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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title III - Making Parliamentary Information Transparent

Sec. 18. Informing and Engaging Citizens on Draft Legislation and Preparatory Analysis

Draft legislation shall be made public and published upon its introduction. Recognizing the need for citizens to be fully informed about and provide input into items under consideration, parliament should provide the public with analysis and background information to encourage broad understanding of policy discussions about the proposed legislation.

Citizens’ right to be informed of draft legislation and related documentation are well established. COPA states that “Laws, proposed legislation, committee reports, and any other parliamentary document provided for by the rules of procedure must be made accessible to the public.”[1] The Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites further emphasize this point by noting that parliaments should provide an explanation of the legislative process, the text and status of all proposed legislation, links to relevant parliamentary and government documentation, the text and final status of previous legislation, the text and actions taken on all enacted legislation, and a searchable database of current, previously proposed, and enacted legislation.[2] A new EU law dealing with the release of documents states that “[p]reparatory legislative documents and all related information on different stages of the inter-institutional procedure… should in principle be made immediately and directly accessible to the public on the Internet.”[3] 

Most parliaments provide information on draft legislation to the public. The Global Centre for ICT in Parliament notes that the text and status of proposed legislation is posted on 66% of parliamentary websites.[4] According to the IPU, the Hungarian Parliament is “in the process of establishing an electronic Parliament, with the text of every submitted proposal (proposed bills, amendments, resolutions, draft policy announcements, reports, interpellations questions, etc.) available online. Although this is primarily intended to facilitate and improve the work of representatives, it means that the relevant texts will also be available to citizens through Parliament’s website.”[5] 

To encourage thorough and deliberative consideration of issues before parliament, parliament may wish to exempt from disclosure certain types of preparatory analysis and background information prepared for the benefit of an individual member of parliament. However, information prepared for the benefit of parliament as a whole are typically made public, to help citizens evaluate legislation being reviewed by parliament with the benefit of the same background and information available to parliament.

[1] COPA, The Contributions of Parliaments to Democracy: Benchmarks for the Parliaments of the Americas, §

[2] IPU, Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites, §2.2.

[3] Public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, P7_TA-PROV0580, A7-0426/2011, Rapporteur: Michael Cashman, 12

[4] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliament Report 2010, IPU-UNDESA, p. 57.

[5] IPU, Parliament and Democracy in the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to Good Practice, p. 125.