Friday, August 14, 2009

Let's Cut Ministers (Not Just Their Pay) by 25%

The idea that Ministers' pay should be cut is fine, as far as it goes. The Guardian speculates this morning that David Cameron might cut the pay of Cabinet and junior ministers by up to 25%. I have a better idea. Instead of doing that - or maybe as well as doing that - let's cut the number of ministers by 25%.

There are around 95 government ministers. Peter Mandelson's department has 11 and the FCO has six. What on earth do they all do? Cutting the number of ministers to 70 would do little harm, and indeed, could do a lot of good.

If you add the PPSs onto the list, the government payroll vote amounts to more than one third of the Parliamentary Labour Party. If David Cameron wants to do something really radical, and reduce the power of the executive he could do far worse than cut the number of ministers.



Anonymous said...

By simply generalising that a cut in ministers might do some good, you are charting a dangerous course: I know it is fashionable to favour cuts over sustained progression, and I know that sometimes such a practice can yield positive results, but let us examine each portfolio individually before scrapping a quarter of them. Furthermore, given how a number of MPs have turned down Brown when he has offered them ministerial office, it is entirely possible that the number of ministers is not as high as it could be.

Quietzapple said...

After cutting MPs, Ministers, you could follow up by selling off Parliament, cut rate!

Some tory would no doubt be prepared to sell it on to Belize/Monte Carlo/ Jersey . . .

norman said...

We need reduction in number of MPs by
a third atleast and drastic reduction of MPs from Scotland by as much as 60% as they do not really have a say in their constituencies.
The number of ministers need drastic reduction too at least by a third.
But Kirkcaldy Brown wants to survive at any cost.

Neil A said...

I'm not so keen on the 25% pay cut. Excessive mininsterial pay is not one of this country's pressing problems. But a 25% cut in ministers AND a 25% cut in the overall number of MPs would be very welcome.

Neil A said...

I'm not so keen on the 25% pay cut. Excessive mininsterial pay is not one of this country's pressing problems. But a 25% cut in ministers AND a 25% cut in the overall number of MPs would be very welcome.

Anonymous said...

for goodness sake iain - this is not the measure of a party wanting to run the nation. Its nonesense. Fine to cut the pay of Cameron and his millionaire mates (Osborne, Hague, May, Duncan, etc etc) but it just flim flam and PR. The party has to start to address real issues - ie how is it able to address spending cuts and where in public services - this idea is another way of diverting attention from the real story.

Jamie said...

I agree with anonymous @6.24. It's a good idea, but you don't want to cut away a chunk of meat with the fat.

Also, on a slightly off-topic note. If so many MPs want to retire at the next election and there seems to be a good body of support for cutting the number of MPs, why can't it be cut before the next election?

It would seem a sensible thing to do, I suppose it one could say it was like a bunch of suicidal turkeys voting cor Christmas... except that might well be stretching an analogy too far!

Sarah said...

Iain you are falling into the trap that a lot of people equate success with cutting things. It seems to be a hobby horse of yours to want to cut things to make it better.
You cannot give an arbitrary number and say cut it... How would a government department function if give an arbitrary number. You might also reduce its function.
Smaller government is not always the best government.
Say you wanted to cut 25% of the work force for Total Politics. I bet it would be less efficient in its productivity.

Seriously Iain you should know better than that... Perhaps it's because you don't understand our political system?

I do agree with one of your simplistic points that cutting pay could be a good move forward. It might make people question also why they are going into politics. A certain name rings a bell when I type this - Alan Duncan.

But to simply say cut ministers by 25% is going down to quote anonymous " a dangerous course". Come on Iain - think things through a bit more before putting up eye catching posts.

Lego Fan said...

I think cut pay by 25% but keep the number of ministers.
We don't want government to stop running at its optimum.

I know you have an obsession with cutting things Iain but its silly to want to cut 25% of ministers.

The next thing you want to do is privatise government, like Dan Hannan wants to do with the NHS.

Gareth said...

Cue: Gordon Brown claiming he got there before Cameron.

Why else is Peter Mandelson on his way to becoming Minister for Everything? Just think how small the Police protection bill would be, how small the wages bill, the pensions too. Though the number of jollies would increase to astronomical levels. Hell, why not just have the Minister for Everything travelling almost constantly and spitting out diktats to underlings by Twitter.


Calais said...

Cut the number of MPs that are Ministers to ZERO.

Then Parliament will actually make the Executive accountable.

Otherwise, we get MPs that are simply there to slobber over the source of patronage (oh, and self enrichment).

Thomas Rossetti said...

I agree, Iain, but we should also reduce the number of MPs. Far too many people are living off the taxpayer in the UK and if Cameron wishes to improve the general state of the country he should get his own house in order first.

Sam said...

Or he could be REALLY radical Ian and SEPARATE the legislature and Executive.

Lets have MPs running to be MPs.

And Government Ministers chosen from the best in the land.

What we've got at the moment is a dogs dinner.

Anonymous said...

The number of government ministers (both Houses, including whips) exceeds 120. You then add the number of PPSs.

Brown is notable for the number of ministers who are unpaid (there is a statutory limit on the number of ministers who can be paid).

The report of the Conservative Party Commission to Strengthen Parliament (the Norton Report) in 2000 came up with some well-reasoned for reducing the number of MPs and a commensurate reduction in the number of ministers.

Jimmy said...

Why not scrap salaries altogether and make all ministers live off their trust funds?

concerned citizen 8730637 said...


Gordon Brown used a PRIVATE DENTIST in 2007, when ordinary people couldn't!

Yet he goes on and on about how #welovetheNHS !!

