Response to Cluster Comments on Draft Template
Purpose of the Template
Final submissions are typically amended in response to comments from other clusters received during the draft submission stage.
This optional additional attachment to a final submission may be used to outline the comments received at the draft stage and the responses.
The template provides space for originating clusters to explain how the comments received have been addressed, whether through direct changes to the submission, or other arrangements.
The template is particularly useful where draft comments do not request amendment, as the submission might not show that the comment has been taken on board by the originating cluster.
Where requested amendments have not been incorporated into the submission, originating clusters can also use the template to explain their reasoning for responding clusters to review.
Responding clusters can also see at a glance how their comments have been addressed, and therefore shape their coordinated comments.
Using the Template on a case-by-case basis
While useful, it is not recommended that the template be included in every submission. Rather, use of the template should be judged on a case-by-case basis.
If there are no detailed comments suggesting amendments or raising issues, then the template is not necessary and should not be included.
It is also important to remember that attachments to final submissions go to Cabinet and form part of the document package considered. In some situations, using the template as an attachment may not be appropriate.
Including all cluster comments on draft submissions for all Cabinet Ministers to see may stifle the willingness of clusters to provide full and honest comment on key issues at the draft stage, particularly where matters are contentious.
For example, where significant comments have been made at the draft stage, which have since been resolved, the inclusion of an extensive list of these concerns as a formal attachment may convey the wrong impression to Ministers with regards to the soundness of the final submission, particularly where the template is not read closely. Paraphrasing and summarising comments made may be considered in these cases.
Alternate pathways for the relevant information
Ultimately, whether or not the template is included is a matter of judgement for the lead cluster, keeping in mind that once included as an attachment, the entirety of the template will be visible to Ministers.
In some circumstances, it may be more appropriate for the information to be conveyed to a commenting cluster informally, by phone or email. For example, if only one cluster has provided detailed comment, and the resolution is a simple change with the wording of the submission, it may be more appropriate to communicate this informally, rather than to include the full template as an attachment.
Similarly, if the lead CLO feels that a detailed breakdown of responses to comments may be useful for commenting clusters, but not for Ministers, or if commenting clusters have indicated concern at their draft comments being visible to Ministers, then the template should not be attached, and it may be better for the template to be circulated informally via email.