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The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a group of the most senior
ministers of the crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a minister of the reigning sovereign or viceroy A viceroy () is an official who runs a polity in the name of and as the representative of the mo ...
in the
government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unitit Kinrick , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size=220px, date_established = , state = United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, comm ...
. A committee of the
Privy Council A privy council is a body that advises the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity), state#Foakes, Foakes, pp. 110–11 "he head of state He or HE may refer to: ...
, it is chaired by the
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
and its members include secretaries of state and other political leaders of government departments.


Ministers

Ministers of the Crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a minister of the reigning sovereign or viceroy A viceroy () is an official who runs a polity in the name of and as the representative of the mo ...
, and especially Cabinet ministers, are selected primarily from the elected members of the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorpor ...

House of Commons
, and from the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
, by the
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
. Cabinet ministers are usually heads of government departments, mostly with the office of " Secretary of State for epartment, e.g., Defence, Health and Social Care, Foreign Affairs etc., usually simplified to "Defence Secretary, Health Secretary, Foreign Secretary etc.". Some cabinet ministers can be
ministers without portfolioA minister without portfolio is either a government minister with no specific responsibilities or a minister who does not head a particular ministry (government department), ministry. The sinecure is particularly common in countries ruled by coalitio ...
, either directly as such or (more commonly) by holding
sinecure A sinecure ( or ; from Latin ''sine'' 'without' and ''cura'' 'care') is an office, carrying a salary or otherwise generating income, that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service. The term originated in the medi ...
posts such as Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, or otherwise empty titles such as
First Secretary of State First Secretary of State is an office sometimes held by a minister in the Government of the United Kingdom The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the Unit ...
. Certain other cabinet ministers are in a somewhat hybrid position, where they have a portfolio, but do not head a government department; the
lord president of the council The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State (United Kingdom), Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking below the Lord High Treasurer but above the Lord Privy Seal, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. ...
being such an example, where that office has accreted a collection of responsibilities over time, but which does not have a lord president's department attached to it. Although generally the most powerful or prestigious members of the Cabinet head critical ministries such as the
Foreign Office Foreign may refer to: Government * Foreign policy ''Foreign Policy'' is an American news publication, founded in 1970 and focused on global affairs, current events, and domestic and international policy. It produces content daily on its websit ...
, ministers without portfolio can also be important components (for example
Michael Heseltine Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, (; born 21 March 1933) is a British politician and businessman. Having begun his career as a property developer, he became one of the founders of the publishing house Haymarket. Heseltine served a ...
as deputy prime minister in the
Second Major ministry John Major formed the second Major ministry following the 1992 general election after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commo ...
). The most powerful Cabinet minister, the prime minister, heads no department, although the Prime Minister's Office co-ordinates their oversight of the whole government. The collective co-ordinating function of the Cabinet is reinforced by the statutory position that all the secretaries of state jointly hold the same office, and can exercise the same powers. This does not, however, apply to the non-secretaries of state in the Cabinet such as the
leader of the House of Commons The Leader of the House of Commons is generally a member or attendee of the cabinet of the United Kingdom. The House of Commons devotes approximately three-quarters of its time to debating and explaining government business, such as Bill (law), b ...
(when such office of
Cabinet rank The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a group of the most senior ministers of the crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a minister of the reigning sovereign or viceroy A vi ...
). Technically, therefore, the Cabinet is composed of many more people than legal offices, since the secretary of stateship is actually in commission, as is the position of
Lord High Treasurer The post of Lord High Treasurer or Lord Treasurer was an English government position and has been a British government position since the Acts of Union of 1707. A holder of the post would be the third-highest-ranked Great Officers of State (Un ...
, with the prime minister and chancellor being the first and second lords of the treasury, respectively. The Cabinet is the ultimate decision-making body of the
executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administration of state bureaucracy * Executive, a senior management role in an organization ** Chief exec ...
within the
Westminster system The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent of democracy Democracy ...
of government in traditional constitutional theory. This interpretation was originally put across in the work of 19th century constitutionalists such as
Walter Bagehot Walter Bagehot ( ; 3 February 1826 – 24 March 1877) was a British journalist, businessman, and essayist, who wrote extensively about government, economics, literature and race. He is known for co-founding the ''National Review ''Nati ...

