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(Prime) Ministers - Role, Resignation and Limitations

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3a) Outline the role of a minister. Ministers have a variety of roles. The main role of most ministers is to act as head of government departments or be members of the leading group within that particular department thus extending their role to both policy-making and administrative oversight. Ministers also have a parliamentary role, meaning they must answer parliamentary questions, provide minister statements and speak in debates. Ministers also have government roles and are obliged, in any case, to support official government policy. 3b) In what circumstances do ministers resign? There are a number of circumstances in which a minister may resign. Ministers are responsible for their actions and what happens in their department and are expected to take the blame when mistakes are made which could lead to their resignation, as seen by Lord Carrington's resignation as foreign secretary in 1982 because of Foreign Office failings. This is known as individual ministerial responsibility, a more recent example of individual responsibility comes in the form of Stephen Byers who resigned in 2002 after a poor period as transport secretary. ...read more.


The Prime Minister may sense people within his Cabinet or own party may be critical of them so they make sure these people are 'rewarded' with certain positions within government. An example of this can be seen in Browns premiership where he has kept Blair loyalists such as John Hutton in positions of power, this limits the Prime Minister more as he is forced to pick people for his government instead of choosing the people they really want in that position. Another limit on the power of the Prime Minister is Parliament. A small government majority can strengthen an opposition party, as gaining public support should be easier. Opposition have the power to criticise the government and potentially embarrass the Prime Minister. John Major is a perfect example of a Prime Minister with limit powers and influence due to a small majority during his time as Prime Minister. James Callaghan had an even more difficult job as he had no majority in Parliament thus limiting his powers even further. ...read more.


A further limitation on the power of the Prime Minister is pressure groups which, like an opposition party have the ability to criticise the Prime Minister and government practice. With enough support or funding a group such as this can force the government into policy change etc. Fathers 4 Justice are a pressure group that has constantly shown up the government by highlighting faults in their policy through demonstrations and various publicity stunts. The number of pressure groups which have a profound effect on changing the government is very few, but those who do can weaken the Prime Minister and make them look weak by forcing them to accept their demands thus limiting the Prime Ministers powers. Other factors which may limit the power of a Prime Minister include international organisations (such as the EU), major trading partners, mass media and the expectation to appoint certain people into their government, such as women and ethnic minorities. In conclusion there are many factors which limit the powers of a Prime Minister, some of these limitations can lead to real problems and cause lasting damage to the Prime Minter and their government. ...read more.

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