OPC’s main function is to provide drafting services and procedural and other handling advice to legislating departments in connection with—
OPC and 1st PC also have additional functions that are not directly related to the preparation or handling of primary legislation or SIs for central Government departments.
None of these additional functions is covered by this document. Their practical effect is that only about 80% of the full complement of Counsel is available, at any one time, to work for government departments on Bills, draft Bills and SIs.
1st PC creates a team of Counsel for each legislative project (Bill, draft Bill or SI). A team for a Bill or draft Bill will consist of at least two Counsel and may consist of more. Sometimes one Counsel will be asked to vet or draft an SI without the assistance of another. Counsel are likely to be involved in more than one legislative project at the same time, sometimes in differently constituted teams. They will explain their other commitments and how they will need to organise priorities.
OPC’s work on Bills and draft Bills is organised to meet the needs of the Government’s legislative programme, as agreed by Cabinet on the recommendation of Ministerial Committee of the Cabinet on Legislation (known as “PB Committee”). Ministerial responsibility for the management of the legislative programme rests primarily with the chair of L Committee, currently the Leader of the House of Commons, and the other Government business managers (the Leader of the House of Lords and the Chief Whip in each House). The Finance Bill is outside the L Committee system but still needs to be fitted in with the rest of the programme.5
At official level Counsel work to achieve OPC’s aims by establishing close working partnerships with the Bill teams in legislating departments (or with those working on an SI) and their lawyers and also, in the case of Bills and draft Bills, with the PB Committee Secretariat (the part of the Economic and Domestic Secretariat in the Cabinet Office that services PB Committee).
This guide sets out the conditions for enabling these partnerships to work well and for facilitating effective teamwork between all the officials working on a legislative project, including members of OPC.