Walter Bagehot
, who described the Cabinet as the "efficient secret" of the British political system in his book ''
The English Constitution ''The English Constitution'' is a book by Walter Bagehot Walter Bagehot ( ; 3 February 1826 – 24 March 1877) was a British journalist, businessman, and essayist, who wrote extensively about government, economics, literature and race. ...
''. The political and decision-making authority of the cabinet has been gradually reduced over the last several decades, with some claiming its role has been usurped by a "prime ministerial" government. In the modern political era, the prime minister releases information concerning
Cabinet rank The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a group of the most senior ministers of the crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a minister of the reigning sovereign or viceroy A vi ...
in the form of a list detailing the seniority of all Cabinet ministers. The Cabinet is the executive committee of
Her Majesty's Privy Council The Privy Council of the United Kingdom, officially Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, or known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest l ...
, a body which has legislative, judicial and executive functions, and whose large membership includes members of the
Opposition Opposition may refer to: Arts and media * Opposition (Altars EP), ''Opposition'' (Altars EP), 2011 EP by Christian metalcore band Altars * The Opposition (band), a London post-punk band * ''The Opposition with Jordan Klepper'', a late-night tele ...
. Its decisions are generally implemented either under the existing powers of individual government departments, or by
Orders in Council An Order in Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Each realm functions as an independent state, ...
.


History

Until at least the 16th century, individual officers of state had separate property, powers and responsibilities granted with their separate offices by royal command, and the Crown and the
Privy Council A privy council is a body that advises the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity), state#Foakes, Foakes, pp. 110–11 "he head of state He or HE may refer to: ...
constituted the only co-ordinating authorities. In England, phrases such as "cabinet counsel", meaning advice given in private, in a
cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
in the sense of a small room, to the monarch, occur from the late 16th century, and, given the non-standardised spelling of the day, it is often hard to distinguish whether "council" or "counsel" is meant. OED Cabinet The '' OED'' credits
Francis Bacon Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General for England and Wales, Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of K ...

Francis Bacon
in his ''
Essays An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author's own argument, but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a Letter (message), letter, a term paper, paper, an article (publishing), article, a pamphlet, and a short ...
'' (1605) with the first use of "Cabinet council", where it is described as a foreign habit, of which he disapproves: "For which inconveniences, the doctrine of Italy, and practice of France, in some kings' times, hath introduced cabinet counsels; a remedy worse than the disease".
Charles ICharles I may refer to: Kings and emperors * Charlemagne (742–814), numbered Charles I in the lists of French and German kings * Charles I of Anjou (1226–1285), also king of Albania, Jerusalem, Naples and Sicily * Charles I of Hungary (1288 ...

Charles I
began a formal "Cabinet Council" from his accession in 1625, as his Privy Council, or "private council", and the first recorded use of "cabinet" by itself for such a body comes from 1644, and is again hostile and associates the term with dubious foreign practices. There were ministries in England led by the chief minister, which was a personage leading the English government for the monarch. Despite primary accountability to the monarch, these ministries, having a group of ministers running the country, served as a predecessor of the modern perspective of cabinet. After the ministry of Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland collapsed
Sir Robert Walpole Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745; known between 1725 and 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole) was a British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Brit ...
rose to power as
First Lord of the Treasury The First Lord of the Treasury is the head of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, commission exercising the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer in the United Kingdom, and is by convention also the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, pri ...
. Since the reign of King George I the Cabinet has been the principal executive group of British government. Both he and
George IIGeorge II or 2 may refer to: People * George II of Antioch (seventh century AD) * George II of Armenia (late ninth century) * George II of Abkhazia (916–960) * Patriarch George II of Alexandria (1021–1051) * George II of Georgia (1072–1089) * ...
made use of the system, as both were not native
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
speakers, unfamiliar with
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...

British
politics, and thus relied heavily on selected groups of advisers. The term "minister" came into being since the royal officers "ministered" to the sovereign. The name and institution have been adopted by most English-speaking countries, and the
Council of MinistersThe Council of Ministers is a traditional name given to the supreme executive organ in some governments. The term is usually equivalent to the word " cabinet" ( Council of State is a similar term that also may refer to a Cabinet. However, the terms ...
or similar bodies of other countries are often informally referred to as cabinets. The modern Cabinet system was set up by Prime Minister
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinat ...

David Lloyd George
during his premiership, 1916–1922, with a
Cabinet Office The Cabinet Office is a department Department may refer to: * Departmentalization, division of a larger organization into parts with specific responsibility Government and military *Department (country subdivision), a geographical and admini ...

