Whole Step-by-Step Guide (Text Only)

This page was last updated on 3 November 2020

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Ideas

Ideas for law changes come from many places. Ministers may wish to make changes to current settings to meet Government policy. A crisis may highlight a previously unknown gap or problem with laws. Innovation or change in markets or technology may mean existing laws no longer work as well as they did. The department may generate proposals from its ongoing stewardship assessments of the law and systems it monitors.

Department does policy and legal analysis

Who does what?

The department analyses the idea to develop the policy proposal. This can be a long and complex process. The department is likely to need to consult the public and within government, prepare a regulatory impact statement (RIS), and engage with the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee (LDAC).

Tips: It’s a good idea to assess the following early: the purpose of the policy proposal, whether legislation is really necessary, who needs to be consulted (and when), and your timing. Good project management is essential. Bring your legal advisers in early.

PCO essentials

PCO team managers are happy to help at this policy development stage ‒ even before you get Cabinet decisions. We can:

  • help identify the legislative options to deal with your policy issue
  • provide advice on legislative process as you put together a project timeline
  • review your draft policy paper to check that the recommendations, if agreed to, will put us all in a good position to prepare legislation that will meet your needs.

Alert: If your proposal is urgent or timing is important, talk to us early for good advice on timing and so we can reallocate drafting priorities or resources in advance.

Further questions

Minister approves policy

Who does what?

The department may seek the Minister’s views on the policy and timetable through a number of briefings, or with a draft Cabinet policy paper attached.

Tips: It is essential that you build into your timetable adequate time for ministerial consultation – it can be protracted and may result in changes to the proposed policy.

Further questions

Bill included in legislation programme

Who does what?

The department needs to ensure the Bill has a priority on the legislation programme. Under the Cabinet Manual, the PCO drafts only those Bills that are on the programme (Cabinet Manual 7.51–53).

The Cabinet Office coordinates the Government’s legislation programme. At the end of each year, the Cabinet Office requests legislation bids for the next year’s programme. Departments put draft bids to Ministers. These are submitted to the Leader of the House for the legislation programme. The Leader of the House seeks Cabinet’s approval of the legislation programme. Cabinet can also add Bills to the legislation programme during the year.

PCO essentials

Departments need to send draft bids to the PCO for our advice, particularly on timing. If the PCO advises that the proposed timetable is not realistic, then indicate this advice clearly in the bid. There are standard rules of thumb for estimating timing and complexity of Bills that help with the bid. See below.

Further questions

Cabinet approves policy

Who does what?

The department prepares the Cabinet paper for the Minister’s approval.

The Minister consults with colleagues before submitting the paper to the appropriate Cabinet policy committee. This consultation is important to ensure a smooth legislative process.

PCO essentials

Consult your PCO team manager before you submit a paper to Cabinet seeking approval to issue drafting instructions.

Think carefully about policy approvals: are they sufficient but not too detailed? Do you need a delegation for the Minister to approve detail or minor changes?

Further questions

Department prepares drafting instructions

Who does what?

The department prepares drafting instructions to implement Cabinet’s policy decisions. Instructions should create a bridge between the policy intent and the changes needed to the law to concretely achieve that intent. Involve legal advisers in the process.

PCO essentials

Good instructions set out the policy to be implemented, the legal arena for the proposed legislation, and an analysis of the legal changes that are required. They are one of a number of key building blocks for turning policy into law. See the Instruction Kit for these key building blocks, as well as for instruction templates and other practical tools to help you.

Further questions

Department sends instructions to PCO

Who does what?

The department sends instructions to the PCO team manager. The team manager will allocate them to 1 or more drafters and send you an email confirming their contact details.

PCO essentials

It is often really useful to meet your drafter early to discuss your overall policy intent and context, clear up any initial queries, and discuss process.

PCO drafts multiple versions/Department analyses and comments on each version

Who does what?

Drafting is an iterative process. It requires a number of versions to develop the legislation so that it fully implements the policy and is legally effective.

The PCO tests and develops the instructions into draft legislation. Expect the PCO to ask questions about your policy so we can make sure we understand it and that it will result in workable legislation.

