Purpose of the legislation programme
7.7 The programme arranges groups of existing or proposed government bills in descending priority order, headed by bills that must be passed each year by law (such as Appropriation and Imprest Supply Bills). The legislation programme covers primary legislation only. It does not allocate priorities for the drafting of subordinate legislation.
7.8 The programme is amended as demands on the government change, new issues requiring legislation arise, and priorities change with the passage of time. Details of the programme, and the priority accorded to particular pieces of legislation, are integral to the government’s management of its business in the House.
7.9 The legislation programme is confidential, subject to the Official Information Act 1982. Recipients of requests for the legislation programme, or for information about details or priorities on the programme, should consult the Cabinet Office when considering their responses. Care should be taken over references to legislative priorities in any Cabinet material being considered for public release.
Development of the legislation programme
7.10 At the request of the Leader of the House and with the agreement of the Prime Minister or Cabinet, the Cabinet Office periodically issues a circular that invites Ministers to submit proposals for bills to be included in the programme. This circular is usually issued at the beginning of each parliamentary term and towards the end of intervening calendar years. An annual legislation programme is drawn up from the resulting information. The Cabinet Legislation Committee allocates a priority to each bill, and the programme is then submitted to Cabinet for approval.
7.11 Ministers may at any time submit new proposals for legislation, or seek changes to established priorities. Proposals for legislation may be submitted before public consultation or policy development is complete. A place on the legislation programme should be sought at an early stage if the policy issues are significant or the drafting task is likely to be substantial. If necessary, a Cabinet committee may make decisions on legislative priority at the same time as it considers the relevant policy proposals.
7.12 For guidance on the procedural requirements (including content and format) for the submission of bids to the Cabinet Legislation Committee, see the information on the legislation programme in the CabGuide.
Monitoring the legislation programme
7.13 Cabinet may review the legislation programme formally from time to time during the year, and adjust priorities as necessary. Bills that fall behind the agreed timetable may be assigned a lower priority or be set aside when Cabinet reviews the programme’s progress. Ministers and departments should ensure that the Legislation Coordinator and the Parliamentary Counsel Office are alerted to matters that may significantly affect the content, coverage, or progress of bills on the programme, or that may lead to a proposal to add an item to the programme.
7.14 The Cabinet Legislation Committee may from time to time report to Cabinet on the progress of the legislation programme. Ministers should at all times be ready to discuss with their Cabinet colleagues the progress of any draft legislation for which they are responsible, including bills before select committees. To do this, Ministers should obtain briefings from their departments regularly and liaise with the chairs or senior government members of the select committees to check on progress.
7.15 The Legislation Coordinator, a member of the staff of the Cabinet Office, provides politically neutral support to the government of the day in developing, monitoring, and modifying the legislation programme. The Legislation Coordinator provides a broad view of progress and early warning of potential problems. The Legislation Coordinator is available to advise Ministers' offices and departmental officials about the legislation programme, or particular items on the programme.