Carltona Doctrine

The Carltona doctrine is a principle of administrative law that establishes that a government minister can delegate their powers to civil servants or other officials within their department. The doctrine takes its name from the case of Carltona v Commissioner of Works (1943), also known as the Carltona case, in which the court held that government ministers are entitled to delegate their powers and functions to their officials. It also established that the decisions made by the subordinates are considered the decisions of the minister.

The Carltona Doctrine is based on the principle of ministerial responsibility, which holds that ministers are responsible for the actions of their department, even if those actions are taken by civil servants or other officials. In practice, this means that civil servants can make decisions and take actions on behalf of a minister, provided that they are acting within the scope of their delegated authority.

One of the main advantages of this doctrine is that it allows for efficient and effective decision-making in government by enabling civil servants and other officials to make routine decisions and take actions without having to seek the direct approval of a minister.

Ministers are often responsible for a wide range of functions, and it would be impractical for them to personally attend to each and every decision that needs to be made. By delegating decision-making powers to their subordinates, ministers can ensure that decisions are made in a timely and efficient manner. However, the doctrine does not transfer responsibility from ministers to their officials, so ministers are still held accountable for any decisions or actions taken by their officials.

One concern is that the Carltona doctrine is that it can lead to inconsistency in decision-making. Different officials may interpret their powers differently, leading to different decisions being made in similar situations. This can create confusion and uncertainty for those affected by the decisions, and may lead to perceptions of unfairness or favouritism.

The Carltona Doctrine has been applied in a number of different contexts, including in relation to the exercise of statutory powers and the handling of confidential information. However, it is not an absolute principle and may be subject to limitations in certain circumstances, such as where a minister's discretion is expressly required by law or where a decision may have significant implications for individual rights or interests.
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