Timing, checks and updating
21 Writing explanatory notes should not be left until the last minute, even though they often cannot be finalised until then.
22 Work on the part of the notes that explains the policy background and the legal background to the bill can begin alongside work on the instructions to Parliamentary Counsel. Work can also start at an early stage on the part of the notes that provides commentary on particular provisions of the bill. You don’t need to wait until the drafting of a provision has been finalised before starting work on the explanatory notes relating to that provision. Work can start as soon as the policy behind the provision, and the drafting approach to be taken to deliver the policy, is sufficiently settled. In some cases it may even be possible to draft a note on a proposed provision without sight of a draft of the provision.
23 Parliamentary Counsel and PBL Secretariat will assist in trying to ensure that explanatory notes are prepared in a timely manner:
24 Parliamentary Counsel will ask to be provided with a draft of the explanatory notes relating to a particular provision (or group of provisions) at the time when Counsel feels that the policy behind the provision(s) is sufficiently settled. (Work can of course begin on the draft in advance of this request.)
25 When PBL Secretariat asks the department to report on progress on the drafting of the bill, it will also ask for a report on progress on the preparation of the explanatory notes.
26 The explanatory notes must be provided alongside the bill before PBL Committee will clear the bill for introduction.
27 The bill team should find out whether the bill minister wishes to approve the text of the explanatory notes before they are submitted to PBL Committee and ensure that there is sufficient time for ministerial clearance.
28 The notes must be cleared with departmental lawyers before they are sent to PBL Committee.
29 The territorial extent and application section of the notes (including the annexed table – see paragraphs 11.59 to 11.63) should be agreed by officials in the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Offices before the notes are sent to PBL Committee.
30 The notes must be cleared with Parliamentary Counsel, ideally before they are sent to PBL Committee although on occasion they have to be cleared by Counsel after PBL Committee has considered the bill (see paragraphs 11.13 to 11.16].
31 Parliamentary Counsel will arrange for the relevant Public Bill Office to comment on the draft notes (either before or after PBL Committee consideration of the bill, as time allows).
32 When the bill is ready to be introduced, the final version of the notes should be sent to Parliamentary Counsel who will arrange for the notes to be handed in to the Public Bill Office. The Public Bill Office deals with publication.
33 The Public Bill Office will not arrange for the notes to be published unless they are satisfied that:
a. The notes are in the correct format;
b. The notes do not contain material designed to persuade readers of the merits of the policy of the bill (as opposed to explaining what that policy is) (see paragraph 11.37);
c. The notes do not misrepresent the effect or purpose of any provisions of the bill.
34 Late publication of explanatory notes can lead to serious complaint from MPs and peers, so every effort should be made to avoid this. If, in exceptional circumstances, publication is likely to be delayed, the bill team should contact PBL Secretariat as soon as possible who will ensure that PBL Committee and the business managers are informed.
35 The explanatory notes must be revised at least twice:
· to accompany the first print of the bill in the second House (see paragraphs 11.81 to 11.85);
· at the time of Royal Assent (see paragraphs 11.91 and 11.92).
36 The need to update the explanatory notes when a bill moves from the first House to the second House should not be seen as an opportunity to provide notes to the first House "that will do" on the basis that they will be "sorted out" when the bill moves to the second House.
37 If a bill is amended significantly during one of its stages in a House (for example, in Committee) the department may wish to consider updating the notes in time for the next stage of that House's consideration of the bill, though this additional updating is highly unusual. However, in practical terms, it will be easiest for bill teams to revise their working version of the explanatory notes as the bill is amended, rather than waiting until the end of the first House.
38 There is a separate document (explanatory notes on amendments) that must be produced if a bill is amended in the second House. See paragraphs 11.86 to 11.90.