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The Cabinets role in decision making has been marginalised in recent governments

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Introduction

Explain the term cabinet committees. (5 marks) Much of the decision-making orchestrated within the Core Executive is performed by cabinet committees which are appointed by the Prime Minister. They have two principal purposes: to uphold the convention of Collective Cabinet Responsibility and to reduce the workload of the Cabinet and there are two types of cabinet committees: those which are ad-hoc that deal with unexpected or temporary issues (e.g. COBRA), the other being standing committees which are named and permanent. They usually comprise departmental ministers and a representative of the Treasury (each department needs to control its budgetary allowance). A minority of the committees are significant in the way in which the Government determines its policy; in this case, senior members of the Cabinet (including the Prime Minister) usually chair such meetings. Conclusions made in these committees are often then presented to the Cabinet for consideration in a wider context. For example, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games is responsible for liaising with the Government on the planning, construction and general evaluation in respect to the 2012 Olympic Games in London - the official Government policy is then based on their recommendations. However, in practice, the Cabinet Committees may not reach a verdict upon the topic which they set; in which case, the Cabinet will then lose time discussing a topic which may detract away from more significant policies - it may even cause damaging splits in the Cabinet as fellow department ministers stand at two different viewpoints. Consider how significant the doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility is in modern British politics. ...read more.

Middle

In this respect, the doctrine has been completely ignored and been utterly dependent on the influence granted to it by the Prime Minister. It has a key role in the effective functioning of a Cabinet Government, however, in an administration led by a figure who feels this is obstructive to progress, it has little or no weight unless it can somehow change public opinion, force a vote of no confidence and the resignation of the entire governing party. 'The Cabinet's role in decision making has been marginalised in recent governments.' Discuss. (25 marks) Traditional theory dictates that the Cabinet is the dominant decision-making body within the Core Executive, where Ministers convene to co-ordinate the policy making of individual departments and thus the overall work of the Government. All senior ministers are chosen by the Prime Minister and they are all collectively delegated the power to direct the Government. Under the doctrine of a Cabinet government, all members have equal status - apart from the PM who has the recognised position of primus inter pares (first amongst equals). Recently, however, the collective power held by the Cabinet has weakened somewhat, especially under Blair and Thatcher, though this has largely depended on the leadership style preferred by the PM in office. There are several predominant roles of the Cabinet which include: devising major policy (although this is often stated in the manifesto before election, priorities have to be made, legislative ideas converted into practice and contextual circumstances to be accounted for); addressing unforeseen major problems (such as the current H1N1 'swine flu' outbreak); harmonising the actions of ...read more.

Conclusion

Given all that, it would appear that the Cabinet is not currently functioning to the extent that traditional understanding would have us think it should. I utterly agree with the statement that the role of the Cabinet in decision-making has been deeply marginalised within recent administrations, and with that, I accept that the influence of the Cabinet is wholly and comprehensively linked to the context of the personality of the Prime Minister 'at the helm'. It is also true that Prime Ministerial power has acquired a new significance in recent years where they can forge decisions without the use of the Cabinet as a tool to manage or compass opinion. For instance, the EU has a significant function in top-level decision making insofar that it requires the divine attention of the Prime Minister alone, and not the Cabinet. As an informal ambassador for the United Kingdom, it is the responsibility of the PM to negotiate deals which secure: EU funding for the UK's economy, EU partner countries' assistance in the Afghan War et cetera and in order for him to do this, considerable autonomy has to be granted. The same is true for other meetings in the recent past, such as the G20 Meeting in London where the PM held high-level talks with other wealthy nations in order to establish a trillion dollar deal to effectively 'rescue' the world economy. All of this has been at the expense of a Cabinet which needs to be reckoned with, otherwise, in times of desperate need, the Prime Minister will not find support at his or hers' weakest moments in their premierships. ...read more.

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