Skip to site navigation

Ministers Outside Parliament

May - November 2010

Goats

This project is kindly funded by a private donor

» Read the final report: Putting Goats amongst the Wolves - Appointing Ministers from outside Parliament Ben Yong and Robert Hazell (January 2011)

Background

There has been debate recently about the appointment of ministers from outside Parliament.  Gordon Brown has appointed eight such ministers (the ‘Goats’), and put them in the House of Lords.  Not all have been successful.  In evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee Sir John Major raised the possibility of the appointment of non-parliamentary ministers: ‘A prime minister could appoint a small number of unelected ministers of state, who would be answerable to Parliament without being members of either House’ (Times 13 June 2009).  There has also been discussion about how two Cabinet Ministers in the Lords, Lord Mandelson and Lord Adonis, might become accountable to the House of Commons.

Research Questions

This raises a number of different questions about the arguments for and against having ministers from outside Parliament, their accountability, and the lessons to be learnt from overseas.

The case for ministers from outside Parliament

  • What are the main arguments for having ministers from outside Parliament?
  • Why are people making these arguments now?
  • How many Goats have been appointed since 1970?
  • What were their skills and experience?  Are there any patterns?
  • Have they been appointed because of their specific expertise; loyalty to the PM; to add lustre; or for other reasons?
  • How long did they last?  How successful have they been?  


Accountability of ministers to Parliament

  • How could Ministers from outside Parliament be made accountable to Parliament?
  • How can Lords ministers be more accountable to the Commons?
  • Should all ministers be accountable to both Houses?  What are the detailed rules of reciprocity in parliaments where this happens?

Comparator countries

We will look at two broad groups of countries:

  • Westminster parliaments.  The South African Constitution provides that the President may select no more than two ministers from outside the Assembly – these ministers have the same relationship with parliament as other Cabinet ministers.  We will look for other exceptions in Australia, Canada, NZ, India, Ireland; but the Westminster tradition is for ministers to be drawn from Parliament.
  • European parliaments.  We will look for models where ministers can be drawn from outside parliament (Germany, Italy); and at models where ministers are required to leave parliament when appointed to the government (France, Netherlands).

Parliament Homepage

NEWS

BLOG

Defining the office of Prime Minister

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 10:00:36 +0000

The British Prime Minister has extensive and growing powers, yet the role is ill-defined in UK constitutional documents. Graham Allen argues in favour of clarifying the role of the Prime Minister. He also suggests it should become a directly elected office, to ensure that it is properly answerable to the UK public. It is symptomatic of the British […]

Read more...

Pressures are growing for Commons bill committee reform

Mon, 07 Jul 2014 10:00:54 +0000

In June 2013 the Constitution Unit published Fitting the Bill: Bringing Commons Legislation Committees into Line with Best Practice, proposing a series of changes to Commons bill committees. Last week the issue was brought back into the headlines, as John Bercow emphasised the need for reform. Last Monday at a lecture for the Study of Parliament […]

Read more...

Concerns about the Steel/Byles Lords reform bill: a summary

Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:01:07 +0000

David Steel’s Lords reform bill (previously sponsored in the Commons by Dan Byles) had its second reading in the chamber on Friday. Last night the Constitution Unit and Constitution Society jointly hosted a meeting in the Lords to discuss concerns about the bill. Its main provisions – allowing peers to retire, and for the expulsion of serious criminals - have […]

Read more...
Meg Russell's new book, The Contemporary House of Lords:
Lords book cover - png file

Projects 

CONSULTANCY

The Constitution Unit

Page last modified on 27 jan 11 16:42

Footer menu