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Support for Good Legislative Design

Page updated 28 Jul 2016

Legislative drafting by Parliamentary Counsel

The Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) provides expert law drafting services to the government as well as providing public access to legislation. Almost all government Bills and Legislative Instruments are drafted by the PCO.

The PCO publishes a Guide to Working with the PCO, which includes advice and a checklist for departments on providing good drafting instructions to the PCO.

The PCO also champions the accessibility of legislation, which includes concern for the logical structure, ordering and readability of the statute book as a whole. As part of this, the PCO develops and manages the government’s triennial statute law revision programme for each new parliament. It also encourages government agencies to consider opportunities to rewrite legislation that has become hard to use, often due to accumulated piecemeal amendments and additions over time.  The PCO can advise agencies that administer legislation on any high-value rewrite opportunities within their portfolio.

LAC Guidelines on Process and Content of Legislation

The New Zealand government has adopted the LAC Guidelines (2014 edition) as the key point of reference for Ministers and departments when assessing whether draft legislation conforms to accepted legal and constitutional principles.

In each subject area covered in its chapters, the Guidelines identify a default approach or position that should be adopted unless there is a good reason to the contrary. Papers to Cabinet seeking permission to introduce a Bill, or submit a regulation to the Executive Council, are expected to identify and explain any departures from the default approach. A checklist of the default principles is available to help departments identify such departures.

The Legislation Design and Advisory Committee

The Legislation Design and Advisory Committee (LDAC) provides advice to government agencies about the design and content of government Bills early in their development, when legislative proposals and drafting instructions are being prepared. The LDAC is also responsible for maintaining the LAC Guidelines.

LDAC members are government officials with extensive policy, legal or economics backgrounds. The LDAC website has more information about the LDAC and how it can be contacted, as well as historical records relating to the work of the LAC.

Advice on offences and penalties, and court jurisdictions

The Cabinet Manual (in paragraph 7.31) requires departments to consult the Ministry of Justice on “all proposals to create new criminal offences and penalties or alter existing ones, to ensure that such provisions are consistent and appropriate”. Departmental questions about offences and penalties can be sent to:

The Ministry of Justice should also be consulted about proposals that impact on the jurisdiction of a court or tribunal, including on people’s rights to judicial review and rights of appeal.

The consistency of legislation with the New Zealand Bill of Rights

The Ministry of Justice provides assistance and guidance to government departments to ensure human rights considerations are integrated into the development of policy proposals, and that policies, practices and legislation are developed consistently with the human rights standards applicable in New Zealand.  Departmental questions about human rights issues can be sent to:

The Attorney-General is required by statute to bring to the attention of the House of Representatives any provision in a Bill that appears to be inconsistent with any of the rights and freedoms contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. To support this function, the Ministry of Justice provides advice to the Attorney-General in relation to non-Justice Bills, with the Crown Law Office advising the Attorney-General on Justice Bills. The advice provided is published at the discretion of the Attorney-General.

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