As government and Politics

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The role/functions of the cabinet



To implement the policy plans contained in the manifesto

Individual cabinet members take responsibility for implementing parts of these plans. The minister responsible for the relevant department will present the legislative proposals to the rest of the cabinet and once it has been agreed on, the bill will be put before Parliament.

To co-ordinate the activities of government and the administration

This avoids ministers being too preoccupied with their own departments. Meetings help to ensure that ministers are aware of what their colleagues are doing and the impact this has on the government’s overall goals and ensures consistency and coherence in government policies. This also prevents conflicts between ministers and the pursuit of contradictory policies. But, with the growth in the size and complexity of a government, the cabinet cannot achieve this in its one meeting a week so co-ordination is now achieved through informal meetings, cabinet committees and formal inter-departmental meetings between ministers and civil servants.

Conflict Resolution

Occasionally the cabinet will try to resolve a conflict in a cabinet committee if they have failed to reach an agreement over a particular policy perhaps due to divisions between the members. The full cabinet is called upon to make a final decision. On a number of occasions in the 1980s, the Thatcher cabinet was called upon to settle departmental disputes over the allocation of money for public expenditure.


Keeps senior ministers informed of the government’s programme, including forthcoming legislation and parliamentary business for the week. The meeting may include reports from the Foreign Secretary on international affairs that may have diplomatic, military or security implications – may affect the running of the British government.

Discussion of Budgetary estimates

Each minister presents the Chancellor and the Full Cabinet with an estimate of the needs of their department for the next year – often press for more money.

Emergency decisions

The Cabinet or the Cabinet members in London will have an unscheduled meeting to address the emergency and decide how to deal with the problem. For example, the 7/7 terrorist attacks, credit crunch, foot and mouth crisis.

General Discussion

If time permits there may be general discussions on the government’s general strategy and goals, the PM may allow discussion of a controversial policy such as in 2003 on ID cards. In the run up to an election, there may be discussion about future policies that may be put in the next manifesto in order to retain power.

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