2.119 Overseas travel by Ministers or Parliamentary Under-Secretaries can provide important benefits to their portfolios and to New Zealand generally.
2.120 To ensure that their travel is approved properly and undertaken in an appropriate manner, Ministers must follow the principles set out in paragraphs 2.123 - 2.136, and the more detailed procedural guidance from Ministerial Services in the Department of Internal Affairs and in the CabGuide.
2.121 This guidance applies to all Ministers (inside and outside Cabinet) and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. References to Ministers include Parliamentary Under-Secretaries.
Purpose of travel
2.122 Ministers' travel should usually be for one or more of the following purposes relating to their portfolios:
- to attend specific conferences, meetings, or events;
- to familiarise themselves with specific issues;
- to meet international obligations; or
- to represent New Zealand on significant occasions.
Approval of travel
2.123 Travel proposals require the preliminary approval of the Prime Minister. Ministers wishing to travel during a House sitting period will also need leave approved from the party whips. A Cabinet paper proposing the travel must subsequently be submitted to and approved by Cabinet (except for travel to Australia and the Ross Dependency in Antarctica, for which the Prime Minister's approval is sufficient). Ministers must seek the agreement of another Minister or Ministers to act for them during their proposed absence (see paragraphs 2.41 - 2.45). No commitments or understandings regarding overseas travel are to be entered into before the Prime Minister's preliminary approval is given.
2.124 Where there is any doubt about travel to a particular destination (for example, for international relations reasons), the request for the Prime Minister's approval must be supported by a recommendation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
2.125 When considering proposals for overseas travel by Ministers, the Prime Minister will take into account the number of Ministers overseas at any one time. Usual practice is for no more than four Ministers in Cabinet to be absent from New Zealand on official business at the same time, although the Prime Minister may approve exceptions to this limit in special circumstances.
2.126 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade coordinates arrangements for Ministers' official visits overseas, and circulates guidance from time to time concerning the support provided by New Zealand's overseas posts. Early contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade should be made through the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to ensure focused and coordinated programmes overseas. Ministers' offices should not contact overseas posts directly.
2.127 Any proposal that a Minister accept the payment of international airfares or other travel-related costs by another country or international organisation must be approved by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister, and included in any related Cabinet paper.
2.128 Any proposals for bodies other than government organisations to fund any of the travel, accommodation, or other expenses incurred by Ministers should be assessed in the light of the guidance on the public duty and personal interests of Ministers. See in particular paragraphs 2.59, 2.63, and 2.64, and the guidance on gifts (paragraphs 2.88 - 2.93 and 2.103). The Secretary of the Cabinet is available for advice. The Standing Orders require members of Parliament to disclose to the Registrar of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament the name of any person who contributed in whole or in part to the costs of travel or accommodation for each country other than New Zealand to which the member travelled.
Accompanying family members, staff, and officials
2.129 It may be appropriate for a Minister to be accompanied by a spouse, partner, or family member, or, in some cases, a person providing personal support to the Minister, as a member of the official party. Approval is not given automatically; the Prime Minister will consider requests case by case. Requests should make it clear how the accompanying person's travel is proposed to be funded.
2.130 Ministers may be accompanied on overseas visits by staff from their own offices or officials from their public service agencies. The number of accompanying staff must be kept to an absolute minimum, and should be determined in the light of the nature of the visit.
Reporting on overseas travel
2.131 Within a month of their return, Ministers must report to Cabinet on the achievements and outcomes of their overseas travel. This reporting requirement does not apply in relation to ministerial travel to Australia (unless for a significant bilateral visit) or to the Ross Dependency in Antarctica.
Personal travel overseas
2.132 Subject to parliamentary or portfolio requirements, and with the prior approval of the Prime Minister, Ministers may occasionally extend overseas visits outside the formal itinerary for personal reasons, provided no additional costs are incurred by the government as a result.
2.133 Ministers may make personal visits overseas if they obtain the Prime Minister's prior approval, which will be subject to obtaining leave to be absent from the House. Ministers must also obtain the agreement of another Minister or Ministers to act during such periods of absence (see paragraphs 2.41 - 2.45). The Cabinet Office should be advised of any such arrangements.
Visits by Leaders and Ministers from other countries
2.134 The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs should be consulted if a visit by a leader or a Minister from another country is proposed. Guidance about the arrangements for a visit by an overseas leader or Minister is available from the Visits and Ceremonial Office at the Department of Internal Affairs.
2.135 The New Zealand government does not usually offer payment of international airfares for leaders or Ministers from other countries who are visiting New Zealand, although it may provide some assistance with internal costs.
Travel within New Zealand
2.136 Details of the procedures and entitlements governing ministerial travel within New Zealand are available from Ministerial Services, Department of Internal Affairs.