The Main aspects of the role of the cabinet
The main aspects of the role of the cabinet include:
- Formal policy approval
- Policy coordination
- Resolve disputes
- Forum for debate
- Party management
- Symbol of collective govt.
Formal Policy Approval and Policy coordination
A role of the cabinet is to formally approve policy:
- The cabinet must approve the policy decisions, for them to become official govt policy.
- However, there is no guarantee that major policy decisions will not be made by the PM, without consulting the Cabinet.
- E.g. In May 1997, Tony Blair decided to grant the Bank of England semi-independence in setting interest rates, with only consulting with Brown (the Chancellor).
Another role of the cabinet is policy coordination:
- This is a key role, which ensures that ministers are aware of the goings on in other departments.
- It helps to reconcile the responsibilities of ministers for their individual departments, with their responsibilities to the govt as a whole.
- As a result, it helps to 'join up' govt at its most senior level.
Resolving disputes and a forum for debate
A role of the cabinet is to resolve disputes:
- Differences between ministers and between departments are mostly resolved at a lower level.
- However, the cabinet serves as a final court of appeal for disagreements, that cannot be resolved elsewhere.
In addition, the cabinet is a forum for debate:
- The PM and other ministers can use the cabinet as a sounding board.
- They do this by raising issues and to stimulate discussion.
- Nevertheless, the time available for this is limited.
- This is because cabinet agendas are full and are usually dominated by govt business.
Party management and collective govt
Another role of the cabinet is party management:
- This is where the cabinet takes the views and morals of the parliamentary party, into account, when it comes to policy.
- This is the reason why the chief whip (currently Michael Gove) attend cabinet meetings, and is usually a full cabinet member.
The Cabinet is a symbol of collective government:
- The collective 'face' of govt is maintained by regular cabinet meetings.
- This is because the PM reports in these meetings, and the approval of major policies takes place here.
- This is underpinned by the convention of collective ministerial responsibility.