A ‘report-back’ is an invitation or direction from Cabinet for a Minister or agency, or group of Ministers or agencies, to undertake an action within a particular timeframe and report-back to Cabinet or a committee. This action can be such things as providing further information, submitting a new paper, delivering a piece of work, or providing an update.
Report-backs are recorded in Cabinet and Cabinet committee minutes (i.e. Cabinet directed the Ministry of Education to report-back in May 2021 on the results of consultation).
It is the responsibility of agencies and Ministers’ offices to ensure that report-backs are completed within the directed timeframe.
The Cabinet Office manages requests for extensions or cancellations of report-backs to Cabinet or Cabinet committees, and provides Cabinet and committees with advice on outstanding reports.
Cabinet and Cabinet committees may also request reports to joint Ministers or Ministerial groups. These report-backs are not covered by these procedures.
Agencies and Ministers’ offices should check Cabinet and Cabinet committee minutes for items relevant to their portfolio areas to see if Cabinet or a Cabinet committee has requested a report-back.
Cabinet Committee Secretaries keep a record of report-backs. Ministers’ offices and agencies can contact the Cabinet Office for a list relevant to their portfolio areas.
Extending a report-back date#
If a report-back response is unable to be submitted within the directed timeframe, then the following processes should be followed:
- If a report-back is likely to be up to one month late
The department should advise the Minister’s office, which will then advise the Cabinet Office of the proposed new reporting date. The Minister’s office and the Cabinet Office will then decide whether to inform Cabinet or the Cabinet committee of the delay, and the report-back monitoring register that is maintained by the Cabinet Office will be updated accordingly.
- If a report-back is likely to be more than one month late
The Minister’s office should copy the above form into an email, and send it to the Cabinet Office at [email protected].
In the form, summarise the original report request and due date, the reason for the delay, and the proposed new reporting date. Include the reference of the minute that the report-back was in (i.e. CAB-19-MIN-0099). The Minister’s office should also indicate whether the extension is supported by other relevant Ministers and departments.
The Cabinet Office will then forward the email request to the Cabinet or Cabinet committee Chair’s office, as appropriate, with any necessary additional information. If the Chair agrees to the extension, then this will sometimes be published in CabNet in a memo, which will be accessible to relevant Ministers and departments. The memo is effectively a minute, and will be included in the committee’s next weekly report to Cabinet, and the monitoring register will be updated accordingly.
Cancelling a report-back#
Occasionally, report-backs requested by Cabinet or a Cabinet committee may no longer be required. In these instances, the responsible Minister’s office should either seek the agreement of the chair of Cabinet or Cabinet committee to cancel it, or seek this agreement as part of a Cabinet paper related to the matter (i.e. where report-backs are no longer required due to the piece of work being overtaken by events or addressed as part of another work programme).
To seek the Chair’s agreement, the Minister’s office should copy the above form into an email and send it to the Cabinet Office at [email protected].
In the form, summarise the original report request and due date, and the reason for the cancellation request. Include the reference of the minute that the report-back was directed in (i.e. CAB-19-MIN-0099). The Minister’s office should also indicate whether the cancellation is supported by other relevant Ministers and departments.
Following receipt of the email, the Cabinet Office will advise the Chair of the Cabinet committee, and if the Chair agrees to the cancellation, then a memo will be issued in the same way as for an extension.