Collective and Individual Ministerial Responsibility

What is Collective Ministerial Responsibility?

  • Refers to the duty of ministers to publicly agree (even if they don't in private) with government policies.
  • If a minister cannot conform to this then they are expected to resign.
  • It also refers to the responsibility of the government as a whole to be accountable for its actions, it means that the government must be willing to resign and have a general election if defeated in a vote of no confidence.
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Importance of Collective Ministerial Responsibilit

  • It means a collective and collegiate system of decision making, which is a key aspect of cabinet government.
  • Deliberations and conflict will remain private and confidential, which gives ministers freedom to express their views (however robust they are) and challenge their colleagues within cabinet.
  • All ministers will support cabinet decisions which gives a sense of cabinet unity. This protects cabinet from the media and the Opposition interpreting disagreements as signs of weakness.
  • Strengthens government because they can rely on the 'payroll vote' - all government ministers must vote together which gives them about 100 votes.
  • Underpins Prime Ministerial power by silencing internal critics. They cannot publicly criticize the PM like backbenchers can without resigning, which is why Prime Ministers will often appoint potential rivals to cabinet - 'keeping enemies close'
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Examples of CMR resignations

  • Robin Cook and Clare short left the Blair government over disagreements about the Iraq invasion.
  • Michael Heseltine resigned from Thatcher's government over the Westland Helicopter affair.
  • Lee Scott, Mike Croquart and Jenny Wilmott who were all parliamentary aides to different ministers resigned over the rise in tuition fees in 2010.

Btw if you have any more examples for this, please comment as I am a bit short on examples!

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Individual Ministerial Responsibility

  • This is a convention which governs the relationship between a minister and his/her department and with Parliament.
  • Ministers can take credit when policies are successful but have to take the blame when something goes wrong.
  • Ministers are accountable to Parliament and if mistakes are serious enough they are expected to resign.
  • Also includes personal misconduct or scandal.
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Importance of individual ministerial responsibilit

  • Makes ministers accountable to Parliament
  • Attempts to make government open and prevent corruption
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Examples of IMR resignation

  • David Laws resigned from the coalition government over his expenses scandal
  • David Blunkett left Blair's government because he tried to fast-track the visa for his ex-wife's nanny.
  • Estelle Morris (2002) felt the pressure of criticism about the A level marking scandal and resigned as education secretary.
  • Andrew Mitchell resigned as government chief whip after his 'pleb' comment to a policeman.
  • Bev Hughes resigned in 2004 after she had misled people about a suspected visa scam.
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