Note 7: Cabinet and Official Documents
1. Under normal circumstances, routine Cabinet meetings would cease during the pre-election period. Exceptionally, in 2021, Cabinet may need to meet during this period if urgent collective decision-making is required as part of the Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, or for other essential business related to the pandemic. If required, Cabinet and other official documents should continue to be sent to Ministers in the normal way, using the standard copy lists. Officials should support the delivery of any Cabinet business in the normal way.
2. Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers relinquishing office following the election will be expected to ensure that they return to their Private Office all official documents in their possession which are required for current administration and to ensure that any other official documents which bear a protective marking are either returned to their office or destroyed. By convention, former Ministers are allowed reasonable access to official papers which they saw when they were in office. Such access is, however, limited to physical access by the former Minister, and the papers made available for inspection cannot be copied or taken away.
3. Where the governing party changes, Ministers in the next administration do not generally have access to papers of the previous Government. This applies, in particular, to papers relating to former Ministers' own deliberations and to advice given to them by officials. It does not apply to written advice from the Law Officers or to papers which were published or put into the public domain by the previous Government. In addition, the application of Freedom of Information legislation increases the range of circumstances in which papers of a previous administration could be disclosed.
4. For further information, please contact:
- Robin Benn or
- Duncan Beamish