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Why, when and who: Cabinet paper consultation

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Issue status: 
Published by: 
Version note: 

This publication is part of the CabGuide.

This section outlines the need for a range of consultation on Cabinet and Cabinet committee papers and the process for consultation, including:

  • the process for departmental consultation, which includes consultation with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Treasury, on matters of general importance, on the impact on population groups, and on other cross-government issues
  • the process for consultation with interest groups
  • the process for Ministerial consultation, including consultation with the Minister of Finance.

The circular Labour Government, with support from the Green Party: Consultation and Operating Arrangements [CO (20) 8] , provides practical guidance for Ministers and departments on implementing the cooperation agreement between the Labour Party and the Green Party, including when consultation needs to take place.

Departments that own the preparation of a Cabinet paper are responsible for ensuring that appropriate agency and stakeholder consultation is undertaken, that other departments are given reasonable time to comment, and that their views are accurately reflected in the paper. Minister's offices are responsible for ensuring that appropriate Ministerial consultation is undertaken, and Chiefs of Staff are responsible for ensuring that appropriate cross-party consultation is undertaken.

Robust consultation processes ensure that Ministers receive sound, comprehensive, and co-ordinated policy advice, enabling them to have well-socialised and relevant information in front of them when they take decisions.

The Cabinet Office is authorised to refer a paper back to the Minister who signed it if consultation appears to have been inadequate. An item will not be included on a Cabinet or Cabinet committee agenda until any uncertainty about consultation has been resolved, particularly around consultation with the Minister of Finance.

When departments know that an issue is under discussion that they have an interest in, they should take steps early in the process to bring their interest to the attention of the drafting department. Smaller departments need to use their networks actively to ensure that their interests are known by others. Drafters need to address the following questions when considering which departments will need to be consulted on a particular paper:

  • does this issue require consultation with departments responsible for advising the government on key general issues (e.g. legal implications and human rights, financial and fiscal issues, and the overall co-ordination of government policy)?
  • which departments have a specific policy or operational interest in this issue?

Departments that have been consulted need to think about the implications of any proposals for their associated agencies and, in turn, consult those agencies before formulating their response to the lead department.

The consultation section of the template for policy papers provides guidance on presenting consultation information, and the sections on the process for uploading submissions to CabNet and lodging highly classified submissions with the Cabinet Office contain information on recording consultation on papers.

Refer to the following pages for more information

Last updated: 
Saturday, 22 August 2015

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