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Last updated 22 Mar 2021
The concept of Cabinet Government covers several ideas:
Firstly, that members of the Cabinet are drawn from and are therefore accountable for Parliament – so the executive and legislature are thus fused. So, the Prime Minister will draw Cabinet members from MPs in the House of Commons or member of the House of Lords (and can even make someone a Lord specifically to put them in the Cabinet).
Secondly, government policy (e.g. planned legislation, orders issued, priorities decided for time or spending) is decided collectively – with the Cabinet, not the PM, deciding policy and the Prime Minister being Primus inter pares (‘First among equals). In practice though, full Cabinet only decides policy when there are major disagreements on the key issues – as a final ‘court of appeal’, with most decisions actually taken by the PM or the Cabinet Committees.
Thirdly, the work of government departments is co-ordinated by meetings of Cabinet members. This is vital for ministers to avoid undermining each other’s efforts. This is particularly important when spending is concerned and also because so many decisions are taken in cabinet committees which are attended by only the relevant ministers – which is why much of the full cabinet meetings are taken up by reports from the cabinet committees. In practice, day-to-day co-ordination is undertaken by the Cabinet Office, informal groups of ministers, and by the PM’s advisors.
Fourthly, the concept of Cabinet government is that the Cabinet manages Parliamentary business, considering bills coming up that week, with the Chief Whip advising on how much opposition is expected.