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Guide to 2008 NZ Election
Archived NZ Parlt 2005-08
Archived NZ Parlt 2002-05
Our Parliament House
International perspectives on democracy
Electing Parliament
General-election results
Parliamentary parties
NZ First
United Future
Forming the government
Composition of Parliament
The role of the Speaker
Who drafts the laws?
How laws are made
How a bill becomes an act
The Office of the Clerk
Parliamentary Service
MP's pay
A Labour example - Darren Hughes
A National example -
John Key
Select committees
Select commitee members
Petitioning Parliament
Visiting Parliament
Opinion polls
Parliamentary history
The New Zealand Business and Parliament Trust



Who drafts the laws?

Crafting the clauses
Cabinet priorities
Access to the laws

To make sure laws are written correctly, Parliament has created the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO).

Crafting the clauses

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.

Cabinet priorities

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.

Access to the laws

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