Legislation: Drafting and Review

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Parliament has two key functions related to lawmaking. The first is to draft legislation and amendments to laws. The second is to scrutinize the draft laws before the parliament prior to adoption.

Drafting Legislation – There is a common but mistaken understanding that parliaments are the primary source for the drafting of new laws. The rate by which individual MPs draft laws depends on the parliamentary system, but most draft laws introduced to parliament have been initiated and drafted by the executive branch. Many parliaments provide the right to introduce draft laws to MPs, in some jurisdictions known as a Private Member’s Bill, but most of these draft laws are never debated. Some parliaments enable committees to develop and introduce draft laws. A small number of parliaments allow citizens to introduce draft laws where a minimum number of signatures have been obtained or where a referendum has been approved.

No matter where the draft laws originate, it is common for MPs to be able to move amendments to draft laws during debate, either in committee or during specific plenary sessions. However, legal drafting is a complex a detailed form of legal work, with few true experts, and many MPs do not have access to this expertise to enable them to draft legally sound amendments. For more information on legislative drafting, please click here.

Reviewing Legislation – No matter how a draft law is introduced into a parliament, it is the clear mandate of all parliaments to review and scrutinise the draft before it is approved. The review process has two aspects – one technical and one consultative.

There are usually several stages to the review of a draft law, thus preventing a parliament or government from passing a law too hastily. Many parliaments require that a draft law be tabled in the assembly for at least one or two days between stages of debate, allowing time for interested parties to be notified and for MPs to consider the ramifications of the proposal. Stages of the review process vary between parliaments but many include the following:

Committee Stage

Approval of the Draft Law in Principle

Clause-by-Clause Review

Final Adoption of the Draft Law

It is at the committee stage of the process, no matter when it occurs, that parliaments should be engaging citizens and interested parties and organizations to solicit their opinions on the proposed law. This is an opportunity for MPs and parliamentary groups to gain access to and ask questions of those that live and work within the subject matter of the proposed law and to hear their opinions and expertise on the topic, before proposing amendments or deciding whether or not to support the adoption of the law.

Such consultations can include formal public hearings or less formal opportunities to solicit feedback, including online submissions, field visits and town hall meetings. For more information on legislative review process, please click here.