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Question 3 Year 2000 Page 5 Revision Planner
To what extent do the conventions of collective and individual responsibility ensure the accountability of government ministers to Parliament?
Question 3 Year 2001 Zone A
Critically assess the theory and practice of individual and collective ministerial responsibility.
Question 1 Year 2002 Zone A
To what extent is it possible or desirable to define clearly the conventions of individual and collective ministerial responsibility?
How effective and efficient is Ministerial Responsibility?
Cabinet Ministerial / Collective Responsibility
Individual Ministerial Responsibility
Marshall & Moodie
"Ministers are responsible for the general conducts of government including the exercise of many powers legally vested in the Monarch and ultimately through Parliament and parties to the voters".
Lord Salisbury (1878)
"It is only on the principle that absolute responsibility is undertaken by every member of the Cabinet, who, after a decision is arrived at, remains a member of it, that the joint responsibility of Ministers to Parliament can be upheld and one of the most essential principles of parliamentary responsibility established".
How effective and efficient is Ministerial Responsibility?
There are 2 types of Ministerial Responsibility namely Cabinet Ministerial / Collective Responsibility (CMR) / (CCR) and Individual Ministerial Responsibility (IMR).
The Individual Ministerial Responsibility is further classified into Public Administration and Personal Misconduct of the Ministers.
Cabinet Ministerial / Collective Responsibility (CMR) (CCR)
Cabinet Ministers are collectively responsible about agreeing on policies and unanimity of advice to the Crown that includes an obligation to explain to Parliament the principles upon which the government was to be carried on.
This is aimed to promote stability in the country as well as generate public confidence from the people at large.
The Prime Ministers and other ministers are collectively responsible to Parliament for the conduct of the national affairs. All ministers are required to be loyal to the policies of the government whether or not they are personally concerned with them.
The doctrine of ministerial responsibility requires the Cabinet and government business to be confidential. The convention of cabinet secrecy is normally attached to Cabinet discussions, Cabinet documents, proceedings of Cabinet Committees and communications between departments.
Robin Cook (2003)
Leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook resigned from his office because his opinions differ with the Cabinet on the issue of Iraq war.
The Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Heseltine resigned because he could not agree to all ministerial speeches being submitted to the Cabinet Office for clearance.
Harold Wilson (1975)
The Labour Cabinet agreed to differ over Britain's continued membership of the European Economic Community.
Ramsey MacDonald (1932)
The agreement to differ occurred within a coalition between parties.
Unanimity in Cabinet could not be achieved on the issue of using proportional representation as a method of voting in the direct elections to the European Parliament.
Justify the concept of Cabinet Collective Responsibility
Individual Ministerial Responsibility (IMR)
The individual responsibility of Ministers can be further classified into Public Administration and Personal Misconduct.
The Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe reaffirmed during the debate that a civil servant is wholly and directly responsible to his minister and can be dismissed at any time by the minister.
It has been accepted that there is no duty upon a minister to resign when maladministration occurred within his department.
Crˆoche Down Affair
In July 1954, the Minister Thomas Dug dale accepted responsibility and resigned.
Lord Carrington (1982)
The Foreign Secretary and his two ministers resigned after accepting responsibility for the conduct of policy on the Falkland Islands invasion.
William Whitelaws (1982)
The Home Secretary, William Whitelaw did not resign over the issue of lack of security when Michael Fagan intruded into Buckingham Palace and entered the Queen's bedroom.
Maze Prison (1984)
James Pryor, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland did not resign after 4 terrorists escape from the Maze Prison. He opined that there are 2 types of responsibilities - one that is within his control whilst the other one beyond his control. It has been accepted that there is no duty upon a minister to resign when maladministration occurred within his department if it is beyond his control.
The Heritage Secretary who resigned following a mixture of allegations, one of which involved a receipt of a free holiday from a woman with Palestinian Liberation Organization associations.
M v. Home Office (1993)
An individual minister acting in his official capacity can be held to be in contempt of court if he or his servants fail to comply with an order of the court.
Based on the analysis above, there seems to be no fixed and fast rule when a Minister is required to resign or not over any maladministration practices of the ministry. It looks like whether a minister resign usually depends on political factors such as the attitude of the Prime Minister at the time; mood of the party and the temperament of the minister concerned.
By virtue that Ministerial Responsibility exists by convention, any misdoings cannot be enforced in court; it can only amount to misconduct by the ministers at the most.
Personal misconduct of ministers has always been under public scrutiny.
John Profomo (1963)
The Minister of Defence, John Profomo who had an affair with a prostitute, Christine Keeler who also had affair with a Russian Naval Attache resigned when the truth emerged.
Tim Yeo (1994)
Minister of State for the Environment resigned after admitting fathering a child out of wedlock.
Alan Duncan (1994)
He resigned after the allegations that he had used the 'right to buy' legislation to make money in property deals with a neighbour.
Hartley Booth (1994)
He resigned after a close relationship with a research assistant.
Michael Brown (1994)
He resigned after a newspaper reported a 'friendship' with a male civil servant.
Ron Davies (1998)
He resigned as Welsh Secretary after apparently cruising for gay sex in a London Park.
The conduct of ministers in their personal capacity should not affect their performance as a minister. Therefore, they should not be penalized of their personal wrongdoings as long as the misconduct does not in any way affect their official obligations.
Ministerial responsibility that has lead to ministerial resignation can be explained as a political matter.
The courts do not take any direct part in determining the extent of the minister's duty to the Parliament, nor do they have jurisdiction to actually impose such duty. The courts have maintained that the minister remains responsible to the Parliament.
Based on the two analyses above, as far as public administration wrongdoings are concerned, there are no fixed and fast rule when the ministers are supposed to resign and when they are not.
The same goes to personal misconduct by ministers. The personal conduct of ministers is actually of no business to the government. Therefore, they are not obliged to resign.
Prepared by Norsurianna Teh Binti Abdullah
15th April 2003 (Tuesday)
by annateh on Sunday, October 26, 2003