Alumni lecture: 'How policy becomes Law - The perspective of a Parliamentary Drafter'
Sir Stephen Laws QC
Physics building 1.11, Tyndall Avenue
'How policy becomes Law - The perspective of a Parliamentary Drafter'
Sir Stephen Laws served as the First Parliamentary Counsel between 2006 and 2012.
Stephen studied at the University of Bristol from 1969- 1971 and was the only student who attained a first-class degree in his cohort. Subsequently he was a lecturer in law here.
He was called to the Bar at Middle Temple, and following pupillage and a brief period of practising, he joined the Home Office in 1975 as a legal assistant. He transferred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in 1976. He had two secondments to the Law Commission. He was promoted to Deputy Parliamentary Counsel in 1985, and then Parliamentary Counsel in 1991.
Between 1976 and 2006 he worked on many Bills that became major Acts of Parliament. He drafted privatisation and tax legislation in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 2000s he worked on terrorism legislation and other Home Office measures, as well as the Communications Act 2003, and the Energy Act 2004. On being appointed First Parliamentary Counsel in 2006, he became head of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, and so the Civil Service Permanent Secretary responsible for the production of the Government’s annual legislative programme and for leading the office comprising the Government's legislative drafters, as well as for the officials supporting the Chief Whip and Leader in each House of Parliament. His other responsibilities included being a constitutional adviser to the Cabinet Office. Since retiring he has been involved in various other things, including serving on the McKay Commission, which looked into the West Lothian Question and made recommedndations for answering it. His current activities include being chair of the Advisory Board for the National Archives’ “Big Data for Law” project.
His interest in public affairs developed while he was still a student at Bristol. In 1969, following the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18, he argued his own case before the Electoral Registration Officer to register to vote as resident in Badock Hall. The case was eventually resolved in the Court of Appeal and established students