Cabinet Office
and Secretariat, committee structures, unpublished
minutes Minutes, also known as minutes of meeting (abbreviation MoM), protocols or, informally, notes, are the instant written record of a meeting A meeting is when two or more people A people is a plurality of person A person (plural people ...
, and a clearer relationship with departmental Cabinet ministers. The formal procedures, practice and proceedings of the Cabinet remain largely unpublished. This development grew out of the exigencies of the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainmen ...
, where faster and better co-ordinated decisions across Government were seen as a crucial part of the war effort. Decisions on mass
conscription Conscription, sometimes called the draft in the United States, is the mandatory enlistment of people in a national service National service is a system of either compulsory or voluntary government service, usually military service Mili ...

conscription
, co-ordination worldwide with other governments across international theatres, and armament production tied into a general war strategy that could be developed and overseen from an inner "". The country went through successive crises after the war: the 1926 United Kingdom general strike; the
Great Depression The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression An economic depression is a sustained, long-term downturn in economic activity in one or more economies. It is a more severe economic downturn than a economic recession, recess ...
of 1929–32; the rise of
Bolshevism Bolshevism (from Bolsheviks, Bolshevik) is a revolutionary Marxism, Marxist current of political thought and political regime associated with the formation of a rigidly centralized, cohesive and disciplined party of social revolution, focused on o ...
after 1917 and
Fascism Fascism () is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and the economy that rose to prominence in early 20th-century Europ ...

Fascism
after 1922; the
Spanish Civil War The Spanish Civil War ( es, Guerra Civil Española)) or The Revolution ( es, La Revolución) among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War ( es, Cuarta Guerra Carlista) among Carlism, Carlists, and The Rebellion ( es, La Rebelión) or Uprising ( ...

Spanish Civil War
1936 onwards; the invasion of
Abyssinia The Ethiopian Empire (), also formerly known by the exonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, internal name A name is a term used for identification by an external observer. They can identify ...

Abyssinia
1936; the League of Nations Crisis which followed; and the re-armament and resurgence of Germany from 1933, leading into another World War. All these demanded a highly organised and centralised Government centred on the Cabinet. This centralisation enhanced the power of the prime minister, who moved from being the ''
primus inter pares ''Primus inter pares'' is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
'' of the Asquith Cabinets of 1906 onwards, to the dominating figures of
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinat ...

David Lloyd George
,
Stanley Baldwin Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, (3 August 186714 December 1947) was a British Conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and ...
and
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The hea ...

Winston Churchill
.


Composition

Cabinet ministers, like all ministers, are appointed and may be dismissed by the
monarch A monarch is a head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role tha ...
without notice or reason, on the advice of the
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
. The allocation and transfer of responsibilities between ministers and departments is also generally at the prime minister's discretion. The Cabinet has always been led by the prime minister, whose originally unpaid office as such was traditionally described as merely ''
primus inter pares ''Primus inter pares'' is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
'' (first among equals), but today the prime minister is the preeminent
head of government The head of government is either the highest or second-highest official in the executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administrat ...
, with the effective power to appoint and dismiss Cabinet ministers and to control the Cabinet's agenda. The extent to which the Government is collegial varies with political conditions and individual personalities. Any change to the composition of the Cabinet involving more than one appointment is customarily referred to as a
reshuffle A cabinet reshuffle or shuffle is when a head of government The head of government is either the highest or second highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, autonomous region, ...
; a routine reshuffle normally occurs every summer. The total number of ministers allowed to be paid as "Cabinet ministers" is limited by the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975, but there may be regular attendees at Cabinet who are not paid as Cabinet ministers. As of 1 March 2021, the number in addition to the prime minister is 22, total cabinet composition fluctuating between 21 and 23. The
Cabinet Secretary#REDIRECT Cabinet secretary#REDIRECT Cabinet secretary {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalization ...
{{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalization ...
does not have a political appointment such as Secretary of State and is not a member of the Cabinet, but is the professional head of Her Majesty's Civil Service. The Cabinet Secretaries of the devolved
Scottish Government The Scottish Government ( gd, Riaghaltas na h-Alba, ) is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved government of Scotland. It was formed in 1999 as the Scottish Executive following the 1997 Scottish devolution referendum, 1997 referendum on S ...
are led by the
first minister of Scotland The first minister of Scotland ( sco, heid meinister o Scotland; gd, prìomh mhinistear na h-Alba ) is the leader of the Scottish Government The Scottish Government ( gd, Riaghaltas na h-Alba, ) is the ...
and are unrelated to the U.K. Cabinet. In formal
constitutional A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents A precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case A legal case is in a general sense a dispute between opposing parties which may be ...
terms, the Cabinet is a committee of
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council The Privy Council of the United Kingdom, officially Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, or known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest l ...
. All Cabinet members are made privy counsellors shortly after appointment if not already privy counsellors, but only selected privy counsellors are appointed to the Cabinet or invited to attend. MPs and peers in the Cabinet use the style "
the Right Honourable The Right Honourable (abbreviation An abbreviation (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Lati ...
" (abbr. the Rt Hon.) The Cabinet has come to be made up almost entirely of members of the House of Commons. The
leader of the House of Lords The Leader of the House of Lords is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a group of the most senior ministers of the crown in the government of the United Kingdom. A committee of the Privy C ...
is a member of the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
. Otherwise it is rare for a peer to sit in the Cabinet. The
Lord Chancellor The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest-ranking among the Great Officers of State In the United Kingdom, the Great Officers of State are traditional ministers of The Crown who either inheri ...
was formerly the presiding officer of the House of Lords, but since 2007 need not be a member of the Lords, and members of the House of Commons have been appointed. Until the re-appointment to the cabinet of
Peter Mandelson Peter Benjamin Mandelson, Baron Mandelson (born 21 October 1953) is a British Labour Party Labour Party or Labor Party may refer to: Angola *MPLA, known for some years as "Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party" Anti ...

