The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision making body of Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers. The Cabinet is the ultimate decision-making body of the executive. But this Cabinet system did not shape in today’s form overnight.
According to Sidney Low, “Cabinet is the responsible executive having the complete control of the administration of the general direction of national business, but exercising this vast power under the strict supervision of the representative Chamber to which it is accountable for all its acts and omissions. ” According to Prof Mounro, “Cabinet may be briefly defined as the body of royal advisers Chosen by the Prime Minister in the name of the crown, with the approval a majority in the House of Commons. ”
The initiation of the word ‘Cabinet’ Francis Bacon, a famous Chronicler, writer first mentioned the word ‘Cabinet ‘in the 17th century. He used the word to denote the committee of the Privy Council. In addition to ‘Cabinet’ another word was used during the reign of Charles ? known as cabinet council. The special persons or group of people with whom king Charles ? sat on the Privy Council known as ‘Cabinet Council. ’ After the execution of the king Charles ? , Charles ?? sat on the throne and crowned through restoration in 1660.
He was from the House of Stuart and during his reign, there was also something like cabinet known as ‘CABAL’ were a group of small bodies and his five selected advisors. The word ‘CABAL’ formed by picking up the initials of these five people’s name and their names were Clifford Arlington Buckingham Ashley Louderable CABLE Charles ?? had a small private room inside large room (where he met with the other advisors, members and royalist). Where he did meeting with his CABAL. This small private room gradually known as Cabinet.
Normally the word ‘Cabinet’ means the small part of a room, where things can be kept and from this concept today’s ‘Cabinet’ got shaped where Prime Minister called secret meeting with a group of special people picked up from the members of the parliament the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In 19th century, a famous specialist of constitution Walter Bagehot, described the word ‘Cabinet’ as the efficient secret of the British political system in his book “The English Constitution. ” The events of the gradual development of Cabinet.
The things that influenced to form the cabinet and parliamentary system: From the very primitive stage, the king of a certain territory who was the all in all in his area, reigned over in an autocratic way. Most of the time their autocracy turned into brutality, whatever they did, they did to fulfill their wish which often went against the general mass. Sometimes they did for meeting the demand of their greediness, sometimes they did for their whimsical thinking, sometimes they did to perpetuate their belief in terms of religion in the name of the general people.
Every time they tried to push their intention over the people. In fact, the oppressed the country people with injustice, with inhumanity by their autocratic notion. They did not keep any institution left which could give protection to the people against prince’s tyranny. Above all they crossed their limitation of the time. But people did not endure it every time. When the toleration limit crossed the line people protested. And the result of the people’s protest is the movement informing cabinet and parliamentary system. But this cabinet system did not shape in today’s form overnight.
It look more than two hundred years to make shape. By this parliamentary system the prerogatives of the supremacy, the Divine Right of Kings turned into the supremacy of the parliament in the long run. First step towards the constitutional government: The initial movement towards the constitutional government was the famous ‘Magna Carta’ signed by John in 1215. Richard ? of the Plantagenet rule was succeeded by his younger brother John. John suffered the loss of Normandy and numerous other French territories to the French.
He antagonized the extent that in 1215 they led an armed rebellion against him. This forced him to sign the famous Magna Carta. It gave ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ of different levels to the church, feudal lords, subtenants, to towns, trade and merchants. The charter later became a symbol and a battle cry against oppression. Actually the initiation of the constitutional system was the initiation of the parliamentary system. And for the development of the parliamentary system, political parties developed and then gradually cabinet system got shaped in today’s form.
Second step towards the cabinet system This occurred after the execution of the Stuart king Charles ?. James ? was succeeded through his son Charles ?. They were from Scotland. Along with the kingdom, king Charles ? inherited domestic economic crisis and unadjustment with the parliament. During that time, the kings formed parliament many times and also dissolved it when there occurred contradiction with the parliament. They did these for their own interest. King Charles ? also had problems, complexity with the parliament. In addition to ‘Cabinet’ another word was used during Charles as Charles ?
