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CabGuide

Attending Cabinet committee meetings

Issue date: 
Thursday, 9 July 2020
Issue status: 
Current
Published by: 
Version note: 

This publication is part of the CabGuide.

When considering Cabinet papers at Cabinet committees, Ministers will sometimes ask officials to come in to answer questions or speak to them about the matter when they need further information.

This is likely to be the case for papers involving significant proposals, or complex or unresolved issues, on which it is expected that other Ministers may have questions, or if the matter is time sensitive.

Cabinet have agreed that officials should be available to speak to items on Cabinet committee agendas if specifically requested by their Minister, the Cabinet committee, or the chair of the Cabinet committee. Agencies should check with their Minister’s office as to whether officials need to be available.

Note that officials do not attend Cabinet meetings.

The key points for officials’ attending Cabinet committee meetings are as follows:

Which officials should attend Cabinet committee meetings?

  • only key senior officials who are subject matter experts on the Cabinet committee item and are attending at the request of the Minister, the Cabinet committee, or the chair of the Cabinet committee for the purpose of speaking to the item should attend. Officials should be able to answer questions, explain the Minister’s/department’s position, and advise Ministers on the implications of options

  • departments should limit the number of officials attending from their department to two (particularly for discussion on items that concern a large number of departments)

  • in cases where a Minister or department wishes someone to attend who is not a core government department official (e.g. a representative of a Crown entity, state-owned enterprise, or government appointed taskforce), the Minister’s office should seek permission from the Cabinet committee chair through the relevant committee secretary (search in CabNet for this information, or contact the Cabinet Office)

  • any officials who require additional physical assistance or support should contact the Cabinet Office before the meeting (so that arrangements can be made to, for example, seat those with a hearing impairment in the best position to communicate with Ministers, or to ensure that there is clear access for a wheelchair or walking supports).

Waiting on the 8th floor of the Beehive

  • officials should be present in the core of the eighth floor of the Beehive in time for the start of the Cabinet committee meeting (as the items are not always taken in the order that they appear on the agenda), and should record their attendance on the attendance register in the waiting area

  • the Cabinet Office will normally use the electronic agenda displayed in the eighth floor core to indicate when an item has been considered, and will come to collect officials to speak to an item if requested by Ministers

  • the committee may not always need to talk to officials about a particular item and items may, therefore, be handled without officials being called. If the electronic agenda is updated to state that an item has been considered, then officials are free to leave

  • officials may use laptops or tablet devices at the meeting solely for the purpose of accessing Cabinet committee papers or related briefing notes for the item, subject to recording or transmitting functions being turned off (i.e. flight mode). Phones, bags, and coats should be left outside the meeting room in the core waiting area, or in the individual lockable containers outside the meeting room.

What to do when you are in the Cabinet committee room

  • officials from lead agencies should sit at the end of the Cabinet committee table closest to the door, and any others sit in the chairs behind them

  • officials are there to answer questions and provide clarification and should not take any notes at the meeting as a general rule, except where the committee asks for further information or further work to be conducted.  Any notes about this must be kept confidential, and detail of the discussion should not be disclosed

  • when the discussion with Ministers on an item has finished, officials should leave the room quickly and quietly. Unless explicitly requested by the Chair of the committee, officials should not remain in the room for following items, even if they are on related topics.

Follow up after the Cabinet committee meeting

  • the Cabinet Office will call the relevant Minister’s office to communicate Cabinet committee decisions and any follow up actions where required

  • officials’ committees may also provide feedback to departments on the outcome of Cabinet committee discussions.

Departments should contact the relevant Cabinet committee secretary in the Cabinet Office (search in CabNet, or contact the Cabinet Office) about any difficulties or uncertainties that they have about attendance at Cabinet committees.

Refer to the following pages for more information

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 1 November 2016

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