The Cabinets role in decision making

Much of the decision-making orchestrated within the Core Executive is performed by cabinet committees which are appointed by the Prime Minister. They have two principal purposes: to uphold the convention of Collective Cabinet Responsibility and to reduce the workload of the Cabinet and there are two types of cabinet committees: those which are ad-hoc that deal with unexpected or temporary issues (e. g. COBRA), the other being standing committees which are named and permanent.

They usually comprise departmental ministers and a representative of the Treasury (each department needs to control its budgetary allowance). A minority of the committees are significant in the way in which the Government determines its policy; in this case, senior members of the Cabinet (including the Prime Minister) usually chair such meetings. Conclusions made in these committees are often then presented to the Cabinet for consideration in a wider context.

For example, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games is responsible for liaising with the Government on the planning, construction and general evaluation in respect to the 2012 Olympic Games in London – the official Government policy is then based on their recommendations. However, in practice, the Cabinet Committees may not reach a verdict upon the topic which they set; in which case, the Cabinet will then lose time discussing a topic which may detract away from more significant policies – it may even cause damaging splits in the Cabinet as fellow department ministers stand at two different viewpoints.

Consider how significant the doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility is in modern British politics. (10 marks) Collective Cabinet Responsibility (CCR) is a constitutional convention in place in the Core Executive of the UK Government which aims to ensure that ministers are, as the name suggests, collectively responsible to the House of Commons for governmental policy, which – through the Cabinet – they helped to create.

Generally-speaking, the doctrine entails the assurance that: all ministers carry the same views and opinions on Governmental policy so as to keep policy clear and simple for the general public and to ensure that there is a united front within the governing party as to guarantee that confidence can be placed within it and to portray the image that the Government is fully in control of itself. The uncodified practice also guarantees to avoid confusion which can occur when members of the same administration publicly show their difference of opinions.

If there is disapproval to such a degree that the minister no longer feels that their operations in their current capacity are tenable and cannot remain silent about such, then it is their responsibility to resign from the Cabinet, and as such, a paradox arises; whilst on one hand the Government appears strong for rejecting members which disagree with it, it also raises questions about the direction in which their policy is heading. The principle of collective responsibility underpins the system of Cabinet government.

It reflects democratic principle: the Legislature expresses its confidence in the whole of the Core Executive, rather than in individual ministers. Similarly, the PM, in acting on ministerial advice, needs to be confident that all ministers represent official government policy. In all areas of their work, therefore, ministers represent and implement government policy and, from that, we can conclude that it is a significant doctrine within the functioning of the Government.

In a more recent context, CCR was best exemplified by the Cabinet's willingness to accept the terms of the 'bank bailout' proposal made by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor and other senior economic advisors – if the remainder of the Cabinet had not backed such a plan, then it would have led to wish-washy economic leadership, resulting in a further loss of confidence and the subsequent deepening of the recession.

Another example is that of Robin Cook who found his position as Leader of the House of Commons no longer justifiable after his public opposition to the Iraq War brought the leadership style and policy-making acumen of Tony Blair into question. His ensuing resignation damaged the public relations of the Government but also demonstrated that CCR was still alive and kicking in the Core Executive, given that he took responsibility for the failure of the Labour leadership to reason its way out of being committed to a war on false premise. On the other hand, CCR has been lacking in many other vital and often necessary areas in recent years.

There has been a marked increase in the power of the Prime Minister, to such an extent that people now question whether or not they believe a Presidential-esque leadership to be in operation – even though, constitutionally, the power of the PM is limited short of that. Tony Blair believed in a Government run under his personality and not one in which consensus played an influential role. Under his ideals, bi-laterals (tri-laterals also) took prominence over inter-departmental discussion at Cabinet meetings, which rarely lasted more than an hour regardless.

Cabinet committees, informal meetings, task forces and strategy units who also discussed and actively tackled topics of their choosing, superseded conventional Cabinet meetings. In this respect, the doctrine has been completely ignored and been utterly dependent on the influence granted to it by the Prime Minister. It has a key role in the effective functioning of a Cabinet Government, however, in an administration led by a figure who feels this is obstructive to progress, it has little or no weight unless it can somehow change public opinion, force a vote of no confidence and the resignation of the entire governing party.

'The Cabinet's role in decision making has been marginalised in recent governments. ' Discuss. (25 marks) Traditional theory dictates that the Cabinet is the dominant decision-making body within the Core Executive, where Ministers convene to co-ordinate the policy making of individual departments and thus the overall work of the Government. All senior ministers are chosen by the Prime Minister and they are all collectively delegated the power to direct the Government.

Under the doctrine of a Cabinet government, all members have equal status – apart from the PM who has the recognised position of primus inter pares (first amongst equals). Recently, however, the collective power held by the Cabinet has weakened somewhat, especially under Blair and Thatcher, though this has largely depended on the leadership style preferred by the PM in office.