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Can Government Ministers/Welsh Ministers delegate their power to officials?

The Court of Appeal accepted in the Carltona (Carltona v Commissioner of Works [1943] 2 ALL ER 560) case in 1943 that the administration of government had become so complex and the functions of government ministers so numerous that it would not be possible for a minister to direct his or her mind to each decision personally. It found that, in practice, duties of ministers were usually carried out by officials, but subject to some exceptions where the decision was so important that the Minister had to make the decision personally.

The Court of Appeal confirmed the legality of this system in the Carltona case, provided that where officials made a decision on the Minister’s behalf, the decision remained the Minister’s decision and his or her responsibility. This allows sufficiently experienced officials to take decisions on the Minister’s behalf, remains in place today; ministers may generally delegate their power to suitably qualified officials, but remain responsible for the decisions that are made in exercise of that power.

In relation to the Welsh Ministers’ powers specifically, section 52(9) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 provides that even without the authority of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in Carltona, the Welsh Ministers, First Minister or Counsel General may authorise Welsh Government staff to carry out any function on their behalf. This is another example of legislation providing expressly for the delegation of powers.

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