The Ministry of UK

The Ministry of UK. The term Ministry is used in two senses. Sometimes it is used to mean Cabinet as if the two terms are synonymous. Sometimes it is used to mean both the Cabinet and other Ministers who are not members of the Cabinet. The second meaning is preferable. When a new Prime Minister is appointed, he has to fill hundred or so posts, major and minor, which together make up the Ministry.


For example, the Cabinet formed by Winston Churchill in 1951 contained sixteen members, In addition to these Ministers in the Cabinet, there were twenty two Ministers who were not in the Cabinet. Then, there were over fifty junior Ministers and this total of about ninety constituted Churchill’s Ministry.

The Labour Government formed by Harold Wilson in October 1964 contained a total 101 Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. The Cabinet contained 23 members, like its Conservative predecessor Government, under Sir Alec Douglas Home. The Ministry is, thus, a convenient concept that embraces all categories of Ministers collectively with varying shades and degrees, who go to make up the political side of the Executive. That is her Majesty’s Government.

The Ministers vary in nomenclature and in importance. About twenty or more of the most important out of the Ministry are the members of the Cabinet. They meet collectively, decide upon policy, and in general head up the government. It docs not, however, mean that every Cabinet Minister must necessarily preside over an administrative Department.

There are a few sinecure offices which involve no substantial departmental duties. Men of great political importance whose capacity for departmental work has been lessened by the passage of time, or those who have no taste for administration, but whose counsel is always of immense value, are assigned offices with a few or no duties attached.

For example, the duties of the Lord Privy Seal were abolished in 1884 and yet he is always a member of the Cabinet. The Lord President of the Council, too, has only nominal duties. Sometimes these offices are usefully occupied by Ministers who are entrusted with major responsibilities of a general rather than of a departmental kind. This was true of Lord President from 1940-43, and Herbert Morrison who became Lord President in the Labour Government of 1945.

In Macmillan’s Government (1961) the Lord President of the Council was entrusted with the general duty of promoting scientific and technological development as Minister of Science. The Lord Privy Seal handled foreign office business in the House of Commons. The Earl of Home (later Sir Douglas Home), the Foreign Secretary, was in the Lords.

Another expedient i is the appointment of Ministers without Portfolio. From 1915 to 1921 ten cases occurred of Ministers in the Cabinet without Portfolio. But this system ended in 1921 after a scathing criticism in the House of Commons. It was revived in Baldwin’s Ministry of 1935 when Lord Eustace Percy and Anthony Eden received Ministries.

Arthur Greenwood held the office of Minister without Portfolio during his membership of the War Cabinet and also for a short while in 1947. W.F. Deedes was appointed Minister without Portfolio by Harold Macmillan in a major reconstruction of Cabinet in July 1962 and October 1963 Douglas Home appointed two Ministers without Portfolio. But it is not usual for such a Minister to be created.

In the second place, there are certain Ministers who are designated as of Cabinet rank. Attlee’s Labour Government, formed in January 1949, had fifteen such ministers. The ministers of Cabinet rank are the heads of the administrative departments, and although they are formally of Cabinet status and are paid the same salary as Cabinet Ministers, but they are not members of the Cabinet itself. They attend the Cabinet meetings only when specifically invited by the Prime Minister to deal with matters concerning their Departments.

This division of Ministers was observed by Churchill in 1951 and he had eighteen Ministers under this category. The Ministers of Cabinet rank vary in numbers from government to government, it is a matter for the Prime Minister’s discretion. In Heath’s Government (1972) there were seven Ministers of this kind.

Then, come the Ministers of State, who are deputy minister in Government Departments where the work is particularly heavy and complex, or when it involves frequent traveling overseas. A Minister of State may,if circumstances demand, hold independent charge of a Department, though there is no precedent so far. Compared with ten Ministers of State in Douglas Home’s Government there were sixteen in Harold Wilson’s Government and eleven in Heath’s Government. The Ministers of State usually have a status intermediate between that of a full Minister and of a Parliamentary Secretary.

The first Minister of State ever created was Lord Beaverbrook in May 1941 and since then the practice has come to stay. In practice the general idea of the Minister of State, says Herbert Morrison, is to create minister of higher status than that of a Parliamentary Secretary who could relieve heavily burdened departmental ministers of material parts of their work to an extent which might not be considered appropriate in the case of Parliamentary Secretaries.

