Ministerial jobs

 

What should we expect of Ministers? What are they meant to do and what do they do?  Today I wish to set out a little more detail on a typical Ministerial job description, trying to explain why we have 3 different levels of Minister.  It should be born in mind that most Ministers are also MPs who still have to do most of  their MP duties, so being a Minister is a demanding and time consuming second job. Their Parliamentary activities  can be  more time consuming than a typical backbenchers, but are all related to their Ministerial job and are timetabled for them.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State  (PUSS)

A PUSS or junior Minister is often the Ministerial assistant to a senior Minister of State with a large command, or for the Secretary of State in a smaller department.

Duties include:

 

Parliament –  Adjournment Debates answering one MP or a few MPs with specific cases or detailed queries on policy and the conduct of the department.

Handling many of the Committee stages of Bills and maybe some of the  Report stage on the floor of the House

Case work for the department, dealing with many routine cases that need Ministerial oversight – explaining the department’s policy to others, handling complaints, adjudicating some conflicts

Advising the Minister of State on policy and matters relating to the Department based on case work/ meetings/ contacts

Working with officials to ensure smooth running of the interface of government with MPs, the public and interest groups.

Ministerial visits to see the operations of the Department and issues/ people on the ground

Briefing and appearing in  some technical and specialist press and regional media explaining departmental policy

Handling consultations and other meetings with lobbyists/Councils/MPs and reporting to the Minister of State

Handling some specialist Parliamentary Questions in his or her area.

Some of the senior PUSS ranked jobs like Economic Secretary to the Treasury have their own courtesy titles and some delegated responsiblities.

Minister of State

May have a courtesy title (Minister of Housing/Minister of Health/Minister of Local Government) for his or her quite large command

Responsible under the Secretary of State for the day to day running of the command. Influential in detailed policy development. May have substantial delegated authority under the Secretary of State to make decisions.

Chairs departmental meetings of officials and with outside interests to progress the work of the department.

Takes responsibility for all stages of many Bills and may make the speeches on 2nd and 3rd Reading. Will probably do the most difficult clauses in Committee/on report to relieve the PUSS.

Answers Parliamentary questions on his or her area of interest.

Makes Ministerial visits, handles substantial media on his or her  specialist subject.

Reviews difficult cases, adjudicates disputes within the department and between the department and others. May belong to junior Cabinet committees for agreeing cross departmental policy and approaches.

May act as the representative or envoy of the Secretary of State to sort out a given problem.

 

Secretary of State

Ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in the Department he or she leads, save for those financial, personnel and regularity issues which are the responsibility of the Permanent Secretary, the top official running the department.

May leave all the Parliamentary work on new laws to his junior Ministers, but would be expected to make big speeches on 2nd reading of major contentious  Bills and handle any really sensitive and hig profile  issue that takes place on the floor of the Commons.

May leave most casework to Juniors, but would be asked to decide in big cases involving high political risk or high  risk to the department.

Has to attend Cabinet and Cabinet committees, represent the department to the rest of the government and help form general government policy.

Handles the major  interviews and media enquiries, particularly where the interview is national and likely to wander into general government policy.

Has his or her own pattern of visits.

Chairs important working meetings of officials, junior Ministers and outside interests.

May chair a daily or weekly departmental meeting of Ministers with or without senior officials to provide a general sense of direction and oversight.

Can help the Permanent Secretary run the department and can  control its policy (subject to the EU, official views, legal position etc), or may work collaboratively with senior Ministers of State who do more of this for the S of S. May delegate much of implementation  and day to day running to officials, or may take a personal interest in administration and implementation.

 

 

 

 

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60 Comments

  1. Posted October 9, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Yes Minister!!!!

    Would you please give us a run down on how we deal with Laws, regulations and rules that have to be implemented from the EU?

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Yes, there’s a well-oiled system in place for that, and here is a recent example of how it works: the Commons European Scrutiny Committee examines some ideas for EU proposals, and comes out against them, but then a minister sneaks off and actively supports them in defiance of the views of that Committee, and then when they have become an EU Directive our Parliament will be left with the choice of either implementing it or passing an Act to disapply it, “notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972”, and guess which it will do?

      http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2013/10/brian-monteith-the-government-wants-to-stem-the-flow-of-powers-to-europe-so-whats-it-doing-with-these-smoking-laws.html

      And the Conservative minister who showed that she has no respect for Parliament is not sacked by the Conservative Prime Minister, instead she is promoted because he wants to make a show of increasing the number of women in senior positions even if they don’t care two hoots about our national democracy.

      • Posted October 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        She might be in exactly in accord with Cameron’s wishes. You assume her act was against national democracy, you have not made the case/point that she might have done it with the full backing of Cameron.

        • Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          Her act was against our national democracy because it was against the expressed views of a parliamentary committee; we know that her superior minister Hunt supported what she did, and it may well be that the Prime Minister did as well.

  2. Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Well that all reads like a manual of management BS. What a pity so many people are so convinced we need all these bureaucrats and politicians to run our lives when the truth is they do infinitely more harm than good. Most ministers and their departments could be done away with and the only thing the rest of us would notice is that things got better.

  3. Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this detailed insight into the workings of government.

    Interesting that you call it a second job being a Minister.
    Perhaps this is the problem, and where we have been going wrong for so many years.

    Clearly to be an effective Minister I would have thought it a Full time job, like in years past when an MP had to resign their seat as an MP in order to undertake a Ministerial Appointment.

    We surely do not want part time MPs, or part time Ministers, then on top of that we have MP’s with Outside interests (no bad thing), be it Unions, Commerce, Law or another, although I understand such interests have to be shelved whilst in a Ministerial position.

    Combine all of the above with a personal lack of any detailed Knowledge of the Department function in question, and lack of business and management experience, and it is no wonder the Country is in the State that it finds itself.

    In addition we then have the Civil Service, who appear to look after thenselves first, and the Country second.

    Time for a massive rethink on the way things are organised me thinks.

  4. Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Thank you John.

    This is a very useful clarification of the respective roles of the various grades of Minister.

    A further article explaining the role of the Cabinet Office and the personnel working there would be very interesting.

  5. Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this comprehensive list of duties which I have never seen so clearly laid out before.

    It strikes me, on reading it, that these duties could easily be performed by any MP without becoming a Minister or even a lowly PUSS. I suppose that the PM needs to encourage loyalty with a sort of boy scout badge and some pocket money! (The scouts nowadays, of course, include girls too.)

    Mightn’t cutting back the executive be a rather good thing?

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      One other reason the PM might want to create lots of ministers (and whips) is (if I am not mistaken) they are not allowed to vote against the government at any time on any issue without being fired, so for example notably right-wing Eurosceptic MPs (and I have a specific one in mind) would not be allowed to vote against the government on any EU issue, unlike John.

  6. Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    You almost make it sound like a like full time job. It is not. They have a host of civil servants telling them what to do. That is the problem with the Sir Humphrey syndrome. Most do not have an in depth knowledge of their brief. They like the kudos but not the responsibility as we see time again. Either the person is a minister or MP, both roles cannot be fulfilled properly as full time jobs. If this is not the case what are the other MPs doing for their high paid salaries, pensions and expenses? Perhaps that is what the extra income from employing family members has never been abolished.

    We see with the imposed press regulation the double standards of politicians. They can emulate themselves or through a quangos ith former MPs and associates but not the press. Hacked Off was allow edit o be present at discussions but no one to represent newspapers. Standards need to be imposed on politicians and when ministers resign they should not be allowed back. No other job would tolerate it nor any public sector employer.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      People who will be effected by the law aren’t asked to comment on it until the second reading. This ensures that they’re able to focus on specific problems caused by the proposed law, rather than giving their opinion on a range of proposals that may never be implemented.

      • Posted October 10, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

        Not true when there is a draft Bill, specifically to invite outside comment:

        http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/draft-bills/

        “A Draft Bill is published to enable consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. After consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny has taken place, the Draft Bill may be introduced formally in House of Commons or the House of Lords.”

  7. Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    The PAC did a fascinating report “Too Many Ministers”. See the size of the payroll vote.
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmpubadm/457/45702.htm .

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Thank you for the link – most interesting. It just shows how many parasites feed off the taxpayer for their fun and games.

      Cameron has stuffed the House of Lords with his people, all feeding from the same trough it really is despicable when none of these people has done anything memorable for the British nation.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

        An alternative view would be that it is excellent news that, as you say, “none of these people has done anything memorable for the British nation” and even better news that that should remain the case.

  8. Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Is it really a good idea to have so many MPs on the government payroll?

    As mentioned yesterday and explained in full here:

    http://everything2.com/title/Office+of+Profit+under+the+Crown

    we wouldn’t have this undesirable situation if we had stuck with this clause in the Act of Settlement 1701:

    “That no person who has an office or place of profit under the King, or receives a pension from the Crown, shall be capable of serving as a member of the House of Commons”.

    So Cameron having been invited by the Queen to become her Prime Minister in 2010 would have been required to stand down as an MP, and likewise all the other MPs given an “office or place of profit” under the Queen in the serried ranks of ministers, oh and maybe also party whips who get extra salary for subverting our democracy.