Peter Mandelson
on 3 October 2008, the old leader of the Lords, Valerie Amos, was the last peer to sit in any other Cabinet post, as
Secretary of State for International Development The Secretary of State for International Development, also referred to as the International Development Secretary, was a senior Minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of the Department for International Deve ...
from May to October 2003. Before then, the last Secretary of State for a major department drawn from the Lords was David Lord Young of Graffham, serving between 1985 and 1989 as
Secretary of State for EmploymentThe Secretary of State for Employment was a position in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. In 1995 it was merged with Secretary of State for Education to make the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. In 2001 the employment functions wer ...
until 1987 and
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, also referred to as the Business Secretary, is a senior Minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of the Department for Business, Energy and ...
until 1989. The number of junior ministers who are peers has increased since 1997. Occasionally cabinet members are selected from outside the Houses of Parliament and if necessary granted a peerage.
Harold Wilson James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, (11 March 1916 – 24 May 1995) was a British politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The hea ...

Harold Wilson
appointed
Frank Cousins Frank Cousins PC (8 September 1904 – 11 June 1986) was a British trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. Engl ...
and
Patrick Gordon Walker Patrick Chrestien Gordon Walker, Baron Gordon-Walker, (7 April 1907 – 2 December 1980) was a British Labour politician. He was a Member of Parliament for nearly thirty years, and served twice as a Cabinet Minister. He lost his Smethwick parl ...

Patrick Gordon Walker
to the 1964 cabinet despite their not being MPs at the time. On 3 October 2008 Peter Mandelson, at the time of appointment not a member of either House, became
Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, also referred to as the Business Secretary, is a senior Minister of the Crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describ ...
and was immediately made a
life peer In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefe ...
. During the First World War, the South African politician
Jan Smuts Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts, (24 May 1870 11 September 1950) was a South African statesman, military leader, and philosopher. In addition to holding various military and cabinet posts, he served as Prime Minister of South Africa, prime m ...
served in
Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a Welsh statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1922. He was the final Liberal to hold the post of prime ministe ...
's War Cabinet without ever becoming a member of either house of the British parliament. There are some 100 junior members of the Government who are not members of the Cabinet, including
ministers of state Minister of State is a title borne by politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective recipient of an award or ...
and Parliamentary under-secretaries of state; and unpaid
Parliamentary private secretaries A Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) is a Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency. In many countries with Bicameralism, bicameral parliaments, this category includ ...
are in practice apprentice ministers on the
payroll vote The payroll vote is a term in the British parliamentary system for Members of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency. In many countries with Bicameralism, bicameral parliament ...
. Some of them may be Privy Counsellors, or may be appointed to the Privy Council as a mark of distinction, without becoming Cabinet ministers. Equally, some junior ministers below Cabinet level may be invited to all Cabinet meetings as a matter of course. The
attorney general for England and Wales Her Majesty's Attorney General for England and Wales, usually known as the Attorney General, is one of the Law Officers of the Crown. The Attorney General serves as the principal legal adviser to the Crown and the Government in England and Wales ...
together with the chair of the governing political party, are customarily included, and other members of the Government can be invited at the prime minister's discretion, either regularly or ''ad hoc''. Since the end of the 20th century, more non-members of
Her Majesty's Government ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unitit Kinrick , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size=220px, date_established = , state = United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, comm ...
were permitted by the prime minister to attend Cabinet meetings on a regular basis, notably
Alastair Campbell Alastair John Campbell (born 25 May 1957) is a British journalist, author and broadcaster. He worked as Tony Blair's spokesman and campaign director (1994–1997), then as Downing Street Press Secretary and as the Prime Minister's Official Sp ...

