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Disclosure Statements for Government Legislation: Technical Guide for Departments

General Instructions for Completing the Disclosure Statement Templates

The information contained in a disclosure statement will be used by a variety of people - from Members of Parliament through to the general public. Many of these people may not have a detailed background in the legislation's subject matter. The information provided in the disclosure statement needs to be accessible for this broad range of people.

As outlined earlier in this guidance, the appropriate disclosure statement template must be used when completing disclosure. It provides structured responses to the disclosure requirements. The template is designed so that each disclosure question is in a form that enables readers to quickly see the response to a question and easily decide whether to investigate any further information that may be available.

The template lists all of the questions for which disclosure is required. The questions are designed to illicit a response to the existence of a particular piece of information, and then direct to where that information can be found if it exists. Disclosure is only required as outlined in the template.

Responding to disclosure questions in the template

Responses to the questions and any additional information provided should:

  • be factually accurate and up-to-date;
  • fairly and honestly describe what has been done or not done;
  • remain neutral in tone;
  • be owned by the department and provided independently of Ministers or other parties; and
  • be written in plain and simple English, and as concisely as possible.

Responses to the questions and any additional information provided should not:

  • seek to advocate or sell the Bill;
  • exclude or obfuscate inconvenient facts or information; and
  • include unnecessary jargon or legalese.

Using the template

Departments must not change the formatting of the template. This is to ensure a consistency of approach across all disclosure statements, and to ensure that the Parliamentary Counsel Office can publish the disclosure statement. Using the formatting styles contained within the template (and outlined below) will mean that departments do not need to make last minute changes for publication to occur.

The following changes to the template are not allowed:

  • altering the structure of the'boxed' question and answer format;
  • removing any of the primary questions (those numbered x.x.); and
  • adding any diagrams, graphics, or tables other than what is already provided for.

The following minor changes to the template are allowed:

  • subsidiary questions (those numbered x.x.x.) can be deleted where they are not applicable due to the response to the primary question; and
  • guidance on the additional information to be provided in response to primary questions should be removed once completed.

When completing disclosure using'free text' in the boxes provided or appendices, the following formatting styles should be used (to ensure smooth publication):

  • Normal paragraph style;
  • Single level lists (ordered and unordered);
  • Underline (via standard toolbar button only);
  • Strikethrough (via standard toolbar button only);
  • Bold (via "strong" style only);
  • Italic (via "emphasis" style only);
  • Heading 2;
  • Heading 3; and
  • Heading 4.

Deviation from these styles is likely to affect the smooth publication of material into HTML, and result in content not being presented as intended, or content being omitted.

Hyperlinks to external websites, or other pages on the disclosure website (not internal links within the document) must be fully described, i.e. they must include http:// or https://

Hyperlinks

Where possible, departments should generally use hyperlinks to refer to information that answers the disclosure questions rather than attempting to replicate information.

As a general piece of advice, while a hyperlink that takes the reader directly into the relevant report could be used, a better option may be to link to a page about the report that also provides a brief introduction or description, access to the report in alternative formats, and perhaps links to other related material. A single webpage containing links to all available material relating to the development of a particular piece of legislation might be one useful approach that simplifies the preparation of information linked in the disclosure statement.

Sensitive information

Information that may be sensitive should not be provided as a part of any disclosure response. The disclosure statement is intended to be used publically in the consideration of legislation, and information should not be withheld when the statement is published.

Correcting disclosure for content changes

There will be occasions where legislation is submitted to the Cabinet for approval and changes are requested to the provisions in the Bill prior to Cabinet's agreement to the introduction of the Bill. In such instances, where the changes affect the disclosure made, the disclosure statement should be updated to reflect the changes to the content of the Bill. An updated version of the disclosure statement should be submitted to Cabinet alongside the updated draft of the legislation (if applicable), and provided to the Parliamentary Counsel Office no later than two working days before introduction.

Errors in disclosure statements

No changes should be made to the disclosure statement once it has been published and the legislation it relates to has been introduced (with the exception of those changes required as a result of a supplementary order paper). This is to ensure that there are not multiple versions in circulation when the Bill is being considered by Parliament (when the disclosure statement is likely to be most utilised by a wide audience).

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