Ministers are expected to consult their relevant Ministerial colleagues before submitting Cabinet committee papers that deal with significant or potentially controversial matters, or that affect other Ministers’ portfolio interests.
Where there is a statutory requirement to consult another Minister or particular groups, the Minister must ensure that this has happened before the paper is submitted (see paragraphs 5.14 to 5.21 of the Cabinet Manual).
Ministers are also responsible for ensuring that consultation is undertaken in accordance with any coalition, confidence and supply, and co-operation agreements entered into when the government was formed.
Some Cabinet decisions need to be referred to the government caucus for discussion. This is because the responsible Minister considers that it would be desirable to consult the caucus, and has ticked the appropriate box when lodging a paper through CabNet. Alternatively, Cabinet or a Cabinet committee may agree that discussion is needed with caucus, which is recorded in the minute.
It is the responsibility of the office of the responsible Minister to:
- arrange for the item to be placed on the agenda of the government caucus
- find out from their Minister the outcome of the caucus discussion
- discuss with the relevant Cabinet Office contact a process for referring the issue back to Cabinet or a Cabinet committee, if caucus discussion leads to a recommendation to change a Cabinet decision.
The requirements for consulting the Minister of Foreign Affairs on papers seeking approval for international treaty action are set out in the section on international treaty making and international treaty papers.
When should the Minister of Finance be consulted, and what is the process for this consultation?
The Vote Minister must personally consult the Minister of Finance before submitting a Cabinet paper in cases where approval for policy or expenditure proposals needs to be sought outside the Budget round, and the Vote Minister considers that the proposal cannot be resourced from within existing baselines.
This requirement also applies to proposals that were identified during the Budget round as contingency items that may require funding approval later in the year. The requirement for the Vote Minister to consult the Minister of Finance personally is additional to the requirement for departments to consult the Treasury on proposals with economic implications, financial or fiscal (expenditure or revenue) implications, implications for the Public Finance Act 1989, or regulatory implications.
The procedures for consultation with the Minister of Finance are:
- the Vote Minister should forward a copy of the draft paper to the Minister of Finance before the submission of the paper to Cabinet or a Cabinet committee (this should occur at least one week before the deadline for submitting the paper)
- the Minister of Finance will review the paper and, if necessary, arrange a meeting with the Vote Minister to discuss the appropriate course of action, taking into account Cabinet Office circular CO (15) 4 Proposals with Financial Implications and Financial Authorities
- consultation with the Minister of Finance should be reflected by filling in the appropriate consultation information when uploading a submission to CabNet, or on the CAB100 when submitting a highly classified paper in hard copy to the Cabinet Office.
Chief executives should ensure that:
- their department does not forward papers seeking approval for additional resources to their Minister for submission to Cabinet or a Cabinet committee without advising the Minister that consultation is required with the Minister of Finance (the Treasury can provide advice on this)
- they provide advice to the Minister, including a copy of the draft paper, on the need for consultation with the Minister of Finance (this needs to be done in sufficient time to allow consultation to occur, and for the paper to be submitted on time)
- the requirement for Ministers to consult the Minister of Finance on proposals seeking additional resources is reflected in their department’s planning and quality assurance processes for the development of proposals and the preparation and submission of Cabinet and Cabinet committee papers.
The Treasury will, when consulted on proposals to increase baselines, advise the department concerned that the Vote Minister should consult the Minister of Finance. The Treasury will also advise the Minister of Finance’s office of the proposal, and of the need for consultation to occur at Ministerial level.