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How long should a Cabinet paper be

Issue date: 
Monday, 26 June 2017
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This publication is part of the CabGuide.

Cabinet papers should present proposals or issues concisely, and logically to facilitate decision making. Papers should include enough information that Ministers who do not have a close knowledge of the subject matter will be able to understand the proposal, but not be so long that they are a burden on Minister's time.

Papers should generally be less than ten pages long.

Papers longer than ten pages may be necessary for major policy proposals or reviews. The ten page guideline does not include attachments (e.g. Regulatory Impact Statements, appointments forms, and bills and regulations).

In preparing Cabinet papers, Ministers and officials should consider the most appropriate format to use for longer papers. The Cabinet Office is available to provide advice on the proposed approach. The following formats are recommended for Cabinet papers:

  • a single paper, with detailed information attached in appendices
  • a single paper longer than ten pages, if this is the most practical and logical way of addressing an issue
  • a suite of papers, if that format is the best way to support consideration of the issue.

If a suite of papers approach is used:

  • the division of the issue into separate papers should be determined by the subject matter, rather than the ten page guideline for the length of papers. Two or three longer papers may be more appropriate than four or five shorter papers
  • it is not necessary to submit an overview paper summarising the issues (although it can be helpful to provide a strategic overview of an issue in advance of a detailed paper or papers, which can seek agreement to the general approach, and outline the further work to be presented in subsequent papers)
  • consideration should be given to the timing of the papers.

In certain cases, a staged approach may be better than submitting the papers all at once.

Refer to these pages for more information

Last updated: 
Sunday, 23 August 2015

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