    But what would have happened then if the by-elections for replacement MPs changed the balance in the Commons so that Cameron could no longer command a majority?

    And would a replacement MP have to return the seat to a minister who was sacked?

    If not, that would certainly act as a deterrent for those wishing to climb the greasy pole: being sacked from the government would not mean just a return to the backbenches but a complete exit from Parliament.

    There would be no problem with a minister being allowed to speak in the Commons even though he was not a member, it would be his lack of a vote which would give the greater separation of powers between the executive and the legislature.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Thinking about this further, I could see this working well if those who aspired to ministerial office – joining the executive arm – did not stand for election to the Commons – the senior part of the legislative arm. So for example Miliband as Labour party leader, and his colleagues in the Labour party leadership, would still campaign for the election of official Labour party candidates but they would not themselves be candidates. Miliband then being invited to become the Queen’s Prime Minister after the 2015 general election, as the party leader who could usually organise a majority in the Commons and so get legislation passed, he would form a government which did not include any MPs. The seats on the present government front bench in the Commons chamber could then be reserved for members of the government when they were invited by the House to appear and explain policy, urge legislation or answer questions, acceptance of the invitation being compulsory by law. So when invited into the chamber they could speak, and indeed be forced to speak, but they could not vote. Bang goes the government’s payroll vote, and we have a better system of parliamentary democracy.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        So it would work like this:

        1) You’d vote for an MP.

        2) Whichever party has the most MPs would elect their ministers to the executive.

        3) In the event of a hung parliament the executive has create an agree to decide which minister from which party will be used.

        I’d also recommend giving MPs the power to fire ministers.

        • Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

          1) You’d vote for an MP.

          Nobody who aspired to become a minister, part of the executive, would put themselves forward for election to the legislature, so none of the major party leaders would be candidates.

          2) The Queen would invite somebody to form a government.

          If one party had a Commons majority then it would be the leader of that party; if it was a hung Parliament then it would be somebody, almost certainly one of the party leaders, who could form a coalition government with at least a reasonably reliable majority for getting its agreed legislative programme passed.

          3) None of the members of that government would be MPs, but all the ministers apart from the Prime Minister, who was appointed by the Queen, would have to be approved by Parliament.

  9. Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    The aspect that matters most is setting the right course and making sure the bureaucrats are actually move in that direction. It is these two areas that most of the current ministers have failed, many are clearly not even trying. Most ministers seem to think that making vacuous speeches addressed to the level of dim 7 year old children (or promises of action long after they will have left office) is all they have to do.

    Energy (and climate change! the non generation of) , Transport (for us all onto expensive subsidised pointless trains, Treasury ( tax, borrow and waste), Home office (do as told by ECHR), Defence (Aircraft Carriers with no Planes and more pointless war), Business (the destruction of by regulation and rendering uncompetitive), Culture, Scotland, Work and Pension all seem to have a compass that is still 180 degrees out.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      I see that the excellent MIT Climate Scientist Prof. Richard Lindzen has totally the right attitude to the absurd IPCC Report:

      ‘The latest IPCC report has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence’

      Their excuse for the absence of warming over the past 17 years is that the heat is hiding in the deep ocean. However, this is simply an admission that the models fail to simulate the exchanges of heat between the surface layers and the deeper oceans. However, it is this heat transport that plays a major role in natural internal variability of climate, and the IPCC assertions that observed warming can be attributed to man depend crucially on their assertion that these models accurately simulate natural internal variability. Thus, they now, somewhat obscurely, admit that their crucial assumption was totally unjustified.

      Finally, in attributing warming to man, they fail to point out that the warming has been small, and totally consistent with there being nothing to be alarmed about. It is quite amazing to see the contortions the IPCC has to go through in order to keep the international climate agenda going.

      Lindzen is an emeritus Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT.

      Lindzen has published more than 200 scientific papers and books. He was a lead author of Chapter 7, ‘Physical Climate Processes and Feedbacks,’ of the IPCC Third Assessment Report on climate change.

      It is hard to see how any sensible and real scientist reading it could come to the conclusion that it is other than a religious/political document, it has little to do with real science.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Their excuse for the absence of warming over the past 17 years is that the heat is hiding in the deep ocean.

        1) There has been an increase in the average global temperature over the past 17 years, just at a slower rate than in previous decades.

        2) The deep sea ocean temperature has continued to rise at the same rate over the past 17 years. So it’s clear that the heat is being absorbed by the deep ocean.

        Thus Prof. Lindzen has quickly shown has little he knows about this subject.

        Finally, in attributing warming to man, they fail to point out that the warming has been small, and totally consistent with there being nothing to be alarmed about.

