Collective responsibility


What is collective responsibility?

1) All ministers are collectively responsible for all govt policies.

2) All ministers must publicly support all govt policies, even if they disagree privately w them.

3) If a minister wishes to dissent publicly from a govt policy, they are expected to resign first.

4) If a minister dissents w/o resigning, they can expect to be dismissed by the PM.

5) As cabinet meetings are secret, any dissent within govt is concealed.

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Why is collective responsability important?

1) PM's authority is greatly enhanced by the fact they will not experience open dissent from within the govt. 

2) Important that the govt presents a united front to Parl and the media and the outside world.

3) Govt knows it can rely on votes of all ministers in any close division in Commons - payroll vote.

4) Secrecy of the system allows ministers to express their views honestly within cabinet and know that their disagreement isn't likely to be publicised.

Contrast: Prevents ministers from expressing their own opinions.

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Examples - exception to collective responsibility

Occured when govt in coalition between Con & Lib Dem.

Impossible for ministers from two different parties to agree on every policy.

Special arrangement made - Coalition Agreement included all the policies the 2 party leaderships decided should be in common to both sets of ministers.

Collective responsibility applied to the Coalition Agreement.

Some areas of policy were not included in the Coalition Agreement - eg. renewal of Trident; question of intervention in the Syrian civial war. Coalition ministers allowed to disagree publicly on issues such as these.

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Examples -exception to collective responsibility 2

June 2016 - decision to hold referendum.

Con ministers free to express views counter to official govt position (Remain in EU) during referendum campaign.

eg. Michael Gove, Chris Grayling openly campaigned against govt position.

Similar arrangement had been made regarding suspension of collective responsibility during EEC referendum 1975.

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Positive aspects of collective responsibility


1) Creates a united, strong, decisive govt.

2) Parl, media and public are presented with clear, single version of govt policy.

3) Confidentiality of cabinet means that ministers can have honest discussions privately, despite not being able to dissent publicly.

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Negative aspects of collective responsibility


1) Puts too much power into hands of PM.

2) Ministers can't be openly honest about their view on policies - may stifle debate in govt.

3) Resignations under the doctrine are dramatic events which may seriously undermine govt.

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