Sir Stephen Laws

Former First Parliamentary Counsel & Senior Civil Servant


Stephen graduated in law from Bristol University in 1972 and lectured in law at the University for a year after graduating. He was called to the Bar in 1973 and, after a brief period in practice as a barrister, joined the Home Office as a legal assistant in 1975. He transferred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in 1976, working at different levels as a Parliamentary Counsel until his appointment to lead the Office as First Parliamentary Counsel and Permanent Secretary from 1 August 2006. As such he became, with the Treasury Solicitor and the Director of Public Prosecutions, one of the three most senior lawyers in the Civil Service.

The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is part of the Cabinet Office and currently contains around 50 lawyers and 15 administrative staff. It provides a central service to departments for the drafting of the Bills in the Government’s Parliamentary legislative programme, and for the provision of advice and assistance with the procedural and Parliamentary handling of legislation.

As First Parliamentary Counsel, Stephen was responsible, as well as for the leadership of the office, for giving constitutional advice to the Cabinet Secretary and to the Cabinet Office more generally on various topics, including Ministerial appointments & Government formation. He was also responsible for the offices of the Government Parliamentary Business Managers (the Leaders and Chief Whips in the two Houses) and was a member of the Cabinet Office’s Executive Management Committee, as well as Chair of the Civil Service Benevolent Fund.

Stephen retired from the Civil Service in January 2012 after nearly 37 years service. He was then appointed to the McKay Commission, which was given the job of looking into the consequences of devolution for the House of Commons, including the so-called “”West Lothian question”.