Alastair Campbell
in his capacity as Director of Communications and Strategy between 1997 and 2003, and Jonathan Powell, the chief of staff to the prime minister, under
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. On his resig ...

Tony Blair
, with a distinctly separate role from the
Cabinet secretary#REDIRECT Cabinet secretary#REDIRECT Cabinet secretary {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalization ...
{{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalization ...
/head of the civil service. A photograph is taken of each new Cabinet in the garden or drawing room at 10 Downing Street.Cabinet Offic
Precedent Book
, 1992, page 79.
It has been suggested that the modern Cabinet is too large, including by former
Cabinet Secretary#REDIRECT Cabinet secretary#REDIRECT Cabinet secretary {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalization ...
{{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalization ...
Mark Sedwill Mark Philip Sedwill, Baron Sedwill (born 21 October 1964) is a British diplomat and senior civil servant who served as Cabinet Secretary#REDIRECT Cabinet secretary {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalization ... and H ...

Mark Sedwill
and scholars Robert Hazell and
Rodney BrazierRodney Brazier MVO, LLD, FRHistS (born 1946) is emeritus professor of constitutional law at the University of Manchester and a Barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise ...
. Robert Hazell has suggested merging the offices of
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland The secretary of state for Northern Ireland (; ), also referred to as the Northern Ireland secretary or SoSNI, is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred ...
, Scotland and
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...
into one Secretary of State for the Union, in a department into which Rodney Brazier has suggested adding a Minister of State for England with responsibility for English local government.


Meetings of the cabinet

The Cabinet meets on a regular basis, usually weekly on a Thursday morning notionally to discuss the most important issues of government policy, and to make decisions. Despite the custom of meeting on a Thursday, after the appointment of
Gordon Brown James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government is either the h ...

Gordon Brown
as prime minister the meeting day was switched to Tuesday. However, when David Cameron became prime minister, he held his cabinet meetings on Thursdays again. Theresa May switched the cabinet meetings back to Tuesday. The length of meetings varies according to the style of the prime minister and political conditions, but today meetings can be as short as 30 minutes, which suggests announcement or ratification of decisions taken in committee, by informal groups, or in bi-lateral discussions between the prime minister and individual colleagues, with discussion in Cabinet itself very limited. The prime minister normally has a weekly audience with the Queen thereafter. The Cabinet has numerous sub-committees which focus on particular policy areas, particularly ones which cut across several ministerial responsibilities, and therefore need coordination. These may be permanent committees or set up for a short duration to look at particular issues ("
ad hoc Ad hoc is a Latin phrase __NOTOC__ This is a list of Wikipedia articles of Latin phrases and their translation into English. To view all phrases on a single, lengthy document, see: * List of Latin phrases (full) The list also is divided alpha ...

ad hoc
committees").
Junior minister A minister is a politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected legal seat, seat in government. Politicians propose, support, and create laws that govern the land and, by extension, its ...
s are also often members of these committees, in addition to Secretaries of State. The transaction of government business through meetings of the Cabinet and its many committees is administered by a small secretariat within the
Cabinet Office The Cabinet Office is a department Department may refer to: * Departmentalization, division of a larger organization into parts with specific responsibility Government and military *Department (country subdivision), a geographical and admini ...