The department reviews drafts, checking them against the intended policy outcomes. Often the lead instructor needs to coordinate comments from multiple people at the department.

PCO essentials

Don’t just answer the PCO’s questions. Be ready to read drafts critically, check against instructions, make sure it implements your policy, and check nothing is missing. Read it for internal consistency and readability. Try to respond promptly so that momentum and understanding of issues is not lost.

Further questions

Other departments are consulted

Who does what?

When the draft is settled, either the PCO or the department consults other government departments and appropriate Crown bodies on the draft legislation (CabGuide). This can be done at the same time you consult departments on your paper that will seek approval to introduce the Bill from the Cabinet Legislation Committee (LEG). However, you need to discuss tricky issues early with key departments.

PCO essentials

If the PCO does the consultation, we will use the list of departments you consulted on the policy decisions. Let us know if there are others who should be consulted.

Further questions

PCO peer reviews

Who does what?

The PCO carries out peer review processes to ensure legal workability and minimise the risk of errors.

Allow 10 working days on a standard Bill – but timing can vary significantly according to size, complexity, and other priorities.

PCO essentials

You need to allow time for peer review in your planning, although it can often be done in tandem with other processes like departmental consultation. Check with your drafter about when this needs to be factored in.

Sometimes peer review can result in new issues being discovered, which can be frustrating. However, this is a key opportunity to test the workability of a Bill.

PCO proofreads

Who does what?

All draft legislation is proofread by editorial staff at the PCO to minimise errors.

Allow 10 working days on a standard Bill.

PCO essentials

You need to allow time for proofreading in your planning as it is a key quality assurance step. In practice, it can often be done in tandem with other processes like departmental consultation.

Public exposure draft sent out

Who does what?

You may want to include an exposure draft process in developing a Bill. Exposure drafts are a useful opportunity for departments to test the draft legislation with stakeholders and the wider public before introduction. This can reduce the scope of issues at select committee. However, they add significant time to the process of developing legislation (usually at least 3‒4 months to allow for the consultation period, analysis of submissions, instructions on changes, and drafting those changes). You will also need to seek approval from your Minister and the Attorney-General (or your Chief Legal Advisor) to carry out this process. So you need to consider these factors carefully before committing to this process.

PCO essentials

Make sure you liaise with the PCO on planning if you are considering a public exposure draft.

Further questions

Department gives final comments and approval

Who does what?

The department needs to give final minor comments on the policy of the Bill, leaving sufficient time for the drafter to adjust the legislation to reflect these comments and carry out final checks.

PCO does penultimate draft

Who does what?

This draft is generally the version on which the final checks and Bill of Rights Act vet are done.

PCO essentials

The things that you need to have provided to the PCO by this time, if not earlier, are:

  • the general policy statement (which should have been provided by the department before the Bill went out for departmental consultation); and
  • the URL to the location on the department’s website where the regulatory impact statement will be published (which should be provided at least a week before the Bill goes to LEG); and
  • the disclosure statement (which should be provided to the Publications Unit and copied to the drafter when the Bill goes to LEG. Send the checked and formally signed-off copy at least 2 days before introduction).

Further questions

Bill of Rights Act vet

Who does what?

The drafter (or sometimes, the department) sends the near-final Bill to the Ministry of Justice (to the Bill of Rights Act contact at boravet@justice.govt.nz) for the vet at least 2 weeks before LEG.

Although this is the formal 2-week period required by the Cabinet Manual, in practice it is better to discuss any known issues with the ministry earlier. Give them as much notice as possible of the Bill and allow enough time to work through issues.

PCO does final proofread and edits

Who does what?

The PCO often uses the period of the Bill of Rights Act vet to do final checks. It’s critical that policy changes are finished at this point so that we only need to deal with final drafting checks.

Ministerial consultation before LEG

Who does what?

Ministerial offices carry out consultation on behalf of the Minister with Ministerial colleagues on the near-final Bill and LEG paper. This is an important opportunity to identify and resolve any residual issues before the LEG meeting.

PCO prints Bill for LEG

Who does what?

The PCO prints copies of the Bill and delivers them to Cabinet Office by the deadline for the relevant LEG meeting. The PCO will also provide a copy to you, and a copy to your Minister along with a note that the Bill is being sent to LEG.

