A strategic discussion paper (also called an A3 or a ‘placemat’) is a single A3 page (can be printed double-sided) that supports a Cabinet strategic discussion (Thursday Cabinet) or Cabinet Committee strategic discussion.

While there is no template for strategic discussion items, they are used to work through complex policy issues or issues where there are multiple options that could be progressed. They are also a useful mechanism for ministers to test their ideas with their Cabinet colleagues.

Strategic discussion papers should use infographics and photos to illustrate the issue and avoid presenting densely packed text. It should describe the issue, potential responses and analyse the risks and benefits.

  • What is the issue and what is causing it?
  • Who does the issue impact?
  • Who needs to be directly involved in addressing the issue?
  • What are we doing already to address the problem, and why isn’t it working?
  • Who are the stakeholders and what do they think should happen?
  • Are there options? What are the costs involved?
  • When do decisions need to be made and actions implemented?
  • Are there any legislative requirements that need to be considered?

The strategic discussion paper is not a vehicle for decision-making, and issues that are discussed through a strategic discussion paper that subsequently require a decision must be presented in a Cabinet submission.

For advice on how to create a strategic discussion paper refer to the Creating Good A3's Guideline.

Creating Good A3's Guideline (PDF, 239.8 KB)

For examples of A3 strategic discussion papers see:

For further guidance on preparing strategic discussion papers contact Cabinet Office.