This debate consists of up to 12 x 10-minute speeches.
In this debate, the Minister sets out the reason for the Bill and what it is intended to achieve. At the beginning of the speech, the Minister must nominate the select committee to consider the Bill and indicate any special conditions (for example, an early reporting date or the ability to meet outside normal hours). If a reporting date shorter than 4 months is set, it is a debateable motion.
The department provides an initial briefing to the select committee on the policy the Bill is intended to implement.
The SSC provides guidance on the role of officials appearing before and working with select committees.
It is very useful for the PCO, departmental officials, and the committee clerk to meet early, before the initial briefing, to discuss the timing of the Bill and any procedural matters.
It’s helpful to share your draft initial briefing with your PCO drafter in advance in case they have any comments.
Remember to keep your drafter in the loop throughout the select committee process, and ensure that they participate in timetabling and other discussions with the committee clerk.
The select committee calls for submissions from the public, and hears submitters if they wish to be heard. Generally, committees allow 6 weeks for submissions. Departmental officials attend all meetings, while drafters only attend some. The committee clerk provides copies of submissions to departmental officials and the PCO.
The department analyses the submissions and prepares a report that summarises the issues raised in the submissions and by the committee, and provides recommendations on those issues to the committee. The departmental report may also include issues that the department wishes the committee to consider.
The department should keep the Minister informed on progress of the Bill as appropriate. If the departmental report proposes policy changes, Ministerial or Cabinet approval of the policy is required, depending on the significance of the policy.
Test your ideas for change with your drafter as soon as possible, and then also provide your draft departmental report to your drafter for their comments on workability and flow-on issues that may need to be addressed. This is essential given that there is often a tight turnaround for drafting the amendments.
It’s helpful to note in the departmental report that the PCO may also make minor or technical changes to improve the workability of the Bill and the clarity of the drafting, and that any wording recommended by the report is subject to PCO advice. This preserves necessary flexibility.
The department presents its departmental report, focusing on the main issues. The committee goes through the issues, and makes decisions on whether or not it wishes to adopt the recommendations (or make different decisions).
The committee’s decisions are, in effect, the policy decisions that the PCO needs to implement in the revision-tracked Bill.
Drafters may ask questions to clarify the committee’s thinking during consideration of the RT Bill, particularly if consequential issues are likely to arise for drafting.
The PCO drafts the amendments to the Bill in a “revision-tracked” document (called an RT Bill) to implement the committee’s decisions on the departmental report.
While the departmental report will provide sufficient instructions for minor changes to the RT Bill, the PCO often needs the department to provide additional instructions.
The PCO often sends the draft RT Bill to the committee clerk once it is settled to help the clerk prepare the committee’s commentary on the changes. The clerk sends this commentary to both you and the PCO to check factual accuracy. It is often helpful for you and the PCO to consolidate comments.
The PCO presents the RT Bill to the select committee. What is required will depend on the nature of the Bill, the extent of changes, the level of controversy, and whether there are unresolved issues. The PCO may give a very quick presentation (sometimes just alerting them to any changes or developments from the departmental report), or may need to go through the detail of each change proposed to the Bill. If questions arise on the policy in presenting the RT Bill, your drafter may ask you to respond to these.
Following consideration of the RT Bill, the committee considers its commentary. Usually select committee staff will have provided a draft commentary to officials and the PCO for checking factual accuracy.
If new policy issues have arisen in drafting where the department has instructed the PCO to take a particular approach, the department is likely to need to provide a supplementary briefing on the point and be prepared to speak to this.
The committee votes on the amendments in the RT Bill. If the committee is tied, the amendment will not be recommended.
This debate consists of up to 12 x 10-minute speeches, and cannot be held until 3 working days after the committee has reported back.
In this debate, the House decides whether to agree to the principle (policy) of the Bill as a whole, and to the amendments that the select committee has recommended.