Executive Council of New Zealand
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The Executive Council of New Zealand is the body which legally serves the functions of the Cabinet. It has a function similar to that served by the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. The authority for its existence is provided by Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand, sections VII through X.
Officially, the Executive Council exists to advise the Governor-General; it was the counterpart to the Legislative Council, the now-defunct upper house of the Parliament of New Zealand. To be an Executive Councillor, one must normally be a Member of Parliament (this was codified in the Constitution Act of 1986). However, one may serve up to thirty days without being an MP; this is to allow for the transition of members not yet sworn in and members who have retired or been defeated.
Members of the Executive Council are referred to as "Minister of the Crown", which is not equivalent to being a Cabinet Minister. This merely gives them the authority to exercise executive power. Most members of the Executive Council are Cabinet Ministers, but some are appointed as so-called "Minister outside Cabinet" who traditionally hold minor portfolios or serve as Associate Ministers, with carefully specified powers and responsibilities delegated to them by relevant portfolio ministers. However, this is not always the case. One of the first instances in which a Minister of the Crown did not hold a seat in Cabinet occurred when David Lange served as Attorney-General from 1989 to 1990 after resigning as Prime Minister. The appointment of Winston Peters as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Peter Dunne as Minister of Revenue subsequent to the 2005 general election saw the status of Ministers outside Cabinet develop significantly, given that they were appointed to important ministerial positions outside Cabinet in exchange for their parties supporting the Government on matters of confidence and money supply while being required to defend Government policies only within their spheres of ministerial responsibility.
There have also been "Ministers without Portfolio", e.g. Mark Fagan from 1935 to 1939, who was briefly acting Minister of Customs in 1939. He was followed by David Wilson from 1939 to 1949, who was Minister of Immigration 1940-44. They were members of the Legislative Council, but not of the Lower House.
The Executive Council's primary function is to issue Orders in Council (regulations), which operate under the authority of "the Governor-General in Council". Any three members of the Executive Council, not necessarily including the Governor-General, constitutes a quorum.
- Information on the Executive Council in the New Zealand Cabinet Manual.