EUR-Lex legislative drafting materials

EUR-Lex, the website for EU legal materials, recently added pages on legislative drafting (thanks to Rainer Langenhan – ‘Gesetzestechnik’).
There is a Joint Practical Guide, an Interinstitutional Style Guide, a Manual of Precedents, and Rules on Legislative Drafting (dead link). There are also links to national sites. The links to Germany are mysterious – one to the Saarbrücken law portal, excellent of course, one to the Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court), and one to some information on drafting in French at Fribourg in Switzerland.

One of the links for the UK is to the Parliamentary Counsel Office, which is responsible for drafting statutes, although the site seems unhelpful if you want information about drafting. Here’s a more useful page of international drafting links at Southamption Institute (of which I know nothing).

And here, my search threw up (to coin a phrase) the noble Lord Monson speaking in the House of Lords in May 1996 on the language of the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Bill (I don’t think it’s libellous – one has to be careful when quoting Hansard because Hansard is privileged by law and I’m not). The topic was ‘Page 2, line 18, at end insert (“male”)’:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall, for the convenience of the House, speak also to Amendment No. 2 which is consequential. So far as concerns the English language, Acts of Parliament ought to set the highest possible standards. Those responsible for drafting statutes should resist siren voices urging them to lower standards whether for populist or any other reasons. The word “homosexuality” derives from a Greek word meaning same and not from the Latin word meaning man. For anyone who doubts that fact, perhaps they should consider the Italian translation, which is omosessualita, not uomosessualita, as would be the case if the word had anything to do with man or with “male”.

To say without a prefix simply, homosexual or lesbian is, therefore, a tautology and the equivalent of saying “human beings or women” which, as I said last time, is considerably insulting to women. As a matter of fact, to incorporate the word “lesbian” itself in an Act of Parliament is cutting it a little fine as the word also means an inhabitant of the isle of Lesbos–whether they be homosexual or heterosexual. Indeed, in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary in the Library of the House which was published in 1973 that is the first definition given. However, I am prepared to give the noble Baroness and her friends the benefit of the doubt in that respect.

In Committee the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who I am sorry is not present in the Chamber this evening–I somehow assumed that he certainly would be–maintained that Acts of Parliament dealing with sexual matters should be framed in the language understood by the under 25s–presumably the sort of under 25s who wear baseball caps back to front. If that were taken to its logical conclusion, the possessive “its” in all such Bills would be spelt with an apostrophe, all punctuation marks other than commas would be eliminated, “fortuitous” would be used when “fortunate” was meant, “infer” would be employed when “imply” was intended, and so on. However, in reality, the young people about whom the noble Earl was concerned rarely, if ever, consult Acts of Parliament. They get their information elsewhere. Acts of Parliament are meant essentially for lawyers and, therefore, they need to be written in totally unambiguous English.

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