        Yet more evidence that the professor doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. Just because the change is small doesn’t mean it’s harmless. The medieval warm period and the little ice age both involved a change in temperature of less than one degree Celsius.

        It is hard to see how any sensible and real scientist reading it could come to the conclusion that it is other than a religious/political document, it has little to do with real science.

        Given that none of Prof. Lindzen’s claims aren’t backed by any scientific evidence it’s no surprise that real scientists are ignoring his unsubstantiated claims.

        • Posted October 10, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

          Just read what the proper scientist say for a change, rather than those in the pay of the warming scam or hooked on this new religion.

          • Posted October 10, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

            I see Bob Geldof that well known climate expert has been saying in a speech that global warming, sorry climate change, will destroy the planet in less than 40 years.
            So we are all doomed.
            That 0.7 degree rise in the last century must be having a big effect somewhere.

          • Posted October 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

            Well said.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        (Allegation removed ed0 Google him and your chief cheerleader has feet of clay. He says that climate change is completely political. His own words!? How ‘sensible’ and ‘ non-scientific is that? Like in most of your views you choose to see what you want to see in a religious bigoted way. No reply? Do not quote him again like child reading with mother.

        Reply The Emeritus Prof of Earth Sciences argues that volcanoes and other non human sources of CO2 are more important.

  10. Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    If you appoint someone as a managing director of a firm losing, say, £10 billion a year – and the firm is borrowing £10 billion a year to stay afloat – their brief would be ‘increase sales or reduce costs to balance the books, we cannot carry on like this’.

    The government should look at its revenues for the last year and say to each department:

    Last year we took in £700 billion in income (from tax) and your department is getting 10% of that income.

    So, your income is £70 billion. We cannot increase income because our income comes from tax and people already pay too much tax – so we have to reduce costs.

    That, Mr. Minister is your brief and your job. Run your department so no borrowing is required.

    It’s not rocket science. Yet, apparently, it is unthinkable.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Mike

      Absolutely agree.

      I have been saying the same thing for years.

      Only spend 80% of the previous years known tax take.

      Then as you suggest, you then give each Department an agreed percentage of that controlled/fixed buget amount, and tell them to manage with it.
      Failure is a sacking offence, just like in private Industry.

      To you, me, and millions of others whose families live within their means, it seems so simple.

      Perhaps the truth is too many people (some Mp’s amongst them) still do not realise that the government has no money, they do not perhaps see the link between taxation and spending.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Many areas of government expenditure achieve no good at all, many actually do positive harm many could be run just as well for 50% of the costs. But the bureaucrats themselves are not going to close these down, unless forced to are they – Turkeys voting for Christmas? That is the ministers’ role – to represent the interest of the public for once. They so very rarely do, often they want the department to be as big and “important” as possible too.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Unlike a company the Government will suffer major problems if they try to shut down schools or hospitals to save money, unlike a company which can close branches without causing as many problems. Refusing to provide benefits or social care because they want save money will also cause them more problems than a company which wishes to discontinue one of their products or services.

      In summary a government department is not like a company so they can’t act like one.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        @uanime5 In summary a government department is not like a company so they can’t act like one.

        It’s that sort of thinking that has us in the mess we are in! Any organisation HAS TO HAVE A BUDGET!

        How can we get into the position of having to shut a hospital? If tax revenues go down 20% – for example – what the hell do we do? Just borrow until they go back up again? The answer is, of course, apparently – YES. Borrow until we reach 2 trillion pounds borrowed. If we ever get back into running a surplus and we pay back a huge sum like 10 billion pounds a year, it will take us 200 years just to pay back the capital. And what about the interest?

        We should never geet into this position. We should always run a budget surplus and save some money to cover the bad times.

        • Posted October 10, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

          Indeed Mike
          Its about about priorities.
          We have enough tax revenues to pay for hospitals and schools but decide things like HS2 and overseas aid and green subsidies and funding hundreds of useless expensive quangos are equally vital.
          I read in Birmingham we have spent over half a million adverising and marketing the nice new library
          Whilst cutting back on budgets in local areas like child care, road improvements and social housing maintenance.

  11. Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    What you have’n’t said is ” To what extent does the Secretary of State have a say in the nomination and selection of the subordinate roles ?”. The recent reshuffles referred to the displeasure Theresa May was rumoured to have had in the appointment of a No.2 at the Home Office . Surely the PM must have considered the consequences when agreeing to this appointment . If the rumours have any foundation , Theresa May should resign and enjoy the rest of this parliament as a back bencher . Having a so-called “structure” in place in the workings of parliament to delegate responsibility and cover the day to day intricacies of the management of detail , may , in theory be seen as necessary , however , it is the Secretary of State who carries the can and must have faith and confidence in his/her subordinates .