Cabinet Office
. Consequent
Orders in Council An Order in Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Each realm functions as an independent state, ...
are normally made by the
Queen-in-Council The King-in-Council or the Queen-in-Council, depending on the gender of the reigning monarch, is a constitutional term in a number of states. In a general sense, it would mean the monarch exercising executive authority, usually in the form of app ...
with a quorum of the Privy Council, which meets monthly or ''ad hoc''. The
Institute for Government The Institute for Government (IfG) is a United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for ...
claims that the reduced number of full Cabinet meetings signify "that the role of Cabinet as a formal decision-making body has been in decline since the war." This view has been contradicted by Vernon Bogdanor, a British constitutional expert, who claims that "the Cabinet has, in fact, been strengthened by the decline in full meetings, as it allows more matters to be transferred to cabinet committees. Thus, business is done more efficiently." Most prime ministers have had a so-called "kitchen cabinet" consisting of their own trusted advisers who may be Cabinet members but are often non-cabinet trusted personal advisers on their own staff. In recent governments, generally from Margaret Thatcher, and especially in that of
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. On his resig ...

Tony Blair
, it has been reported that many or even all major decisions have been made before cabinet meetings. This suggestion has been made by former ministers including Clare Short and Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury, Chris Smith, in the media, and was made clear in the Butler Review, where Blair's style of "sofa government" was censured.


Location of Cabinet meetings

Cabinet meetings are usually held in the 10 Downing Street#Cabinet Room, Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's official residence. Cabinet meetings have also been held at Chequers, and in one case at the Grand Hotel, Brighton. In September 1921, under
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinat ...

David Lloyd George
, a Cabinet meeting was held at Inverness Town House in the Scottish Highlands to discuss the Irish question. In 2008,
Gordon Brown James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government is either the h ...

Gordon Brown
introduced regional cabinet meetings, when the cabinet meets in different locations across the UK a number of times a year. On 31 January 2020, Boris Johnson's cabinet meeting took place in Sunderland, a move which was a nod to the city being the first settlement to declare a "leave" result in the referendum.


Parliamentary accountability

Two key constitutional conventions relate to the accountability of cabinet ministers to the Parliament of the United Kingdom: cabinet collective responsibility; and individual ministerial responsibility. These are derived from the fact that the members of the cabinet are members of Parliament, and therefore accountable to the House of which they are a member. The Queen will only appoint a prime minister whose government can command the support of the House of Commons, which alone can grant confidence and supply, supply to a government by authorising taxes; and the House of Commons expects all ministers to be personally accountable to Parliament. In practice, Cabinet ministers will usually have a junior minister to represent their department in the House of Lords. Cabinet collective responsibility means that members of the cabinet make major decisions collectively, and are therefore collectively responsible for the consequences of these decisions. Therefore, no minister may speak against government decisions, and if a vote of no confidence is passed in Parliament, every minister and government official drawn from Parliament is expected to resign from the executive. Cabinet ministers who disagree with major decisions are expected to resign, Robin Cook being a recent example over the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. The principle of collective responsibility is not impaired by the fact that decisions may be made in a United Kingdom cabinet committee, cabinet committee rather than by the full cabinet. Individual ministerial responsibility is the convention that in their capacity as head of department, a minister is personally responsible for the actions and failings of their department. Under circumstances of gross failure in their department, a minister is expected to resign (and may be forced to do so by the prime minister), while their civil servants remain permanent and anonymous. This is relatively rare in practice, perhaps because administrative failure is of less interest to the media than personal scandal, and less susceptible to unequivocal proof. The closest example in recent years is perhaps Estelle Morris, who resigned as Secretary of State for Education and Skills in 2002 following severe problems and inaccuracies in the marking of Advanced Level (UK), A-level exams. The circumstances under which this convention is followed are not possible to define strictly, and depend on many other factors. If a minister's reputation is seen to be tarnished by a personal scandal (for example when it was luridly revealed that David Mellor had an extramarital affair) they very often resign. This often follows a short period of intense media and opposition pressure for them to do so. In general, despite numerous scandals, in Britain known cases of serious corruption (e.g. acceptance of bribes) are relatively rare in comparison with many other democracies. Parliamentary Questions can be tabled for ministers in either house of Parliament for either written or oral reply. These may be "planted" questions for the advantage of the Government, or antagonistic questions from the Opposition, or may genuinely seek information. Cabinet ministers must respond, either themselves or through a deputy, although the answers do not always fully answer the question. Written answers, which are usually more specific and detailed than oral questions are usually written by a civil servant. Answers to written and oral questions are published in Hansard. Parliament cannot dismiss individual ministers (though members or a House may call for their resignation, or formally resolve to reduce their salary by a nominal amount), but the House of Commons is able to determine the fate of the entire Government. If a vote of no confidence in the Government passes, then the Queen will seek to restore confidence either by a dissolution of Parliament and the election of a new one, or by the acceptance of the resignation of her entire government. In the United Kingdom's parliamentary system, the
executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administration of state bureaucracy * Executive, a senior management role in an organization ** Chief exec ...
is not separate from the legislature, since Cabinet members are drawn from Parliament. Moreover, the executive tends to dominate the legislature for several reasons: * the first-past-the-post voting system (which tends to give a large majority to the governing party) * the power of the whip (politics), Government Whips (whose role is to ensure party members vote in accordance with the party line) * the "
payroll vote The payroll vote is a term in the British parliamentary system for Members of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency. In many countries with Bicameralism, bicameral parliament ...
" (a term which refers to the fact that all members of the government must vote with the government, or else resign or be fired) The combined effect of the prime minister's ability to control Cabinet by circumventing effective discussion in Cabinet and the executive's ability to dominate parliamentary proceedings places the British prime minister in a position of great power, that has been likened to an elective dictatorship (a phrase coined by Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham of St Marylebone, Quinton Hogg, Lord Hailsham in 1976). The relative inability of Parliament to hold the Government of the day to account is often cited by the UK media as a justification for the vigour with which they question and challenge the Government. This is often controversial as some people believe that It's the Sun Wot Won It, Individual Media Corporations have had key influence upon certain components of British elections. The classic view of Cabinet Government was laid out by
Walter Bagehot Walter Bagehot ( ; 3 February 1826 – 24 March 1877) was a British journalist, businessman, and essayist, who wrote extensively about government, economics, literature and race. He is known for co-founding the ''National Review ''Nati ...

