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Government Conferences in Norway

Government conferences in Norway are generally held once a week, usually on Thursdays, at the Office of the Prime Minister. The first item on the agenda is preparations for the meeting of the Council of State on Friday.

Government conferences in Norway are generally held once a week, usually on Thursdays, at the Office of the Prime Minister. The first item on the agenda is preparations for the meeting of the Council of State on Friday.

Before government conferences (and also after meetings of the Council of State), the members of government meet for lunch at the Office of the Prime Minister. This provides an opportunity to discuss matters informally before they are dealt with by the Government.

What matters are dealt with in government conferences?
All important matters are discussed in a government conference before a formal decision is made either in the Council of State or in the ministry concerned. This is a means of ensuring that the entire Government is behind the decision. Thus the government conference is the Government’s most important forum for discussing such matters. The conclusions arrived at government conferences or in connection with the preparation of matters for the Council of State (see below) have no formal status, but they are politically binding on the members of government.

To ensure the best possible basis for discussion at government conferences , each matter is to be presented in the form of a government memorandum of two to three pages. The minister who wishes to raise the matter is responsible for presenting the government memorandum. All ministers affected by the matter are to have an opportunity to express their views on it in writing before the matter may be considered by the government conference. It will therefore be clear in advance whether or not there is political agreement on the matter. In this way the Government saves time and all of the ministers are informed of the matter concerned.

The Prime Minister and his or her political staff closely follow matters being prepared for consideration at government conferences. This is ensured by a procedure according to which the Office of the Prime Minister is to have a copy of all draft government memorandums submitted by the ministers to each other for comments. This enables the Prime Minister and the Office of the Prime Minister to become involved in the process at an early stage. The Prime Minister never comments on the ministers’ government memorandums so as not to influence discussions among the members of government or give the impression that the conclusion has been reached beforehand. However, the Prime Minister may, via his or her political staff, indicate to the competent minister what might be a suitable conclusion in the matter before it is presented to the Government.

Norwegian governments spend a great deal of time discussing budgetary matters. The general framework for the next annual budget is determined at the budget conference in March, and the final profile of the budget is decided in late August/early September, before the budget proposal is submitted to the Storting at the beginning of October. The Government also discusses any adjustments to the budget in connection with the Revised National Budget, which is submitted by 15 May at the latest.

The Government’s deliberations are confidential, as are the agenda, government memorandums and minutes. Government memorandums are considered to be the ministers’ own documents and are thus not to be regarded as ordinary documents in the public administration. The Supreme Court has ruled that government memorandums have a special status in relation to the rules concerning the production of evidence in court cases and that there are weighty considerations that justify protecting the confidential deliberations that take place at government conferences. When a government leaves office, the documents of the government conferences are deposited with the National Archives, with a clause that regulates access to these documents.

The Secretary to the Government, who is the administrative head of the Office of the Prime Minister, serves as secretary of the government conferences.

Jens Stoltenberg's second Government in Government Conference in October 2009.
Photo: Scanpix/SMK

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