You need to prepare and deliver a Cabinet paper for LEG to consider that seeks approval to introduce the Bill. The deadline is usually 10am on Thursday before LEG. You need to contact the Cabinet Office if your LEG paper is likely to be late.

The Cabinet Office attaches the Cabinet paper and draft Bill.

LEG approval

LEG meets at 9.15am on Thursday of most sitting weeks.

Who does what?

This is the opportunity for Ministers to ensure that the legislation meets the policy approvals given by Cabinet. It also provides an opportunity to update LEG if there have been minor changes in policy.

Departmental officials attend the LEG meeting so as to answer any Ministers’ questions. However, LEG will often deal with each item on the agenda without calling officials into the room. The drafter does not attend (but the Chief Parliamentary Counsel or Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel attends all LEG meetings).

Cabinet approval

Typically Cabinet meets at 1.00pm on Monday of sitting weeks.

Who does what?

Once LEG (or another policy committee) approves the Bill, Cabinet will consider it the following week (or in urgent cases Bills can go directly to Cabinet).

Once Cabinet confirms that the Bill has been approved for introduction, either you or your Minister’s office need to advise the PCO to print the introduction copies. You will also need to provide 40 printed copies of the disclosure statement to the House Office.

PCO prints Bill for introduction

Who does what?

Once the department or Minister’s office confirms that the Bill has been approved for introduction, the PCO arranges for the Bill to be printed and delivered to the House Office. The House Office will collate the printed copies of the disclosure statement with the printed copies of the Bill.

The PCO sends PDFs of the introduction version to the offices of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, and your Minister, to alert them that the Bill is printed and ready to be introduced.

PCO essentials

If timing is tight, remember to let the PCO know as soon as possible that the Bill has been approved for introduction so we can print it for the House.

Leader of House advises Clerk of proposed introduction

Who does what?

The Leader of the House (LoH)’s office is responsible for taking the copy of the Bill to the Clerk of the House to be introduced.

If it is a non-sitting working day, the LoH’s office must advise the Clerk before midnight for the Bill to be introduced on that day (although in practice, the Minister’s office would need to warn the Clerk before 5pm if the introduction copy of the Bill was not going to be ready until after 5pm).

If it is a sitting day, the LoH’s office must advise the Clerk before 1 pm for the Bill to be introduced on that day.

Bill introduced

The Bill is introduced when the Leader of the House informs the Clerk of the House that the Government wishes the Bill to be introduced. The Office of the Clerk will then notify the PCO that the Bill can be published.

Bill available for first reading

The Bill is available for first reading as follows:

Bill introduced

Bill is available for first reading

On a non-sitting working day (before midnight) Next sitting Thursday
On a sitting day (before 1pm) Next sitting Tuesday

First reading

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.

Department provides initial briefing

Who does what?

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.

PCO essentials

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.

Further questions

Committee receives and hears submissions

Who does what?

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.

Further questions

Department prepares departmental report

Who does what?

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.

PCO essentials

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.

Further questions

Committee considers departmental report

Who does what?

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).

PCO essentials

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.

Further questions

PCO prepares RT Bill

Who does what?

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.

PCO essentials

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.

Committee considers RT Bill

Who does what?

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.

PCO essentials

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.

Committee deliberates on RT Bill and commentary

Who does what?

The committee votes on the amendments in the RT Bill. If the committee is tied, the amendment will not be recommended.

Second reading

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.

Department/PCO assess need for SOP

Who does what?

After a Bill has been reported back, the department and the PCO both need to review the Bill to check whether any further amendments are needed. There may also be changes in policy thinking or political objectives that mean an amendment is needed to the Bill.

Tip: Standing Orders limit the nature of amendments that can be made to a Bill: amendments must be relevant to a Bill’s subject matter, consistent with a Bill’s principles and objects, and otherwise conform to Standing Orders. See Standing Order 310.

Amendments that are very significant may (even if permitted under Standing Orders) raise the question of whether the Bill and SOP should be referred back to the select committee for further consideration.

PCO essentials

There are a number of key workability issues that both the PCO and the instructors need to check (this is our last opportunity). See below.