    Reply Coalition complilcates it, as Mr Clegg decides on the Lib Dem personnel for each department. Secretaries of State may or may not be consulted normally about their junior Ministers – it depends on their relationship with the PM.

  12. Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    When in employment I always asked myself “What could I do here that would get me sacked?” Leaving out the usual Gross Misconduct offences, the thing that is missing for me from your job descriptions is something about loyalty to the Government along the lines of:

    Support Government policy in all areas, both in private and publicly. Refrain from briefing against colleagues. If unable to support policy, resign.

  13. Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    The people should elect their representatives in Parliament (backbenchers) and their Government (frontbenchers) separately, though at the same time.

    Political parties should, three months before the date of the election, post a list of all the ministers that they would appoint were they to be asked to form a government. They should say what each person would do and how much they would be paid. They would also publish a manifesto laying out their aims and objectives over the life of the parliament, the taxes that they would take from the people and the money that they they will borrow.

    Each voter would place a cross next to the name of the political party they prefer. One week later the two political parties that receive the most votes would go head to head and the one that wins forms the government. The government would have fifty seats on the front benches and the opposition parties would have fifty frontbench seats allocated to them on a pro rata basis. The government and the opposition parties would also have seats in the Lords.

    Parliament should also have 400 backbench MPs, elected as they are now. Only the backbench MPs would be allowed to vote in Parliament. Government frontbenchers introduce bills and Opposition frontbenchers oppose them or support them, as they wish.

    The Government governs according to its manifesto, which has been approved by the majority of those who voted in the second round of the election. Bills supporting the manifesto cannot be refused by Parliament, unless Parliament decides that the bills go beyond the manifesto, eg higher taxes than promised. Backbenchers vote on the bill and pass it, amend it or reject it.

    Thus the legislature has some control over the executive.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Surely the Lords’ should have a separate election at a different time. There’s no point in having two houses if they both have the same composition of political parties.

      Also not allowing MPs to vote against a manifesto would make a mockery of democracy. Especially when under our current system you can get a majority of MPs without a majority of the votes. If the legislator is to be free of the executive they must be free to oppose anything the executive’s proposes, including the executives manifesto.

    • Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Given that they will not be voting MPs I don’t see that it’s imperative for ministers to be named beforehand provided that the voting MPs can decide whether or not to endorse the appointment of each, with the exception of the Prime Minister who would be appointed by the Queen to form a government, and constantly monitor and control his actions in office, and can also order his removal.

      There would still be the need to weed out the duds and criminals, and replace those who resign because they cannot agree to a policy or they have fallen ill or they have simply lost interest and what to do something else, and replace those who die, and it would be impractical to name both the initial set of ministers and all their potential replacements before the next election.

      And I certainly wouldn’t ever support Parliament being barred from rejecting any legislation it wishes to reject, including legislation foreshadowed in the manifesto of the winning party, as claimed by that party presumably.

      Nor do I think it right to insist that people are dragooned into supporting one of just two parties to form the government; if the electorate declines to give any party an overall majority in the Commons then there should be a minority or coalition government as now.

  14. Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    The jobs seem very similar to many others in that we are juggling with many balls in the air. Try and simplify these jobs and just pick out a few aspects for the sake of clarity and a whole professionsl role is lost. You see this when tight definitions are made and a typical worker says that, ‘this is not my role’ ( and we know that they can do it ) , but have been contracted for these aspects only and usually because the firms will not paythe higher wages.
    I have P/T jobs , which need double the amounts of education , holidays are difficult to have due to trying to coordinate different service needs, I am in a senior clinical position in one and a junior in the other and am obviously undermined in the junior due to restrictions in my role, yet practice elsewhere things which are not allowed in the junior role. This is again due to boxing and categorisation.
    I would imagine that those ministers and MP’s who have been around a long time and switched roles many times will have an all together greater understanding of the issues they are presented with and the most appropriate way to handle them and yet officially it will not be part of their present role.
    The problem is , if we are all in the same boat and our professional titles will not be regarded in their whole state , then why should one public sector / or subcontracted public sector come private worker have the benefit of one f/t job and not another.

  15. Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    A good insight to the workings of Government and it exposes the problems they have with all these endless meetings. However, if these officials are carrying out all of their specified tasks, what are the Whitehall civil servants doing with their day? And why are there so many of them?

    At the peak of the British Empire there were just 4000 civil servants working in Government. In 2013, even with the added benefits of Computer Technology and the Internet which was not available to those 4000 workers, there are some 500,000 of these desk jockeys now working in Government Departments. So much for any efficiency. The whole system needs to be streamlined and upgraded to be more in line with modern Private Sector business practices. Is it any wonder there is so much of our money wasted?