Walter Bagehot
in ''
The English Constitution ''The English Constitution'' is a book by Walter Bagehot Walter Bagehot ( ; 3 February 1826 – 24 March 1877) was a British journalist, businessman, and essayist, who wrote extensively about government, economics, literature and race. ...
'' (1867) in which he described the prime minister as the ''primus‐inter‐pares'' ("Primus inter pares#Prime minister or premier, first among equals"). The view was questioned by Richard Crossman in ''The Myths of Cabinet Government'' (1972) and by Tony Benn. They were both members of the Labour governments of the 1960s and thought that the position of the prime minister had acquired more power so that prime ministerial government was a more apt description. Crossman stated that the increase in the power of the prime minister resulted from power of centralised political parties, the development of a unified civil service, and the growth of the prime minister's private office and Cabinet Office (UK), Cabinet secretariat. Graham Allen (politician), Graham Allen (a government whip during
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. On his resig ...

Tony Blair
's first government) makes the case in ''The Last Prime Minister: Being Honest About the UK Presidency'' (2003) that the office of prime minister has presidential powers, as did Michael Foley (academic), Michael Foley in ''The British Presidency'' (2000). However the power that a prime minister has over his or her cabinet colleagues is directly proportional to the amount of support that they have with their political parties and this is often related to whether the party considers them to be an electoral asset or liability. Also when a party is divided into factions a prime minister may be forced to include other powerful party members in the Cabinet for party political cohesion. The prime minister's personal power is also curtailed if their party is in a power-sharing arrangement, or a formal coalition with another party (as happened in the Cameron–Clegg coalition, coalition government of 2010 to 2015).


Current cabinet

As of April 2021, the makeup of the Cabinet (in order of ministerial ranking) is:


