25 July 2013

Enhanced rule of law measures to ensure that future New Zealand legislation “ is robust and consistent with good legislative practice” come into force next week. A  disclosure statement will be a key feature of new legislative proposals considered by Parliament. This requirement will itself be codified, but in the interim administrative processes are specified in a Cabinet Circular.

The Circular sets out the requirement that any Cabinet Committee paper seeking new legislation must state what is intended as the final content of the Bill. The explanatory note of a Bill when Introduced is to have a hyperlink to a disclosure statement published on the Parliamentary Counsel Office website. The Department responsible for the Bill is to ensure the disclosure statement includes:

  • General Policy Statement  of what the proposed law seeks to achieve, and how those objectives will be met.
  • Background Material and Policy Information  that indicates policy issues incorporated in the proposed law.
  • Testing of Legislative Content  identifying how quality assurance has been carried out on the proposed law.
  • Significant Legislative Features  including any unusual provisions in the proposal.

The disclosure statement must be finalised with PCO no later than two working days prior to the intended introduction of the Bill. MPs will get hard copies of the disclosure statement when the Bill is distributed.

The Treasury which has administrative responsibility for the scheme, will monitor and refine processes pending empowering legislation.

The World Justice Project evaluates the quality of the Rule of Law in all jurisdictions by scoring 44 sub-factors. These include “Government Powers limited by legislation” as part of Accountable Government, and “Laws are publicised” as part of Open Government and Regulatory Enforcement.  The disclosure statement that will now accompany New Zealand legislation should have a positive impact on these measures when the 2013 Rule of Law Index is published later this year.

Of the 97 countries listed on the 2012 Index, New Zealand ranked 6th for Accountable Government and 4th for Open Government and Regulatory Enforcement.