sat on the meeting with special person taken from Privy Council called to bear the huge expenditure due to continue war, for the administrative purpose and for the kings luxurious lifestyle the king had to depend on the revenue. As the parliament provided him the money the parliament also wanted some power over the king and wanted to limit the crown’s power. So the parliament took two different tacks as the imposed taxes to the people and was the medium of providing money to the king. a) The first was to limit the crown’s constitutional authority in order to protect the existence of parliament and the liberties of the subject.
b) The second was to reconstitute the church. In 1641 the parliament passed the Triennial Act mentioning two important things that king must call a parliament within three years and he cannot dissolve it own self. Cabinet Council After that the Civil War took place and king Charles ? was executed. Then Oliver Cromwell became the protectorate. He formed a parliament named as rump parliament. The Civil was one that neither king, nor parliament nor the nation wanted but it was important for democracy. Actually it was another important step towards forming the democratic system.
Here we notice that two things occurred in parallel one is king was gradually losing his prerogatives and the parliament was becoming more stronger. Third step towards the cabinet system Then after passing of eleven years without any monarch in England Charles ?? was restored as king through the restoration of 1660. He came of age in Europe, a child of diplomatic intrigues, broken promises and unfulfilled hopes. Charles left the specifics to the convention parliament, which was composed of members of the competing religious and political parties that contended for power and the rubble of the Commonwealth.
It was left to the Cavalier parliament to make hard choices and to demonstrate that one of the changes that had survived the revolution was the independence of the parliament. Parliament wanted that the kings men not only serve the king but also the people. King Charles ?? had a larger body of counselors but this was not considered as Cabinet because there was no political party. This was known as Privy Council. Privy Counselors were accountable to king only. Privy Council had grown out of the great councils of the Norman. Charles ?? did not have cabinet council but had ‘CABAL’.
‘CABAL’ of Charles ?? was a group of persons taken from Privy Council and parliament. By adding these five people’s names initials the word ‘CABAL’ formed. Charles ?? had a small private room inside his big room, where he met with these CABAL. This small private room is known as Cabinet. Development of Party system The situations after 1660 were move favorable for the growth of the cabinet system because parliament won against the king which was before unthinkable. The cabinet system could grow when the supremacy of the parliament was established and the king had to be subordinated.
Besides political parties were becoming more stronger during his reign than before. There were two types of parties where English people were divided. First one is ‘Cavalier’ who was the royal supporter and second one is ‘Roundheads’, thadherents parliamentary party who were in the opposition of the kings prerogatives. But later these parties were renamed as ‘Court Party’, the royalist and ‘Country Party’ who defied royal prerogatives. The names Whig and Tory came to be used during the debates on the Exclusion Bill to defeat the Duke of York’s claim on the English throne.
When Charles ?? in order to hold back the attack on the succession of Duke of York had adjourned the parliament. Shaftesbury petitioned the king to recall the parliament and so they were nicknamed as petitioners and kings friends were shocked at the attempt to force the king to use his prerogatives and so they were known as abhorrers. Whig a Scottish word meant ‘sour milk’ and Tory an Irish word meant ‘robber’. Both these names were given by the opposition parties to abuse one another. During Charles ?? ’s reign a small group of ministers worked as advisor of the king.
Actually they were the medium of interaction between the king and the parliament. As there was there was tension flowing with the king and parliament so distance also happened between them. These ministers helped the king in decision-making. The king fulfilled his desires with the help of these ministers through the parliament king Charles ?? did not take it into consideration whether these minister were popular to the parliament or not. He also did not think that which party they belonged to. But yet they were not considered as agents of the king or parliament.
As a matter of fact the name ‘Cabinet’ first came into use as term of abuse. But after the glorious revolution of 1688, the word or name ‘Cabinet’ came into stronger form. Fourth step towards the Cabinet system Until the glorious revolution of 1688 the parliamentary or Cabinet system did not get a perfect shape but glorious revolution paved the way for permanent supremacy of the parliament. One of the most important reasons are William ??? was unable to control the whole authority over the members of the parliament of that time.
Because he was not brought in England to do so. So there was a huge freedom for the ministers to make any decision for the country. During William ??? he tried to make a parliament consisted of the members of two parties but it did not work smoothly. Then for the convenience he chose one political party and that party was Whig Party. But another problem arose parliaments member decided that the person who was in position that got place of profit under the king above all was serving the king could not serve at the House of Commons as a member.
