Occasionally, a Cabinet committee or a group of Ministers can be given “Power to Act” by Cabinet or the Prime Minister to take final decisions on Cabinet’s behalf.
What is Power to Act#
When Power to Act is exercised, the decision of the Cabinet committee or group of Ministers is final, and does not need to be confirmed by Cabinet (although Cabinet needs to be advised of the decision that was taken).
Authorisation for Power to Act is normally sought at Cabinet, in advance, at the request of the portfolio Minister, if there is a need for a final decision to be made before the next Cabinet meeting. These requests are raised as oral items at Cabinet, and approval is authorised in a Cabinet minute.
The Cabinet minute authorising the Power to Act will state which Cabinet committee or group of Ministers has the authorisation, the specific issue that the authority covers, and a date or time period when the authority may be exercised.
When it is a Cabinet committee that has Power to Act, the Cabinet committee minute will record that the decisions were made using the Power to Act authorised by Cabinet. When it is a group of Ministers that has Power to Act, Cabinet may also request that the relevant portfolio Minister report back to Cabinet on the decisions taken by the group using Power to Act. A Cabinet minute will then formally record the decisions taken.
Power to Act can also be granted by the Prime Minister, as the Chair of Cabinet, in cases where it is not possible to seek Cabinet’s authority in advance of the Cabinet committee meeting or in the time available. In such instances, the Minister’s office should get in touch with the relevant Cabinet committee secretary in the Cabinet Office (search in CabNet, or contact the Cabinet Office).