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Ministers' overseas travel process and Cabinet travel papers

Issue date: 
Monday, 17 September 2018
Issue status: 
Published by: 
Version note: 

This publication is part of the CabGuide.

This section provides information on the Cabinet process for Ministers' and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries’ overseas travel and Cabinet travel paper requirements.

Follow this link for templates for the two kinds of travel papers.

Guidelines on official overseas travel by Ministers

Official travel overseas by Ministers can provide important benefits to their portfolios and New Zealand generally.

The Prime Minister has approved guidelines to assist Ministers and their staff when planning and seeking approval for official overseas travel. The guidelines apply to all Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries (note that further references to Ministers also include Parliamentary Under-Secretaries).

The guidelines are outlined on this page, and described in more detail in the downloadable document below.

Seeking approval for overseas travel

All proposals for overseas travel must be submitted in writing to the Prime Minister well in advance of the proposed travel, where possible. Proposals should include the following details:

  • intended travel dates and purpose of travel;
  • composition of the travelling party;
  • estimated travel costs, and how the travel will be funded;
  • the Ministers that will act in the travelling Minister's portfolio for the time that they are away; 
  • whether leave from Parliament has been sought or approved by the Party Whip, if the House is sitting during the Minister’s absence.

Where there is any doubt about travel to a particular destination (e.g. for international relations reasons), the request must be supported by a recommendation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as stated in 2.116 of the Cabinet Manual.

Following the Prime Minister’s in principle approval, a Cabinet paper, setting out the information above, must be submitted to Cabinet for approval, except for travel to Australia or the Ross Dependency in Antarctica (proposed travel to these destinations only requires the Prime Minister’s approval).

Class of travel

Ministers are expected to travel no higher than business class on international flights. Premium Economy or Economy class should be considered for shorter flights. 

Ministers may not downgrade their own business class ticket in order to fund another person’s travel.

Travel costs

Travel costs for the Ministerial party will generally be met by Vote: Internal Affairs (Members of the Executive - Travel). Where accompanying persons/delegations will be funded by other means (such as officials’ costs being met by their department), this must be noted in the Cabinet paper.

Every effort should be made to ensure that proposed travel costs are as accurate as possible. The Department of Internal Affairs keeps accounting records of all Ministerial travel.

When the actual cost of overseas travel is greater than that estimated and approved by Cabinet and/or the Prime Minister, further authority will be required. All over-expenditure must be justified by the Minister and accompanying Ministerial office staff.

Travel costs met by non-government agencies and foreign governments

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs must approve any proposal that a Minister accept payment of international airfares or travel-related costs by another country or international organisation (as described in paragraph 2.119 of the Cabinet Manual). The Cabinet paper must confirm that approval.

Any proposals for bodies other than government organisations to fund travel, accommodation, or other expenses incurred should be assessed in light of the guidelines on the public duty/private interests of Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries (as described in paragraphs 2.59, 2.63, and 2.64 of the Cabinet Manual).

Acting Ministers

When a Minister is out of the country, they must ensure that another Minister will look after their principal portfolio(s). These are 'Acting' Ministers.

Acting Ministers are not generally required for associate or under-secretary portfolios as their delegated responsibilities default back to the portfolio Minister in the Associate Minister's absence.

Accompanying Ministers/Members of Parliament

When a delegation of Ministers travel overseas, a Lead Minister is responsible for submitting all paperwork relating to the approval and reporting of travel on behalf of the delegation.

When a Minister is accompanied overseas by other members of Parliament (from their own or other parties), the Lead Minister is responsible for submitting all paperwork relating to the approval and reporting of travel.

When a member of Parliament travels on behalf of a Minister, the Minister is responsible for submitting all paperwork relating to the approval and reporting of travel.

Accompanying staff and officials

Ministers travelling overseas may be accompanied by staff from their office and/or department officials. The number of accompanying staff must be kept to a minimum. The number of staff/officials accompanying a Minister should be stated in the Cabinet paper, but their names do not need to be included.

Accompanying spouses/partners, family member, or support person

It may be appropriate for a Minister to be accompanied by a spouse/partner or family member as a member of the official party. The Prime Minister will consider requests case-by-case (as described in 2.121 of the Cabinet Manual).

Children and other family members are not expected to accompany a Minister on official travel unless there are exceptional circumstances. The Prime Minister must specifically approve this. A support person may also be be allowed to accompany the Minister in exceptional circumstances.

A Minister may also seek the Prime Minister’s approval for a spouse/partner, family member or support person to accompany them on official travel at their own cost.

Proposals to the Prime Minister must make it clear how accompanying persons’ travel will be funded. Cabinet papers must include details of any persons approved to accompany the Minister and how their travel will be funded.

Personal travel

Ministers may seek approval from the Prime Minister to extend overseas visits for personal leave, provided no additional costs are incurred by the government as a result (as described in 2.124 of the Cabinet Manual).

Reporting on Ministers’ overseas travel

Ministers must report to Cabinet on the achievements and outcomes of their overseas travel, including to Australia and Antarctica, within one month of their return (as described in 2.123 of the Cabinet Manual). 

Follow this link for the report on overseas travel template.

Refer to the following pages for more information

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 12 April 2016

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