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The Cabinet System Notes

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This is an extract of our The Cabinet System document, which we sell as part of our Contemporary British Politics Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford students.

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MODERN BRITISH POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT THE CABINET SYSTEM Why is the Treasury such a powerful force in British policy-making and politics?
Prime Ministers and the Rule Book: A. Baker
- QPM was first issued by Attlee in 1945. This was not a permanent, non-partisan code for ministers, but a practical guide to the operation of cabinet, drafted with Attlee's style of government in mind.
- Churchill revised the proof of QPM, effectively creating a non-partisan version.
- Eden did not update QPM during his premiership.
- Macmillan issued a new version in 1958, and it contained guidance on the conduct of private interests; general standards were now enforced.
- Wilson's amendments sought to return Cabinet to Attlee's businesslike functioning, with the PM acting as CEO. He added a requirement for departmental spending estimates to be quoted alongside Treasury estimates in Cabinet memoranda if they differed. He also tightened the rules for the issue and circulation of memoranda, an attempt to clamp down on information leaks. For the first time, the appointments of special advisors, parliamentary private secretaries, and all public appointments were to be made only with the approval of the PM1.
- Heath issued QPM afresh in 1971; very little had been altered. Ministers were free to give unattributable briefings should they find it desirable, although the difference between briefing and leaking remained murky.
- Restrictions on PPSs have increased during the post-war era, and though they are officially not members of government, they are beginning to be constrained in the same way as ministers.
- Thatcher took the view that was up to each PM to decide how to run their Cabinet, and treated QPM as a fluid document. QPM was formally revised during her first term in office, emphasising the importance of preparation for Cabinet meetings and clarifying the procedure for ministerial appointments. Thatcher's strength within the Cabinet increased enormously with her increased parliamentary majority after the 1983 election.
- Major's publication of QPM gave the public a yardstick against which to measure ministerial conduct. He restored collegiate cabinet and abided by the letter of QPM, unlike Thatcher who used it as and when it suited her. Publication restricted the ability of the PM to amend QPM as he saw fit.
- Blair added guidance on the conduct of personal advisors, the number of which rose considerable during his premiership. In an effort the centralise control of policy presentation, Blair required all ministers to seek approval from the No.10 Press Office before they conducted interviews and media appearances; ministers were also required to keep a record of contact with the media. 2 The Prime Minister in a Shrinking World: R. Rose
- The size and scope of the Treasury makes it particularly difficult for No.10 to monitor its activities; the Chancellor is, in general, much less susceptible to influence by the PM than other ministers.
- The macroeconomic policy pursued by the Treasury has a significant impact on the micro spending decisions and capability of the departments.
- Aneurin Bevan and colleagues resigned in 1951 and destabilised the Attlee government. Prime Minister, Cabinet, and Core Executive: Rhodes & Dunleavy
- The form and structure of Cabinet, where each minister is, among other things, a chief executive of their own department, means that it functions more like a group of individuals than a united team; it is the job of a Prime Minister to ensure unity and cohesive application of a government's 1 Prime Ministers and the Rule Book: A. Baker 2 Prime Ministers and the Rule Book: A. Baker

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