It would appear that any action taken by a Minister of State who is subordinate to the Minister in charge of a Department, would be on behalf of the Minister under delegated powers. The Minister in charge of the Department is answerable to Parliament for all intents and purposes.

Finally, there are the Parliamentary secretaries, or junior ministers. Each departmental Minister has usually a Parliamentary Secretary, but in some of the larger Departments there may be two. A Parliamentary Secretary may not be confused with the Permanent Secretary who is a senior member of the Civil Service in the Department.

Parliamentary Secretaries are mostly members of the House of Commons, or if not, then, of the House of Lords. They belong to the majority party and are selected by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Minister concerned. They remain in office as long as the Ministry is there or the Prime Minister wishes them to be there. But they are not Ministers of the Crown and constitutionally have no power.

The primary function of the Parliamentary Secretary is to relieve their senior Ministers of some of their burden by taking part in parliamentary debates, and answering parliamentary questions, and by assisting in departmental duties. There are also five political officials of the Royal Household, including the Treasurer, the Comptroller, and Vice Chamberlain. These offices carry a political complexion and their incumbents are ranked as Ministers.

All these categories of Ministers, who make the Ministry, are members of Parliament? and belong to the majority party in the House of Commons. They are individually and collectively responsible to the House of Commons and continue to remain in office as long as they can retain its confidence.

The Ministry may, thus, consist of the whole number of Crown officials having seats in Parliament, sustaining direct responsibility to the House of Commons and holding office subject to a continued support of a working majority in the latter body. But the Ministry has no collective functions. It is the function of the Cabinet.

The Cabinet is a committee of the Ministry, chosen by the Prime Minister who meet together for four or five hours each week to deliberate, formulate policy, supervis2 and coordinate the work of the whole Government machine. The Ministry as a whole never meets and it never deliberates on matters of policy.

The duties of a Minister, unless he is Cabinet Minister, are individual duties relating to the administrative Department or Departments to which he is attached. In sum, the Cabinet officer deliberates and advises; the Privy Councillor decrees; and the Minister executes. The three activities are easily capable of being distinguished, even though it frequently happens that Cabinet officer, Privy Councillor, and Minister are one and the same person.

Size of the Ministry in UK:-

The overall size of the Ministry (excluding Parliamentary Secretaries) has more than doubled from early this century; rising from about forty five in the Governments of Balfour, Camp bell Bannerman, and Asquith before 1914, to more than one hundred in the Wilson Government formed in 1964, This increase has created the danger of excessive executive domination of the Legislature. Although members of the House of Commons appointed to Ministerial office no longer have to secure reelection to the Commons, there do exist statutory limits on the number of  inisters allowed to serve in the Commons at any onetime.

The Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, provided that only eighteen out of twenty one senior Ministers could serve in the House of Commons at any one time. This meant that if all the twenty one posts were filled, at least three had to be held by members of the Lords. In addition, the Act of 1937 provided that no more than twenty Junior Ministers could sit in the Commons at any one time.

During World War II, under the provisions of the emergency legislation, these figures were exceeded, while many of the ministerial posts created after the War were specifically excluded from the limitations imposed by the Act of 1937. In 1941, the Select Committee on Offices and Places of Profit under the Crown recommended that only sixty Minsters in all should serve in the House of Commons.

In pursuance of this reommendation the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957, specified that not more than seventy Minister of al! categories could serve in the House of Commons at one time. This limit was not exceeded by Macmillian or Home.

When the Labour Government came in power in 1964 it created the new Ministerial posts which correspondingly increased the size of the Ministry and, accordingly, the necessity of new legislation arose. The Ministers of the Crown Act, 1964, increased from seventy to ninety one the total number of Ministers who could serve in the Commons at any one time, and abolished the limit on the number of senior Ministers that could be drawn from the Commons.

Since the figure of ninety one fixed by the 1964 Act, as the maximum number of Ministers that could be drawn from the House of Commons, was below the total number of Ministerial posts in the Wilson Government, the Act recognized the principle that some posts should be filled by the Lords. It means that Ministers over and above the number of ninety one would come from the. Lords thereby  increasing the strength of the Peers in the Ministry.

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