration, to support ministers while dealing with particular policies.

The Liberal Party had initially demanded that the posts be created in 2000, but the LDP insisted the system be introduced in 2001, when the current 22 ministries and agencies are to be slimmed down to just 12 ministries and one agency.

The parties also compromised on increasing the number of parliamentary vice ministers — existing posts filled by lawmakers — at each ministry until the deputy minister system is introduced in 2001. The parliamentary vice ministers will then be replaced by those taking the new posts, according to the agreement.

The agreement also stated that bureaucrats are allowed to explain policies at Diet sessions only if there is a request from lawmakers.

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