LAC Guidelines: Foreword
The promotion of legislation is a vital function of government. The Government uses legislation to implement policies for the protection and promotion of the rights and interests of New Zealanders, to raise taxes, to authorise spending, to regulate relations between individuals and between individuals and the state, and for many other important purposes.
Translating policy proposals into sound and principled legislation is not an easy task. If any of the many steps which make up the overall process of developing policy into legislation are poorly executed, the rights and liberties of individuals and groups may be put at risk and the policy may not be given effect to. Unnecessary controversy and litigation, and perverse effects on the operation of public and private interests, are likely to be the result.
There are costs for the Government in developing legislation. These costs occur in the development of policy, the Cabinet process, and the law drafting and parliamentary processes. There are costs too for the community in the examination of Bills by individuals and interested groups, and in their making submissions to select committees of the House of Representatives. Lack of care and poor procedure at any of these stages can greatly increase the overall cost of the process.
Errors in Bills can be corrected at the select committee stage. But to rely on select committees to correct ill-conceived or poorly drafted legislation is not acceptable. The committee process provides the public with an opportunity to comment on the legislative embodiment of the Government's policy and to bring matters which may need further consideration to the attention of Parliament; it is not a quality inspection process designed to correct poor policy analysis or drafting.
Experience teaches that both the process for the making of legislation and the content of legislation can be improved. These Guidelines were first prepared in 1987, revised in 1991, and again in 2000 by the Legislation Advisory Committee, and are designed to set out central aspects of that process and elements of the content of legislation that should always be addressed.
The message is clear. We must—
- ask whether legislation is needed to give effect to the policy which the Government is planning to implement;
- follow proper procedures in preparing the legislation, in particular by consulting appropriately outside Government and within it;
- ensure that the legislation complies with established principles, unless there is good reason for departing from them.
This Government, like its predecessors, has directed that Ministers and their officials in proposing and preparing legislation are to address the principles of process and content set out in these Guidelines. They are required to advise the Cabinet Legislation Committee of the steps they have taken to comply with the Guidelines. These matters are also emphasised in the Cabinet Office Manual Chapter 5 (Legislation and Legal Matters).
The message in these Guidelines is for the whole of government, and particularly for senior officials, parliamentary counsel and departmental lawyers, all of whom can be expected to be aware of the Guidelines.
The Guidelines are also of interest and value to the many other New Zealanders who participate in the legislative process. They are able to use the Guidelines in commenting on proposed legislation and in developing non-government legislation.
This 2001 edition of the Guidelines complements other recent important changes affecting legislation, namely the Interpretation Act 1999, the new format of legislation, and changes in drafting style, all of which will help to significantly improve the quality of our legislation.
Hon Margaret Wilson
Attorney-General and Associate Minister of Justice