List of Cabinets since 1900

*Unionist government, 1895–1905#Cabinets, Cabinets of the Unionist government, 1895–1905 *Liberal government, 1905–1915#Campbell-Bannerman ministry, Cabinets of Henry Campbell-Bannerman's ministry, 1905–08 *Liberal government, 1905–1915#Asquith ministry, Cabinets of H. H. Asquith's ministries, 1908–15 *Asquith coalition ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of H. H. Asquith's coalition ministry, 1915–16 *Lloyd George ministry#Cabinets, Cabinets of David Lloyd George's ministries, 1916–22 *Conservative government, 1922–1924#Bonar Law's Cabinet, October 1922 – May 1923, Cabinets of Andrew Bonar Law's ministry, 1922–23 *Conservative government, 1922–1924#Baldwin's Cabinet, May 1923 – January 1924, Cabinets of Stanley Baldwin's first ministry, 1923–24 *First MacDonald ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Ramsay MacDonald's first ministry, 1924 *Second Baldwin ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Stanley Baldwin's second ministry, 1924–29 *Second MacDonald ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Ramsay MacDonald's second ministry, 1929–31 *National Government (1931)#Cabinet, Cabinets of Ramsay MacDonald's first national government, 1931 *National Government (1931–1935)#Cabinet, Cabinets of Ramsay MacDonald's second national government, 1931–35 *National Government (1935–1937)#Cabinet, Cabinets of Stanley Baldwin's national government, 1935–37 *National Government (1937–1939)#Cabinet, Cabinets of Neville Chamberlain's national government, 1937–39 *Chamberlain war ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Neville Chamberlain's war ministry, 1939–40 *Churchill war ministry#War Cabinet members, Cabinets of Winston Churchill's war ministry, 1940–45 *Churchill caretaker ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Winston Churchill's caretaker ministry, 1945 *Attlee ministry#First Attlee ministry, Cabinets of Clement Attlee's first ministry, 1945–50 *Attlee ministry#Second Attlee ministry, Cabinets of Clement Attlee's second ministry, 1950–51 *Third Churchill ministry#1955 cabinet, Cabinets of Winston Churchill's third ministry, 1951–55 *Eden ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Anthony Eden's ministry, 1955–57 *Conservative government, 1957–1964#First Macmillan ministry, Cabinets of Harold Macmillan's first ministry, 1957–59 *Conservative government, 1957–1964#Second Macmillan ministry, Cabinets of Harold Macmillan's second ministry, 1959–63 *Conservative government, 1957–1964#Douglas-Home ministry, Cabinets of Alec Douglas-Home's ministry, 1963–64 *Labour government, 1964–1970#List of Ministers, Cabinets of Harold Wilson's first and second ministries, 1964–70 *Heath ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Ted Heath's ministry, 1970–74 *Labour government, 1974–1979#Wilson ministry, Cabinets of Harold Wilson's third and fourth ministries, 1974–76 *Cabinet of James Callaghan, Cabinets of James Callaghan's ministry, 1976–79 *First Thatcher ministry#Cabinets, Cabinets of Margaret Thatcher's first ministry, 1979–83 *Second Thatcher ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Margaret Thatcher's second ministry, 1983–87 *Third Thatcher ministry#Cabinets, Cabinets of Margaret Thatcher's third ministry, 1987–90 *First Major ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of John Major's first ministry, 1990–92 *Second Major ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of John Major's second ministry, 1992–97 *First Blair ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Tony Blair's first ministry, 1997–2001 *Second Blair ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Tony Blair's second ministry, 2001–05 *Third Blair ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Tony Blair's third ministry, 2005–07 *Brown ministry#Cabinets, Cabinets of Gordon Brown's ministry, 2007–10 *Cameron–Clegg coalition#Cabinets, Cabinets of the Cameron–Clegg coalition, 2010–15 *Second Cameron ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of David Cameron's second ministry, 2015–16 *First May ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Theresa May's first ministry, 2016–17 *Second May ministry#Cabinets, Cabinets of Theresa May's second ministry, 2017–19 *First Johnson ministry#Cabinet, Cabinets of Boris Johnson's first ministry, 2019 *Second Johnson ministry#Cabinets, Cabinets of Boris Johnson's second ministry, 2019–


Shadow Cabinet

The Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet (United Kingdom), official opposition (currently Labour Party (UK), Labour) is led by the Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom), leader of the opposition (currently Keir Starmer) and supported by a Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet (United Kingdom), shadow cabinet and numerous shadow ministers. Both the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrats also have Westminster spokespeople, who shadow certain government purviews.


See also

*British Government frontbench *List of British governments *:Members of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom *United Kingdom cabinet committee *Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office


Notes


References


External links


Cabinet Office - Main Site

Cabinet Office - UK Executive

Cabinet Office - List of Cabinet Ministers

Cabinet Papers, 1915-1981 (National Archives)

BBC news website - The Cabinet
{{DEFAULTSORT:Cabinet Of The United Kingdom Cabinet of the United Kingdom, Lists of government ministers of the United Kingdom, * Cabinet Office (United Kingdom)