Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (United Kingdom)

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The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) is responsible for drafting all government Bills that are introduced to Parliament. Established in 1869, the OPC has been part of various departments and is currently part of the Cabinet Office. Led by Elizabeth Gardiner, the First Parliamentary Counsel and Permanent Secretary, the OPC consists of 60 members of staff, 47 of whom are lawyers and 13 of whom are support staff. The lawyers who work in the office are referred to as Parliamentary Counsel or Parliamentary draftsmen.[1]


Bills were originally drafted by normal barristers, Members of Parliament themselves or members of the judiciary. William Pitt was the first person to appoint a dedicated parliamentary draftsman, known as the Parliamentary Counsel to the Treasury, who in 1833 described his duties as "to draw or settle all the Bills that belong to Government in the Department of the Treasury",[2] although he also produced bills for other departments. Despite this many bills continued to be drafted by other members of the bar, and one of these barristers (Henry Thring) suggested that "the subjects of Acts of Parliament, as well as the provisions by which the law is enforced, would admit of being reduced to a certain degree of uniformity; that the proper mode of sifting the materials and of arranging the clauses can be explained; and that the form of expressing the enactments might also be the subject of regulation".[2] In response to this, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Treasury was established on 8 February 1869, with Thring as Parliamentary Counsel to the Treasury, the head of the office.[2]

The office is small for a government department – in 1901 it consisted of "the Parliamentary Counsel and the Assistant Parliamentary Counsel, with three shorthand writers, an office-keeper, and an office boy". Two more Parliamentary Counsel were appointed in 1914 and 1930 respectively, and by 1960 the office had 16 counsel, along with their support staff. It currently consists of 47 counsel, with a 13-person support team.[3] The OPC was initially part of HM Treasury, but when the Civil Service Department was created in 1969 the OPC became a part of it, changing its name from Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Treasury to simply the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. After the Civil Service Department was dissolved in 1980, the OPC became part of the Cabinet Office.[2]


The OPC is tasked with drafting all bills of the Parliament of the United Kingdom,[4] and has also been known to draft Orders in Council that are "of exceptional importance or difficulty".[5]

List of First Parliamentary Counsel[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McCluskie QC, John Cameron, "Who Wrote This Bill? The Life and Work of Scottish Parliamentary Counsel", Scottish Parliamentary Review, Vol. I, No. 2 (Jan 2014) [Edinburgh: Blacket Avenue Press]
  2. ^ a b c d "History of OPC". Cabinet Office. 1 January 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "Counsel". Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. 16 April 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  4. ^ "Office of the Parliamentary Counsel". Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. 31 March 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  5. ^ Ilbert (1901) p.94
  6. ^ a b c d John H.M. Pearce, 'The Income Tax Law Rewrite Projects: 1907–1956'. Paper presented to the Tax History Conference 2012, Cambridge. Available online here
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ross Carter, 'Statutory interpretation using legislated examples: Bennion on multiple consumer credit agreements' (2011) 32 Statute Law Review 86–115.
  8. ^ "New First Parliamentary Counsel". Cabinet Office. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "First Parliamentary Counsel appointed: Elizabeth Gardiner – Press releases – GOV.UK". Retrieved 24 November 2015. 


External links[edit]