Further questions

SOP prepared

The size and scope of SOPs range widely - from minor technical amendments to broad policy rewrites of the original Bill. As a result, the process needed to approve and develop an SOP differs widely. At its simplest, the PCO may prepare an SOP addressing minor or technical changes without the need for policy approval and the Minister may approve that SOP. However, SOPs that make substantive policy changes need to go through the usual Cabinet approval process.

PCO essentials

An SOP is either prepared as a document that amends the original Bill or as a “revision-tracked SOP”, where the Bill is presented with proposed changes marked up. Presenting the amendments as an RT SOP makes the effect of the changes easier for MPs to assess. However, it may not be justified, for example, if there are only a few amendments.

Department does policy and legal analysis for SOP

Who does what?

If the need for a policy amendment is identified, the department analyses the idea to develop the policy proposal. It is important that you consult your drafter on policy proposals, particularly for their advice on workability.

Minister/Cabinet approves policy on SOP

Who does what?

If the policy amendments are significant, the policy needs to be approved by Cabinet before the PCO can draft the changes. More minor policy amendments can be approved by the Minister for drafting.

The department prepares the Cabinet paper for the Minister’s approval. The Minister consults with colleagues before submitting the paper to the appropriate Cabinet policy committee.

Very significant policy changes may raise an issue of whether the SOP should be referred to the select committee for its consideration.

PCO essentials

It is important that you consult your drafter on policy proposals, particularly for their advice on workability.

Further questions

Department prepares drafting instructions on SOP

Who does what?

After policy approval is obtained, the department instructs the PCO to draft the amendments to implement Cabinet’s policy decisions.

PCO essentials

The best method for instructions at this stage depends on the extent of amendments, their policy content, and the timing of the Bill. But if you have a significant policy SOP, PCO’s template for instructions (.docx 22KB) may still be helpful to guide you through the issues that need to be covered.

Department sends instructions to PCO

Who does what?

The department sends instructions to the PCO team manager. The team manager will allocate them to 1 or more drafters and send you an email confirming their contact details.

PCO essentials

It is often really useful to meet your drafter early to discuss your overall policy intent and context, clear up any initial queries, and discuss process.

PCO drafts multiple versions/department analyses and comments

Who does what?

Depending on the size and complexity of the SOP, a number of versions of an SOP may be needed to ensure it fully implements the policy and is legally effective.

PCO essentials

As at the pre-introduction stage, don’t just answer the PCO’s questions. Be ready to read drafts of the SOP critically, check against instructions, make sure the SOP implements your policy, and check nothing is missing. Read it for internal consistency and readability. Remember to check that the SOP changes don’t require consequential changes in the rest of the Bill.

Other departments are consulted on SOP

Who does what?

When the draft SOP is settled, depending on whether the SOP is relevant to other departments, either you or the PCO may need to consult other departments and appropriate Crown bodies (CabGuide).

Further questions

PCO peer reviews SOP

Who does what?

The PCO carries out peer review processes on SOPs to ensure legal workability and minimise the risk of errors.

PCO essentials

The amount of time needed to peer review an SOP varies widely depending on its size and complexity, so check with your drafter if timing is critical.

Sometimes peer review results in new issues being discovered, which can be frustrating. However, this is a key opportunity to test the workability of an SOP.

PCO proofreads the SOP

Who does what?

All draft SOPs are proofread by editorial staff at the PCO to minimise errors.

PCO essentials

The amount of time needed for proofreading an SOP varies widely depending on its size and complexity, so check with your drafter if timing is critical.

PCO does final proofread and edits

Who does what?

The PCO often uses the period of the Bill of Rights Act vet to do final checks. It’s critical that policy changes are finished at this point so that we only need to deal with final drafting checks.

Ministerial consultation before LEG

Who does what?

Ministerial offices carry out consultation on behalf of the Minister with Ministerial colleagues on the near-final Bill and LEG paper. This is an important opportunity to identify and resolve any residual issues before the LEG meeting.

PCO prints SOP for LEG or Minister’s approval

Who does what?

If an SOP is substantive and needs to be approved by LEG, the PCO prints copies of the SOP and delivers them to Cabinet Office by the deadline for the relevant LEG meeting. You need to prepare and deliver a Cabinet paper for LEG on its decision to approve the SOP. Cabinet Office attaches the Cabinet paper and draft SOP.

