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The Prime Minister & Cabinet System

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  1. The Prime Minister & Cabinet System

  2. Introduction • 2. Membership • (a) The Prime Minister • (b) Selection of other Ministers • 3.The PM and Organisation of the Cabinet • (a)  The Cabinet Office • (b) The PM’s Office • (continued….

  3. 4. The Cabinet at Work (a)   Cabinet Committees                   (i) Origins and Status                 (ii) Organisation (b)   Full Cabinet (i) Role (ii) Restrictions (iii) Conduct of Business 6. Prime Ministerial or Cabinet Government 7. Conclusions

  4. 1. Introduction

  5. 2. Membership • Convention: Members of Parliament • Convention: PM sits in the Commons • Convention: PM leader of majority party/coalition in the House of Commons

  6. (a) The Prime Minister • Emerged in reign of George III • Walpole , 1721-42 • strongest in the closet • could bring in supporters and remove enemies • ability to sustain the king’s policy in parliament “all men have their price

  7. (b) Selection of Ministers • Chosen by PM • exception: all elected members of Labour’s incoming Parliamentary Committee • Considerations • Prestige of PM in relation to Parliament, Party, & electors • Prestige of potential minister in relation to Parliament, Party & electors • The number and quality of candidates

  8. ….some different approaches • MacLeod: ‘Not who, but where?’ • Thatcher: ‘It must be a conviction government. As prime minister I could not waste time having arguments’ • Major “kept the bastards inside the tent”

  9. 3.The PM &Organisation of the Cabinet • The Cabinet Office • The Prime Minister’s Office

  10. (a) The Cabinet Office • Headed by Cabinet Secretary, who is also head of the Civil Service • Prepares Agenda for Cabinet meetings • Issues instructions to ministers • Organises and services Cabinet committees

  11. (b) The Prime Minister’s Office • The Private Office • The Political Office • The Policy Directorate • The Press Office

  12. 4. The Cabinet at Work • Works differently under different Prime Ministers • Cabinet Committees • Cabinet Meetings

  13. Cabinet Committees: (i)Origins and Status • Established 1903 • Practices codified post-1945 • Not officially recognised until 1990s • Serviced by the Cabinet Office

  14. (ii) Organisation • Membership • Deals with • inter-departmental matters • specific issues • Duration • Standing Committees • Ad Hoc Committees

  15. Assist Prime Ministerial Influence, because he…. • Determines the structure • Determines the terms of reference • Determines the membership • Appoints the chairmen • Has sole rights of appeal to full cabinet against a committee decision

  16. (d) The Full Cabinet

  17. (i) Role of the Full Cabinet • Symbolic of the link between Parliamentary Government and the Executive • Purpose • to keep members informed of major developments • to resolve outstanding departmental conflicts • to test opinion on larger issues

  18. (ii) Restrictions • Excluded from discussion • security affairs • the budget • Dissolution and Distribution of Honours for PM alone • Time taken up by • report on following week’s parliamentary business • routine report on foreign affairs

  19. (iii) Conduct of Business • Frequency & Timing of Meetings • Chaired by PM • Agenda determined by PM • No formal votes • Ministers largely tied to departmental interests • Character of meetings determined by PM

  20. 5. Doctrines: Conventions • Collective Responsibility • a member of the cabinet (and government) has to support all the policies of the government • Individual Responsibility (Redundant) • a minister is personally responsible to parliament for the operation of the department

  21. 6. Prime Ministerial or Cabinet Power • Prime Ministers have always been powerful • The Cabinet System favours the Prime Minister even when he is weak • The problem of ‘overload’ makes it difficult for any one person to have a grip across the whole range of decision-making

  22. 7. Conclusions • Focal point of Executive authority • Link between Legislative, Executive and Judiciary • Most work is done through Committee System • Institutionally the PM is pre-eminent