Role of the Division

The Division plays a significant role in making all the statutory laws of the HKSAR, from Ordinances to subsidiary legislation. When the Government proposes new legislation, drafting counsel of the Division will liaise with those making the proposal to gain a thorough understanding of its background and intended effect. Drafting counsel, who are specialists professionally trained in the principles and techniques of drafting legislation, must first carefully analyse the drafting instructions to ensure that the proposal is conceptually sound and legally effective. They will then conceive a legislative scheme to give effect to the proposal and choose the most appropriate forms and words. This process exemplifies the dual aspects of legislative drafting: the conceptual aspect, in which drafting counsel ascertain and perfect the concepts to be employed in the draft; and the literary aspect, in which drafting counsel select the best means of expressing those concepts.

After drafting the proposed legislation, drafting counsel provide legal support to the relevant policy bureaux during the legislative process. When government bills and subsidiary legislation are submitted to the Executive Council for consideration, drafting counsel attend the Executive Council meetings to advise on general legal issues and questions relating to drafting.

Usually, after a bill has been introduced into the Legislative Council, a Bills Committee will be formed to consider it. For example, 44 Bills Committee meetings were held to scrutinise the Companies Bill. Drafting counsel attended those meetings to advise on drafting and other general legal issues and then drafted all the committee stage amendments proposed or agreed to by the Government. These amendments were considered and decided on before the bill was put to the vote for its final reading in the Legislative Council meeting. Likewise, if an item of subsidiary legislation made by the Government is referred to a sub-committee after being tabled at the Legislative Council, drafting counsel will attend the sub-committee meetings and draft any amendments which the Government proposes.

In the complex process of drafting legislation, drafting counsel are assisted by a dedicated team that includes law translation officers, law clerks, an English legislative editor, personal secretaries, proofreaders, typists and calligraphists. Their hard work contributes to the making of statutory laws in the HKSAR.