And for this the parliament passed an Act of settlement in 1701. through which they reflected their thinking’s, visions. The most important thing is that the parliamentary system was gradually becoming more and stronger than before. Gradually they started to take decisions or pass act which could make supremacy of the parliament over the king. For instance, Declaration of Rights(1688), Bill of Rights(1689),Toleration Act, Mutiny Act, Act of settlement (1701) etc which were making the king more subordinated to the parliament.
Following their own way the parliament through Act of settlement told that the ministers of the Privy Council should be responsible to the parliament for their every advice and the minister must have to give signature with their advices. There was also problem with the thing that as they ministers had to sign, it might happen that they would stop giving advice as they were responsible to the parliament by the Act of settlement. But fortunately that did not happen because this provision war repealed in 1703 during Queen Anne.
Actually it became a practice that when an important new office of political nature was created a special statutory provision permitted the holder to have a seat in the House of Commons and late Act unconditionally barred from parliament all the cases of places created before or after 1705 but officers of a ministerial grade were never touched by such legislation. Thus the way was kept open for the long line of developments which ultimately gave the cabinet system to England. Fifth step towards the cabinet system The most important part and existence of Prime minister.
The Cabinet system got a golden opportunity to develop during reign of George ? and ??. Both of them did not know English so George ? gave the power a Whig leader Robert Walpole. To run the business of the government. Walpole became the Prime minister and he became the first primer of England. Important thing is George ? did not try to understand English language neither before nor after the accession to the throne. Moreover, the English administrative system was complicated. Although Walpole was not popular with the people but true to say cabinet system was really developed and England got existence of Prime Minister.
As both Gorge ? and ?? were told as foreigners the parliament got the opportunity to become authoritative over the country over the royal authority so this system got developed unhampered. Even when George ??? established his personal rule he did not attend the meetings of the cabinet. This was another successful step of the parliament towards the developing of cabinet system. But George ??? was known as English Hanoverian king. As he was born in England he was accustomed to English culture. He knew the English language, culture, tradition. Moreover, he achieved wider recognition in Britain.
As a result, he tried to destroy the cabinet system and establish a personal rule in the country. His contention was that he was ready to accept all the limitation against king that was imposed through the Bill of Rights and the Act of settlement but nothing else. Not only had that he declared the cabinet system that developed under Whig supremacy during George ? and ?? reign, illegal. He then wanted to preside the parliament but by this the parliamentary system became far stronger and in authoritative situation than before. However his attempt tailed on account of the American War of Independence and the British defeat.
After 1788 George ??? left everything the hands of Pitt the younger who was the Prime minister of that time. The use and understanding of the word ‘Cabinet System’ and the final shape of the Cabinet system: There was no general understanding of what we now call the cabinet system of government at the last quarter of the 18th century. The Act of 1791 which gave to Upper and Lower Canada the same type of government which existed in England did not provide for a cabinet system. Black-stone in his ‘Commentaries on the English Constitution’ did not refer to the cabinet system.
De Lolme also did not refer to the Cabinet system in his description of the English Constitution. It was only in 1867 that Bagehot gave a full description of the cabinet system in his monumental work on the English Constitution. Finally in the 19th century the Cabinet system took its ultimate shape. It was established as principal that the members of Cabinet must belong to the House of Commons. Not only that they must belong to the party who have majority in the House of Commons. If a vote of no-confidence is passed against they must resign. In Fine My point of view as a whole:
We may either mention ‘The Cabinet System’ as present or contribution from Britain to the democratic countries of the world. After the introduction of this system in British dominions, it was copied in France, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovak. It has been adopted in India also. From the beginning of the Cabinet system in the 16th century to till today, this system is gradually developing. We see not only Civil War, Glorious Revolution, American War of Independence had great effect on cabinet system but also people’s strong demand was another cause to form Parliamentary and Cabinet system.
It is noticeable to us that in every important events parliament were gaining supremacy over the crown’s omnipotent power and crowns were also being subordinated day by day. Actually these things happened in parallel. Finally the Cabinet system has come as the reflection of the people’s intention, people’s hope. And only then people have got an institution which can give them protection from crowns tyranny, oppression that the people before did not have.