The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the real executive in England. The vast and growing power of the Crown is being exercised by the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. They are the supreme directing authority and the center of the British administration.
What keeps the British government in operation is a body of very important ministers headed by the Prime Minister. The position of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom has become so strong that it has become impossible for the House of Common to exercise its checks, in spite of the fact that the Prime Minister position is getting stronger.
The Functions of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The functions of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom are:
Policy determining functions
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a deliberative and policy formulating body. It discusses and decides all sorts of national and international problems and attempts to reach unanimous agreements among members regarding the government’s policy.
The cabinet always presents a united front to the parliament. After determining the policy, the appropriate department carries it out either by administrative action within the framework of the existing law or by submitting a new bill to parliament so as to change the law in conformity to the policy.
The cabinet directs parliament for action in a certain way so long as it can command a majority in the House of Commons. The cabinet plays the legislative programs at the beginning of each session of parliament.
In Legislation, the control of the cabinet over the ministry is complete for no bill can be promoted except with its backing. As long as the government has a majority in parliament, it is rare to challenge cabinet policy. The cabinet takes office if it thinks it enjoys the confidence of the parliament and once in office cabinet tends to act as masters, rather than servants of parliament.
Supreme Control over the executive
In carrying out the work of the department, ministers follow the direction of the cabinet and enforce its decision and policies. Any deviation is against the rigid discipline of the party and may consequently lead to the removal of the minister. The cabinet may adopt the device of “Order in Council, instead of going to the parliament for approval to give effect to some more general line of the policy including even declaration of war. For example, World War 1 and World War 2. The Supreme National Executive is therefore the cabinet.
The cabinet as Co-ordinator
The essential function of the cabinet is to co-ordinate and guide the functions of several departments of government. Administrative cannot be rigidly divided into different departments, the action of one department may affect the work of another department.
Cabinet and the Budget
The cabinet is responsible for the whole expenditure of the state and for raising necessary revenues to meet it. The Chancellor of the exchequer (Finance Minister) makes a statement about the annual budget to the cabinet before he presents his budget speech in the House of Commons.
With regard to major changes in taxation policy, they must be considered before the budget is presented. The cabinet can always insist on modification after the budget has been presented to parliament.
Cabinet and appointments
The appointment does not normally come before the cabinet but all major appointments to important officers of the state, at home, and abroad are the responsibility of the cabinet and may be made with the approval of the cabinet.
The dictatorship of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The dictatorship of the cabinet has come to assume importance due to the wide powers and functions. A government that has a majority can be reasonably certain that it would remain in power so long as parliament lasts. This has made the cabinet a powerful institution. The rigidly of party discipline requires all members to attend parliament at a crucial moment of voting which assures blind support to the party. Further, the Prime Minister’s power dissolution of the House of Common has kept it under control, and increase the power of the cabinet. The opposition members are not willing to fight an election before the end of their term as there is no guarantee that they may be returned back to parliament. They are also unwilling to resort to a vote of no confidence against the party in power.
In the area of administration, the cabinet formulates both domestic and foreign policies. Experts appointed to carry on administrative work are done so by the Prime Minister in consultation with the cabinet. The growth of administrative justice has further enhanced the position of the cabinet. The government gives various departments the power to decide cases concerning their department.
In legislation as well, the cabinet has full control as it has usurped the inherent power of the parliament. It is only in the case of stiff opposition from within its own party or resentment by the public that the cabinet may withdraw a bill.
Thus, a government with a large majority is limited in legislation only by its good sense and respect for healthy debate. Further, delegated legislation has also increased the authority of the government.
The strong position of the cabinet also covers the areas of finance. The cabinet makes the budget and drafts the money bill. It is impossible to get a cut-motion passed. But to term, the strong position of the cabinet as a dictatorship would be wrong. The most important check on the dictatorship of the cabinet is exercised by a strong public opinion. The cabinet is ultimately responsible for the people and it cannot go against the impact of public opinion.
Again the faith of the government is determined by the general election and not by a vote in parliament. The real functions of parliament are to see that it is governed according to the wishes of the people. The cabinet leads parliament on the clear understanding that government is not the master but the servant of the people.
Hence, a better argument would be that the changing political-economic, and social circumstances in Britain demands a strong executive. The cabinet enjoys a strong position but it is answerable to parliament and ultimately to the people. The House of Common can expose the governmental incompetence and accesses to the electorate.
Privy Council of Britain
The main function of the Privy Council is to advise the Monarch and carry on the government in the name of the Monarch. Out of the Privy Council, the cabinet has emerged, it controls the entire administration of the country.
Today, the Privy Council consists of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London, higher judges and eminent peers, all cabinet ministers, Prince of Whales, Royal Dukes, and distinguished persons of the legislature, art-science, and law.
Though the Privy Council has long ceased to perform advisory functions. But it adopts orders in council which the cabinet had already approved. The Privy Council meets only or ceremonial occasions, such as on the death of the sovereign to proclaim the succession to the throne and on the occasion of the coronation of the new sovereign.
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