If an SOP does not need approval by LEG, the PCO provides a copy of the SOP to you for the Minister to approve printing for the House.

PCO essentials

If the SOP only needs approval by the Minister, you may need to liaise with the Minister’s office to ensure that approval is obtained and communicated promptly to the PCO.

Further questions

LEG approval of SOP

LEG meets at 9.15am on Thursday of most sitting weeks.

Who does what?

Departmental officials attend the LEG meeting so as to answer any Ministers’ questions. However, LEG will often deal with each item on the agenda without calling officials into the room. The drafter does not attend (but the Chief Parliamentary Counsel or Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel attends all LEG meetings).

Cabinet approval of SOP

Typically Cabinet meets at 1.00pm on Monday of sitting weeks.

Who does what?

Once LEG (or another policy committee) approves an SOP for printing, the SOP is referred to Cabinet the following week to confirm that decision. (In urgent cases, SOPs can go directly to Cabinet for approval.)

If the SOP is not substantive, the Minister’s approval of the SOP is sufficient for the PCO to print the SOP for the House (without going to LEG or Cabinet).

Release of SOP

Who does what?

After Cabinet or the Minister has approved the SOP for printing, the PCO prints the SOP. The Office of the Clerk holds the SOP until the Minister authorises release. On release, the Office of the Clerk distributes printed copies to MPs and authorises the PCO to publish the SOP to legislation.govt.nz.

Tip: It is good practice to release SOPs at least 24 hours before a Committee stage to enable the House, and broader public, to be informed before the debate.

PCO essentials

It’s important that the Minister’s office lets the PCO know as soon as possible once the SOP is approved for printing, as delays at this stage can impact on the timing and smooth running of the Committee stage.

Further questions

Preparing to support Minister in Committee stage

Who does what?

The department provides materials in advance to prepare the Minister for the debate, including on issues that are likely to be raised.

Both the department and the PCO support the Minister in the debate itself. The department advises on questions raised on policy. The PCO advises on any amendments or drafting queries.

PCO essentials

The PCO’s key role at the Committee is to assist in answering queries on drafting of the Bill or advising on any proposed amendments.

If the need for an amendment arises immediately before or during the Committee stage, it will be too late to prepare and release an SOP. In this case, the PCO can prepare a typescript amendment for the Minister’s approval and it can be tabled during the debate.

Committee of the whole House

This debate addresses whether a Bill’s provisions properly incorporate the principles and objects that were agreed to at the second reading, and to consider and make amendments.

This stage provides the last opportunity for the House to amend the Bill. Amendments can be by SOP or by a typescript amendment tabled in the debate (a table amendment) by placing 6 copies on the table.

Unlike other debates, there is no overall time limit for the Committee stage. Members can take an unlimited number of calls of up to 5 minutes long. However, when the debate becomes repetitive or no longer relevant, the chair will move the debate to the next question. The Bill is considered Part-by-Part (if it is drafted in Parts), clause-by-clause, or in any other way the House or Business Committee decides (for example, one question or thematically).

Third reading

This debate consists of up to 12 x 10-minute speeches. It can be scheduled for the sitting day after its Committee stage.

This is the final debate, which largely sums up the process to date and, in particular, how it emerged from the Committee stage.

Further questions

Royal assent

Who does what?

After the third reading, the Office of the Clerk prepares the Bill for Royal assent.

The Royal assent is given by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Bills are assented to strictly in the order in which they were passed by the House (and generally within 7 days after the third reading).

PCO essentials

The key step in preparing a Bill for Royal assent is its renumbering. The PCO and Office of the Clerk carefully check the Bill and all cross-references. We will usually ask the department to check the “proof assent” before it is finalised and the Bill is signed by the Governor-General.

Further questions

Publication

Who does what?

The PCO aims to publish new Acts on legislation.govt.nz within 5 working days after Royal assent.

Amendments Acts are consolidated into the principal Act as soon as possible after they come into force, but not before. The PCO aims to incorporate amendments within 15 working days after the amendment comes into force.

Further questions