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Ministers' overseas travel process and Cabinet travel papers

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Issue status: 
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Version note: 

This publication is part of the CabGuide.

This section provides information on the Cabinet process for Ministers' overseas travel and Cabinet travel paper requirements.

Where travel is proposed for a Parliamentary Under-Secretary, or by another member on behalf of a Minister, the Minister is responsible for submitting both a proposed travel and report on travel to Cabinet. Follow this link for templates for the two kinds of travel papers.

Seeking the Prime Minister’s agreement for overseas travel

Proposals for a Minister's overseas travel require the Prime Minister's agreement in principle (see paragraphs 2.111 to 2.128 of the Cabinet Manual). No commitment or understanding may be entered into before this preliminary approval has been given.

All travel proposals should outline a Minister's intended travel dates, reason for travel, composition of the travel party, estimated travel costs, and the Ministers that will act in the travelling Minister's portfolio for the time that they are away. 

Where there is any doubt about travel to a particular destination (e.g. for international relations reasons), the request for the Prime Minister’s approval must be supported by a recommendation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Following agreement in principle from the Prime Minister, a Cabinet paper proposing the travel must be approved by Cabinet, except for travel to Australia and Antarctica.

If the House is sitting during the Minister's absence then House leave will need to be sought and approved by the party whips.

Approval for travel to Australia and Antarctica

Proposed travel to Australia or Antarctica only requires the Prime Minister’s approval, as opposed to the submission of a full proposal.

Although Cabinet approval for proposed travel is not required, Ministers must report on their overseas travel to Cabinet within one month of their return (see paragraph 2.123 of the Cabinet Manual).

Travel costs

Cabinet travel papers should set out the indicative travel costs of the proposal, and the Vote under which travel costs will be charged. In most cases for the Ministerial party, this will be Vote: Internal Affairs (Members of the Executive - Travel).

Every effort should be made to ensure that the 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

Any proposal that a Minister or a Parliamentary Under-Secretary accept the payment of international airfares or travel-related costs by another country must be approved by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Cabinet paper on proposed travel must state that this approval has been obtained.

If it is proposed that an organisation other than a New Zealand government agency fund any of the travel, accommodation, or other expenses, then the Cabinet paper on proposed travel should provide details of the organisation and the expenses that it has offered to meet. Any such proposals should be assessed in light of the guidelines on the public duty/private interests of Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries (see paragraph 2.56 and paragraphs 2.82 to 2.83 of the Cabinet Manual).

Acting Ministers

An Acting Minister is required to administer an absent Minister's portfolio(s) while the absent Minister is out of New Zealand. Agreement for Ministers to act in portfolios should be sought in the proposed travel Cabinet paper.

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

Notification about Ministers overseas

The Cabinet Office publishes a list of Acting Ministers on the Public Sector Intranet (PSI) each week. This list details which Ministers are overseas, the length of their absence, and the Minister who is acting in their portfolio(s) during their absence.  Note that the PSI is only available to public sector agencies.

Reporting on Ministers’ overseas travel

Within one month of their return, Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries must report to Cabinet on the achievements and any outcomes of their overseas travel, including to Australia and Antarctica. Reports on overseas travel should provide details of the period of absence, the countries visited, meetings held and/or conferences attended, and an outline of the key achievements and outcomes of the visit (see paragraph 2.123 of the Cabinet Manual).

Refer to the following pages for more information

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 12 April 2016

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