Good practice considerations in legislation drafting
Produced in partnership with Alison Gorlov of Winckworth Sherwood

The following Public Law practice note produced in partnership with Alison Gorlov of Winckworth Sherwood provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Good practice considerations in legislation drafting
  • Getting started
  • Format of legislation
  • Compatibility with the Human Rights Act 1998
  • Compliance with the public sector equality duty
  • The drafter’s role
  • The drafting method
  • Logic, clarity and structure
  • Explaining the draft
  • Drafting and the legislative process

Good practice considerations in legislation drafting

The 21st century has produced giants of primary legislation such as the Companies Act 2006 with its 1,300 sections and 16 Schedules.

Meanwhile, the annual number of statutory instruments passed has also grown, for instance from 1,664 passed in 2008, peaking at 3,485 in 2014. Numbers then began to fall in 2016, with a total of 1,387 passed in 2018. Nonetheless, both the size of Acts of Parliament and the increase from 100 or fewer statutory instruments to over 1,000 a year that began in 1970 and 1972 demonstrate the increasing codification of UK law and an inexorable move towards secondary legislation.

Getting started

The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel’s Drafting Guidance is an invaluable reference tool, particularly for primary legislation. As well as providing practical guidance on the drafting and the legislative process, it explains the thinking behind modern drafting techniques. The guidance covers:

  1. the general drafting principle of clarity

  2. specific language-related points such as gender neutrality

  3. commonly used drafting techniques

  4. drafting repeals, amendments and modifications of existing enactments

  5. subordinate legislation

  6. expressing time periods

  7. statutory corporations and bodies corporate

  8. final provisions of a Bill

For more information on how to engage with the Parliamentary Counsel see chapters 9–10 of the Cabinet Office Guide to Making Legislation.

For further guidance on working with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, contact: Office of the Parliamentary

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