II. The law-making process

1. Outline of the chain of events from the drafting of a legislative bill to be introduced by the Cabinet, to its approval and promulgation

(1) Drafting of a legislative bill

  • A legislative bill that is to be introduced by the Cabinet is drafted by the ministry having the jurisdiction.
    A ministry draws up the first draft of a legislative bill, once it decides either to enact a new law or to amend or abolish an existing law in order to achieve a policy goal set in the performance of its administrative duties.
  • On the basis of this first draft, consultations take place with other ministries concerned. In addition, where necessary, procedures are followed for its referral to advisory councils or to public hearings. Once all of the above has been completed and the legislative bill is considered ready, the ministry in charge puts the draft into a proper statutory form. The final draft of the legislative bill has now been prepared.

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(2) Examination by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau

  • All legislative bills that are to be introduced by the Cabinet are examined by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau before being brought before Cabinet meetings. In principle the examination of a bill by the Bureau should begin only after the request addressed to the Prime Minister for a Cabinet meeting relating to the bill is sent by the ministry in charge. In recent practice, however, a way has developed whereby the Bureau conducts a "preliminary examination" of the bill for which the necessary consultation has been completed. The request for a Cabinet meeting therefore is sent on the basis of the bill for which the Bureau's preliminary examination is completed.
  • During the examination by the Bureau, the bill is examined from all angles, legally and technically. The points examined include the following. :
    • The relationship between the proposed bill on one hand and the Constitution and other existing laws on the other, as well as the legal appropriateness of the contents of the bill;
    • Whether or not the intentions of the proposed bill are accurately expressed in the text;
    • Whether or not the structure of the bill (e.g. the order of articles.) is appropriate;
    • Whether the usage of letters or words is correct.
  • Once the preliminary examination is completed, the state minister in charge of the legislative bill follows the procedure for sending to the Prime Minister the request for a Cabinet meeting regarding the submission of the bill to the Diet. The Cabinet Secretariat, which receives the request, sends it on to the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, which then conducts a final examination, considering the results of the preliminary examination already conducted, makes any revisions as necessary, and returns the result back to the Cabinet Secretary.

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(3) Cabinet decision to submit the bill to the Diet

  • As to the legislative bill for which a Cabinet meeting has been requested, if the Cabinet decides in favor without objection, the Prime Minister submits the bill to the Diet (either to the House of Representatives or to the House of Councilors).
    The administrative work related to the submission to the Diet of a bill intoroduced by the Cabinet is conducted by the Cabinet Secretariat.

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(4) Examination by the Diet

  • When a legislative bill is submitted to either the House of Representatives or the House of Councilors, the leader of the House (the Speaker in the case of the House of Representatives, the President in the case of the House of Councilors), in principle, refers the bill to an appropriate committee. The committee then conducts an examination, starting with an explanation by the state minister in charge regarding the reason for proposing the bill. The examination itself largely follows a question-and-answer format (with the committee asking questions about the bill, and the state minister answering). When the committee completes its questioning and deliberation, its chair person declares, and a vote is taken on, the issue of whether or not to approve the bill. When the committee finishes its examination, deliberation continues at a plenary session of the House concerned.
  • When the legislative bill passes both the committee and the plenary of the House to which it was first submitted, it is sent on to the other House (i.e. it is sent from the House of Representatives to the House of Councilors or vice versa). The same procedure involving deliberation and decisions both by a committee and a plenary is then followed by the second House.

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(5) Enactment of a new law

  • Except otherwise provided by the Constitution, a legislative bill becomes a law when it passes both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors. The leader of the House that examined the bill second (the Speaker in the case of the House of Representatives, the President in the case of the House of Councilors) then submits the new law to the Emperor via the Cabinet (the Emperor's approval is a formality).

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(6) Promulgation of the new law

  • The newly enacted law must be promulgated within 30 days from the date on which the leader of the House that examined the bill second submits it to the Emperor via the Cabinet. As to the promulgation, it is done after a Cabinet decision to do so, and by publication in an official gazette . (An outline of the law is also published in the gazette to serve the general public's understanding of the law. )
  • Promulgation is to ensure that a newly enacted law becomes widely known by the public. In other words, it is an act whereby the people is enabled to know the law. A law must be promulgated before it actually takes effect.
    A law is said to "come into effect" or "come into force" when it generally and actually takes effect and starts to apply. Laws usually stipulate in their attached clauses when they come into effect.
  • When a law is promulgated, it is given a serial number and signed by both the state minister responsible for the law and the Prime Minister.

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