Legislative Processes in Transition: Comparative Study of the Legislative Processes in EU Countries

153 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2012 Last revised: 22 Dec 2012

See all articles by Wim J. M. Voermans

Wim J. M. Voermans

Leiden University - Leiden Law School

Hans-Martien ten Napel

Leiden Law School

Date Written: December 13, 2012


This comparative report studies the performance of legislative processes in the UK, Finland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and some other countries in Europe (12 jurisdictions in all) as regards the speed of the process, the overall coordination between the key actors (during the different stages), the transparency of the processes and the use of ICT. The key question is whether there are any lessons to be learned from the practices in these countries. A first observation is that the general pace of the process is more or less the same in the countries involved in the study. A second one is that coordination is a problem in most countries although prioritization and planning systems in countries like the UK seem to be driving forces that speed up the process. The study also shows in what ways ICT is used as a driver for change and innovation of the legislative process. In some jurisdictions it is not only used as a facilitating technique but it is used as a time-management tool, indeed as a disciplining mechanism, as well. Because all the actors are connected to a system that allows to monitor the progress of a proposal/Bill it is easier to pinpoint and address bottlenecks, to impose and uphold deadlines and define responsibilities. ICT has also affected expectations as regards the transparency of the legislative process. The possibilities of ICT have prompted discussions on opening up the legislative process in ways that were unfathomable before. It has raised questions as to the format of amendments and accessibility and readability of legislative texts and the need to provide citizens’ summaries of complicated legal texts. A very interesting find of the study is the growing assertiveness of modern parliaments. In a lot of modern parliaments a trend seems to have emerged whereby parliament is no longer satisfied with second-hand consultation and evidence provided by the government, but seems to be more and more inclined to consult themselves by way of organizing evidence sessions or a hearing. This is topped off with a tendency of modern parliaments to take a more hands-on approach to legislation and become a ‘working’ parliament. What is interesting to see is that this growing assertiveness does not seem to compromise the overall efficiency of the legislative process in the countries involved in this study. The time devoted to parliamentary debate and scrutiny on legislation rather more seems to have decreased over the last decades. If one wants to save time in the legislative process as a whole, one could better look for improvements in the departmental preparation of Bills. Parliaments did cut back on handling time over the last decades and increased their grip on consultation. This suggests some level of redundancy of consultation if both Parliament and government consult on the same issue. On the other hand the study shows that the coordination between departments and institutions during the departmental preparation stage does show some promise of increased efficiency in the countries under study.

Keywords: legislative process, parliament, legislative scrutiny, comparative parliamentary procedures, consultation, ICT, parliamentary committees, crowd surfing, efficiency of the legislative process, prioritization, fixed term parliament, discontinuity principle, departemental coordination

JEL Classification: K1, K10

Suggested Citation

Voermans, Wim and ten Napel, Hans-Martien, Legislative Processes in Transition: Comparative Study of the Legislative Processes in EU Countries (December 13, 2012). Leiden Law School Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2188870

Wim Voermans (Contact Author)

Leiden University - Leiden Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 9520
2300 RA Leiden, NL-2300RA

Hans-Martien Ten Napel

Leiden Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 9520
2300 RA Leiden, NL-2300RA

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