Number of Corrections to Statutory Instruments in 2014 - Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee Contents


Letter from Lord Goodlad, Chairman of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, to Richard Heaton, First Parliamentary Counsel, at the Cabinet Office

We observed in our last end of session report that the Committee's work was made more onerous by the number of correcting instruments that we had to consider during the session, whether in the form of replacement drafts of affirmative instruments or correcting instruments for negatives. Our observations indicated that these corrections are due to both policy and drafting revisions. It appears that the number of such instruments has continued to increase in the current session.

Whist we understand that no figures on corrections are collected centrally, even a simple search of the number of Statutory Instruments with the rubric heading which states that they have been issued free of charge demonstrates that, in the first six months of 2014, 45 such instruments have been issued, which compares with a total of 43 instruments for the whole of 2013 and 48 in 2012. So far this year 15% of the affirmatives that the Committee has considered have been corrections.

Given your promotion of the Good Law initiative across government, the Committee has asked me to draw this to your attention and ask for your views on why the problem has arisen and how it may be remedied.

3 July 2014

Letter from Richard Heaton to Lord Goodlad

My office is strongly committed to excellent legislation, both primary and secondary. Parliamentary Counsel is not responsible for secondary legislation; this is the accountability of individual departments and, increasingly, of the Treasury Solicitor's Department which is expanding to become the in-house provider of legal services for most departments across Whitehall. But Jonathan Jones (the new Treasury Solicitor) and I are keen to raise the standard and improve the consistency of secondary legislation drafting. I hope the growth of a shared legal service provided by Jonathan's department will make this easier, for example by better monitoring of quality across legal teams, and more flexible use of experienced and skilled drafters.

Meanwhile, my office are active participants in the training of government lawyers, running regular training in drafting skills for government lawyers, both for individual departments and under the Government Legal Service's training programme. This training is aimed at raising the standards of drafting and focuses on the importance of ensuring accuracy and a clear and coherent outcome. A cross-Whitehall group of drafting specialists exists to act as a point of contact and facilitate the sharing of best practice. The reports of your Committee and of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments are important pointers to areas on which we need to focus.

I know from my own experience as a departmental lawyer that correcting instruments are something that all legal teams try to avoid. I do not know the reason for the recent increase you have experienced: I will bring this to GLS colleagues' attention, and we will try and discern any pattern or underlying cause. Meanwhile, if your Committee or supporting staff have any information or analysis that you could share on the problems you are observing, I know we would find that helpful in better understanding how departments are falling short.

I am copying this letter to Jonathan Jones.

14 July 2014

Letter from Richard Heaton and Jonathan Jones, Treasury Solicitor and HM Procurator General to Lord Goodlad

We are very pleased to announce an initiative that we hope will lead to significant improvements in the drafting of statutory instruments. We propose to set up a new team on a trial basis as a "statutory instrument hub". The hub will bring together drafting lawyers currently working in a range of Whitehall departments, under the leadership of an experienced drafter from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and a senior lawyer from the Treasury Solicitor's Department. It will be formally launched this December.

The hub will aim to improve quality and efficiency of SI drafting in a number of ways. It will centralise and co-ordinate knowledge management, training, guidance and mentoring. It will look for examples of best practice to share and also seek to embody "good law" principles of clarity, coherence and simplicity in drafting. It will be a source of support for both lawyers and policy officials, improving understanding of processes and promoting consistency and coherence of approach.

Lawyers drafting in the hub will benefit from intensive training and mentoring, enabling them to produce higher quality drafts themselves and also provide higher quality mentoring to drafting lawyers outside the hub.

The pilot will also test ways of delivering additional high quality, efficient drafting services to Whitehall teams where these are needed and can add value. As part of this, it will aim to co-ordinate the use of freelance drafting services to provide quality assurance and ensure value for money.

More generally, as part of measures to improve quality within the Treasury Solicitor's Department (which now includes most Government advisory legal teams), heads of teams have been asked specifically to report weekly on any criticism or other feedback from Parliament (including your Committee and the JCSI) on the quality of SI drafting. This will assist in identifying any problem areas or common issues so that they can be quickly addressed and disseminated among drafting lawyers, as appropriate.

Finally, we hope that the hub will be able to open a dialogue between the Treasury Solicitor's Department and officials and legal advisers at both the JCSI and the Scrutiny Committee. We are very keen that the hub should work closely with colleagues in Parliament to identify innovative ways to address the quality issues which concern us all.

3 November 2014

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2015