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      At the peak of the British Empire the state did much less (no welfare, healthcare, and people spent fewer years in education), so they could manage with fewer civil servants. It’s pointless comparing the number of employees needed in two very different time periods.

      • Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

        But those few civil servants administered an Empire Uni.
        Have you forgotten that Empire no longer exists?
        Whilst domestic welfare, healthcare and education are now administered by the State and UK population has grown, I would say that current numbers of administrative civil servants is far to high.

  16. Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    We’ve got Ministers for this and Ministers for that all costing the taxpayer a King’s ransom in salaries, expenses and pensions. Why for instance do we need Secretaries of State for Scotland. Wales & NI when they’ve got their own legislatures and their own First Ministers especially when there is NO Secretary of State for England who have neither their own legislature or First Minister. On the same note, we’ve got 117 MPs squatting in the UK Parliament drawing full salaries and expenses despite the fact the bulk of their duties are now dealt with by the Scots.Welsh & NI Governments. They are part-time MPs on full time perks who would have bugger all to do if they couldn’t spend their days meddling in English only matters.

    Cameron missed a trick when he did his re-shuffle. He could have squashed the common belief that he couldn’t give a toss about England by creating a Secretary of State for England and in doing so give England just one person out of 650 who would be prepared to stick their head above the parapet and stand up for it against the rotten deal it is dealt by successive UK Governments post devolution, including this Tory led one.

    Reply That is what Mr Pickles as Local Government Secretary does.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      If you want our Welsh Govt you are welcome to them.

      I haven’t got stats to hand but since the WAG took over the likes of education and the NHS they have gone backwards and lagged behind most of the rest of the UK.

      Sometimes too much govt is not a good thing, esp when staffed with second rate politicians, many of whom would not have a cat in hells chance of getting high grade employment outside govt/public sector.

      There is definitely scope for slimming all areas of govt and local govt but it won’t happen due to too much self interest.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        No thanks. What I would like and what poll after poll shows a lot of English people would like is to be asked how we wish to be governed. The Scots and the Welsh have been asked more than once but our self serving politicians refuse to ask England because they know if England said yes to her own parliament, there would be no need for anywhere 650 UK MPs. It would be the end of the gravy train for the majority of them.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        Could we swap John Redwood for the entire Scottish Parliament up here. There might be some unrest for a period but I’m sure that things would settle down eventually and everyone would be much happier.
        The singing of that ghastly song ‘Flower of Scotland’ is not compulsory.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      With respect John – RUBBISH. Not one Tory MP, who are only in government thanks to England, can bring themselves to say the word England let alone stand up for it, Pickles included. UKIP are the only party willing to address the English Question and the unfair and undemocratic manner in which England is governed both politically and financially which is why Conservative voters/activists like myself are turning to them in our droves. Cameron and the so called English Party are treating England with the same contempt as Labour. The only difference is, the idiot Tories are dead outside of England, certainly in Scotland.

      Reply Many English Conservatives stand up for England. The English Natioanlist party would claim to represent the Engoish nationalist view but has never attracted much support.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        If UK Conservative MPs with English seats are standing up for England, then they need to shout louder because we can’t hear them. Where were they when £9,000 tuition fees were being imposed in England only discriminating against England’s young? Did they express concern that only our kids saw their ema abolished? Where were they when £75,000 care home fees plus the rest were being imposed on England’s elderly? Why haven’t they demanded England’s sick get free prescriptions and free hospital parking the same as the rest of the UK and why were they not protesting when Scottish, Welsh & NI MPs were voting on these matters even though their constituents continue to pay nothing or next to nothing all courtesy of the skewed Barnett Formula which this Tory led Government has done nothing about for fear of upsetting the Scots and to hell with upsetting the English.

        Gordon Brown, the self annointed PM had more say on English only matters than he did for Scotland or his own constituents and did we ever hear a word of protest from the then opposition? No, we didn’t hear a whimper. When have they ever demanded England be an equal partner in this post devolution so called union ? NEVER because they are afraid to even mention the word England. No one represents England at the Joint Ministerial Committee or around the cabinet table. No-one speaks for England let alone stands up for it.

        Cameron made a speech on public services a while back and despite the fact 90% of everything he said only applied to England, he didn’t utter the dreaded E word once. The motto is obviously best not mention England, better to refer to ‘the country’ instead or continue deliberately conflating England and the UK in the hope no-one will notice that the bulk of what any UK Government does nowadays only applies to England. The Tory party are taking the English electorate for idiots John. We expect no better from Labour or the Lib Dums but the trouble is it will cost the Conservative party dear at the next election because they alone rely on England for their support. UKIP are now replacing the Tories as the so called English Party because they are willing to address what the Conservatives should have had the guts to but didn’t – the English Question and the governance of England. England gave the Tories a 62 seat majority in 2010 and yet they alone are denied the government of their choosing. England could very well have ended up with a rainbow coalition of Labour, Lib Dums and Scots and Welsh Nats thrown in to make up the numbers if Brown could have got his way, every party except the one England voted for and I dare say even if that had happened, the Tories would still not have uttered a word of protest and it could very well happen again in 2015.

