To make sure laws are written correctly, Parliament has created the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO).
The PCO drafts most of the laws voted on by MPs. The ministry or department concerned with a particular law works on the policy issues, while the PCO provides the technical expertise in law-drafting. Inland Revenue is the only department with legal authority to draft laws itself and not use PCO services.
The PCO also drafts the amendments to government bills requested by select committees. A Parliamentary Counsel will attend a committee’s confidential consideration of a bill to advise the committee on drafting and to draft the committee’s amendments.
The PCO also provides drafting services during consideration of a Member's bill, subject to the approval of the Attorney-General. This is usually given if the committee wants the bill to proceed after it has heard the submissions on it.
The PCO’s work programme for bills is determined by Cabinet, which sets legislative priorities. At the beginning of each year it decides which legislation is most urgent, and which can wait.
There are always more bills that Ministers and departmental policy advisers want drafted than there are drafters to do the legal work, or time in the parliamentary session to debate them. Priority-setting is a matter of political choice.
The PCO makes sure that bills, Acts and regulations are published and are accessible to the public. It does this in two ways: printed copies are distributed to bookshops for sale, and unofficial versions of up-to-date laws are made available on the Internet free of charge.
If you want to buy a printed copy of a bill, Act or regulation, you can enquire at Bennetts Government Bookshops or contact Legislation Direct. If you want free access to up-to-date law, the web address is www.legislation.govt.nz.