DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY AND INDIVIDUAL MINISTERIAL RESPONSIBILITY:
The Cabinet is theoretically a united body - ministers are usually members of the same party whom stood on an agreed manifesto and thus series of pledges at a General Election.
This sense of unity is undermined by departmental and personal rivalries - two main conventioins by which the cabinet and its members can be held to account - collective responsibility and individual ministerial responsibility.
Collective responsibility is a core principle of collective government. It has three key elements; secrecy, binding decisions and the confidence vote.
- The concept of collective responsibility states that discussions in government should be kept secret - that sensitive information does not enter the public domain, and that differences of opinion within the cabinet are thus not revealed.
- Binding decisons refers to the practice that once a decision is reached in the cabinet, it becomes bindng on the collective cabinet as a whole regardless of whom opposed it or was not involved in the decision-making process.
- The final element - confidence voting - refers to the convention that the entire government should resign if defeated on a vote of confidence whilst they're sitting in parliament, as with the Labour government of James Callaghan in 1979.
The convention of individual minsisterial responsibility states that ministers are responsible to parlaiment for their own conduct and the general conduct of their department and enacted policies whilst they are in office. More recently, governments have redefined…