        If the Tories want to know how to win a majority in 2015 John, suggest they learn how to say the word England a bit louder and start addressing the English Question and the rotten deal England is getting from this ‘union’ and the discriminatory manner in which England’s young, sick and elderly are being treated because at the moment, they are doing a very good impression of showing they couldn’t give a toss about England.

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the Tories in Scotland seem to have lost the will to live. Constant denigration from the Thatcher-Haters and no help from HQ. Write offs?
        UKIP exist here as well but only in primitive life-form; a few million years to go for them I fear, and it may then be too late for the beleaguered die-hards who choose to remain up here.

      • Posted October 10, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        Interesting to see you haven’t shown my reply to yours John, the one which asks where were the MPs who are supposed to represent English constituencies when the UK Government imposed £9,000 tuition fees and £75K plus care home fees on their constituents only without a word or protest. Where’s our free prescriptions and hospital parking? Their silence is deafening when Scottish, Welsh & NI vote on matters which only affect England. MPs with English seats standing up for England? You’re having a laugh aren’t you?

        You can block out people like me all you like but ignoring the English Question will lose the Conservatives the next election. England is waking up to the contempt and constant discrimination heaped on them by the Lab/Lib/Cons. There’s no difference between them and I say that having spent my life voting and campaigning for the Tories but no more – their total disregard for the rotten deal England gets has lost my vote.

        Reply Scotland has had a very favourable money setlement from the Union for many years, famously established by the Barnett formula in the 1970s and continued since then by all parties in government. The different treatment of student fees and care costs stems from that financial settlement.

        • Posted October 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          Yes the other nations get much more money to spend on themseves than England thanks to the Barnett Formula which even Lord Barnett, it’s creator says is unfair and should end. It discriminates against every man, woman & child in England and yet the Tories refuse to end it because they don’t want to upset the Scots who will never vote for them anyway and stuff England where they get their support or did!

          The other reason Scotland has free tuition fees, still pays it’s young ema, free dental checks, free prescriptions and hospital parking and free personal care for their elderly is because they have their own parliament standing up for their interests and theirs alone unlike England which isn’t allowed one. England only had tuition fees imposed on it in the first place because Scottish Labour MPs voting for them made the difference and insultingly the tripling of fees to £9,000 was still voted on by Scottish, Welsh & NI MPs even though it does not apply to their constituents and all without a word of protest from UK MPs squatting in English seats.

          England is not allowed it’s own parliament despite poll after poll suggesting it would like one or it would at least like to be asked especially since Scotland and Wales have been asked more than once. Unlike the rest of the UK, England has no Parliament, no First Minister, no Secretary of State, no one representing it around the cabinet table, absolutely NO-ONE standing up for it’s interests or fighting it’s corner. Whatever you say, there is no such thing as English MPs, only UK MPs with English constituencies who put UK first and England last every time. The Tories obviously have a death wish to allow this blatant affront to democracy to continue. Big mistake!

  17. Posted October 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    In a healthy functioning proper democracy where people are ‘sovereign’ a Minister who is by definition part of the Executive (Government) should resign as an MP who is by definition supposed to be part of the Legislative (to scrutinise, critique, approve and or block policy i.e. legislation) according to the wishes of the electorate who put them there!

    This fudging, this ‘payroll’ vote of having MP’s who are ministers of the executive who will to hold office side more often than not with the government who put them there is totally at odds with ‘separation of powers’ where no one branch of governance (Judiciary, Executive or Legislative) should be part of or have influence over any of the others.

    If we had a directly elected PM (and party) who could select his/her own team subject to Parliamentary approval even from elected MP’s (who then have to resign as MP’s to become part of Government) we’d then have a Legislative staffed with people who want to be legislators holding the government of the day to account and critique on their actions via debate, votes and Select Committees instead of MP’s wanting to be ministers and ministers fearful of losing office siding with the government of the day via the whip system.

    So if the demands of time as you argue Mr Redwood detract from a minister fulfilling his legislative duties including meeting constituents needs they shouldn’t wear two hats…..it should be one or t’other!

    • Posted October 10, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      I’d hate to see the direct election of the Prime Minister.

      It’s bad enough that the election of individual constituency MPs is already so heavily influenced by the media personae of the national party leaders rather than by the merits of the candidates.

      We could even end up like the Americans, having ridiculous television debates to try to establish which was the most polished actor and accomplished liar.

      Oh, we already have.

  18. Posted October 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Still on the ‘outside’ – with not so much as a look-in ? – Johnny ??
    Question. Happy to remain outside government ? – Johnny ??

  19. Posted October 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Interesting summary. I can see your viewpoint that reshuffles can be a bad idea.

    Another thing that strikes me is that this appears to be such a management heavy bureaucratic system that any new govt without experience should have MPs at the Minister/Secretary of state level with experience. In Mrs Thatcher’s case, she knew most of her Ministers jobs due to previously serving in govt – when Blair came along and now the current PM, neither had held ministerial positions previously – its quite easy to see how the civil servants in those departments must run rings around them.

    Given the huge investments in IT in recent years, surely there must be a case for slimming govt and their civil servants down and trying to run them more on standard commercial lines.

    Lastly an article explaining how EU legislation is scrutinized and implemented would be quite interesting if you get the time – I think I know some of the answers but I would like to know how this type of stuff goes through without the normal opposition scrutiny given that this has a profound effect on our lives.

  20. Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    We are suffering from over governance and, at the same, time a democratic deficit.

    The recent study of the levels of literacy and numeracy of young adults in comparison with their grandparents generation here, demonstrate,(words left out ed) that the net effect of the education acts and meddling by the hyperactive, oversized (because > 0) ‘education’ dept since 1944, has been negative. The effect of doing something in response to not-a-problem is normally to create a problem where previously none had existed.

    Not only, as a consequence of the oversize of the government and the corresponding civil service departments, are we over-governed, but also we suffer from a gross democratic deficit because of having delegated the creation of our laws to the Brussels Commission for rubber-stamping by the Europhile parliament, and the decisions of the deranged ECHR.

    We have a further problem: it is accepted that the decisions of our parliament are lawful per se. However, there have been decisions of momentous consequences for our country and democracy without parliamentary approval, decisions such as the recruitment from the third world of a huge army of ‘new britons’ of which Mandelson boasted, or that to spy on our electronic communications without warrant and hand over the data files to the NSA. (Allegation removed ed)

    There is a further major problem, that of people in official positions telling bare faced lies with impunity, whether it is over what they intend to do in government or issues relating to our relationship with Europe, now or in the future, or of some recognised group or other inventing a spurious history for their own advancement.

    The law should protect the people from the actions or deceits of those who use their positions to promote interests against the people as a whole without the authority of parliament.

  21. Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    One chap who won’t be making news in any reshuffles is Jacob Rees-Mogg.

    Yesterday he entered into negotiations with his local UKIP branch who are duly balloting their members on Mr Mogg running as a joint candidate.

    He is a very naughty boy.

  22. Posted October 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Ministers, of whatever rank, do not need to manage government departments, each one has a senior civil servant to do that for him or her. What they do need to do is to manage the policy of their government in the area of government that their department covers. They must be able to make speeches about it, be interviewed about it, take in the public’s views on it and persuade their civil servants to apply it.

    The relationship between the minister and the permanent secretary should be similar to that between the owner of a cruise liner and its captain. The owner should know what it is that the customers want, how much should be spent on providing it and how much should be taken out of the passengers’ pockets to pay for it. The owner should decide where the ship should go, when it should go and what it should do en route. The captain should then ensure that the ship gets to its destination safely and punctually and that the passengers have a good time.

    The minister sets out his or her aims and objectives and the departmental budget and the permanent secretary ensures that the department he or she heads meets those aims and objectives within the budget. There is no need for the minister to become too involved in delivery. For example the defence secretary, on behalf of the cabinet, tells the Chief of the Defence Staff ‘who’ to fight, he doesn’t need to tell him ‘how’ to fight.

    Obviously the relationships between ministers and the public servants they work with are much more complex than outlined above but ministers do not have to manage tens of thousands of people. They manage the people who are managing the tens of thousands; though they should also talk to the tens of thousands to try to get them onside.

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Very clear.

    • Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Mutiny on the Bounty was pleasure cruise compared to this scenario.
      Sounds like the social segregation and navigation of the Titanic. Just add the same amount of lifeboats and we have an accurate picture of you views on Britain? The crew want you keelhauled. At least this shipmate does. Not joining in a the Aar! Hars! Max?

  23. Posted October 9, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Interesting, and a useful departure from your daily themes. Can you give us some idea of how you could streamline the system and which departments you would ideally abolish, amalgamate or change? Presumably some sort of bloodbath could be anticipated.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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