Please use your media platform and contacts to expose his HIPOCRISY!!!

Sean Haffey said...

So close.

Let's cut the number of MPs by 50%.

SHB said...

I have come to the conclusion that we are in danger of pandering to soundbites and headlines here, and also with respect to MPs pay.

One of the reasons, I suspect, that the Labour Government has made such a mess of almost everything it has tried to do is because most of the people in the top jobs are not just up to it.

The kind of people who are up to it mainly work in the private sector, and as an example a CEO of a £750m turnover business (never mind a multi billion £ Government Department) probably earns +£300k.

So if we want people in the HoC and the Government who can run stuff properly and manage change succesfully then we need a big rethink in this area. Not popular, but if we want to seriously improve the way the country is run then there needs to be a proper debate about this.

Cutting Minister's pay is just another disincentive to getting quality people in to the HoC.

Totally self defeating in my opinion.

JPT said...

I'll sign!

jon dee said...

Could'nt agree more.

As well as creating a bloated client state, Brown has built an inflated government as part of his perceived self-protection.

Jobs for the boys and to hell with the expense equals more decision takers and fewer decisions.

Fausty said...

Why not cut ministries by 25% as well?

Labour has added quite a few which are just a waste of space, time and money.

Anything to do with wimmin and equality can go, as far as I'm concerned!

Magic Bath said...

I think it'd be a good start to cut the number of ministers and junior ministers by up to 25%, but only if the end result is actually cutting wasted expenditure and not merely increasing the workload on those already doing the jobs.

There needs to be a complete review of the civil service to document the wasted expenditure, and implement changes as necessary, as I'm sure there must be thousands of civil servants who are there simply to endlessly procrastinate and shuffle paper!

Andrew BOD said...


This is just tinkering around the edges of the whole issue of Parliament. An exercise in appeasement of public anger with MPs.

If you remember back in May, at the height of the expenses scandal, there was brave talk of real constitutional change. Written constitutions, reform of the Lords, reform of the voting system, etc, were all thrown into the news of the day, but a few months on, nobody has a masterplan. Just a few populist ideas designed to pick up support before the impending GE.

The 'Gentlemans' Club' that is the Commons, and the Landowners/political appointees/unelected Ministers Club that is the Lords, both need a serious overhaul. And yes, the question of Scottish MPs sitting in the Commons to debate and Legislate on UK reserved matters only, also needs to be thrown into the mix.

A thoroughly comprehensive plan is required or else public anger will again be replaced by public apathy for our political system.

John Finningham said...

Cutting Ministers pay or even the number of Ministers is not going far enough. It is outrageous to think that an MP can claim £800 per month for food. Cut the expenses to £100 per week for everything. Abolish the civil service pension that robs the tax payer. Let the parasites fund their own pension as we all have to do and finaly make all MP's accountable past present and future. So that any found to be lurking in the realms of deceipt can have all their assets seized. Then and only then may we see a true transparency in Government.

Unsworth said...

Well it all makes work for the working man to do. This is Parkinson's Law realised in full.

NuLabour seems to have adopted it as an instruction manual.

Time for a much more radila approach - reduce the Cabinet by 50% and see if the country grinds to a halt. So far, the country seems to be carrying on despite the prolonged holidays of MPs, the absence of most Minsters, and the tumbleweed blowing around Westminster.

Unsworth said...

@ Sarah

Care to justify the phenomenal increase in Minsters, Ministries, SPADs, 'Civil Servants' etc? What is their function? You seriously believe we couldn't live without them - and their constant nannying and interference in our lives? I think you probably do.

You really need to think things through before giving us the benefit of your wisdom.

Lincoln said...

Tell you what Iain, now here's an idea.

What about keeping a list of all the things the Tories are promising to do when they get elected. We could start with last years conference speeches. (They must be firm promises).

Now everyone coud keep a tally a) On promises made b) Whether those promises have been kept or ditched.

Perhaps I could start it off with just 5 promises already made (I'm sure other bloggers will have their own list).

1) Council tax freeze for 2 years.

2) A return to weekly landfill collections.

3) Getting rid of mixed sex wards.

4) A referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

5) Ringfenced NHS funding.

I'm sure this list will grow and it will be fascinating how many are kept or left to wither on the vine.

This would appeal to Tory supporters and others equally.

Come on, give it a go!!!

Anonymous said...

I thought that there were 127 ministers of the crown?

Lord Lavendon said...


True to a point, but there is nothing wrong with a simple answer if that is all that is required to get the job done.

Pleased to see you disagree with Labour's flawed attempts at reforming our Parliament as well (using the logic of your own view).

When Blair got rid of the last of the old England, i.e. landed gentry such as myself you could have deemed that to be a ‘cut’.

Yet the Lords is now (weep with shame) being stuffed with party henchmen or people who have no real vested interest in the country other than feathering nest eggs of cash. Hence the cash for peers scandal . It would not have happened in my day, as we are too rich to be bribed .

Re cutting the government; jolly good idea. In the good old days we did not have so many placemen and MPs were more indepdent.

Upon reflection I think Duncan should go back to the backbenches and start a campaign to be the next Speaker. It worked for Bercow, so you never know.

Anyone wants to quote
odds on that ?

It doesn't add up... said...

Sir Humphrey: "Bernard, there are only six hundred and thirty MP's. If one party has just over three hundred it forms a government, of that three hundred one hundred are too old and too silly, one hundred are too young and too callow which leaves just about a hundred MP's to fill one hundred governmental posts. There's no choice at all, they've had no selection, no training."

So we'd finally get a limited choice? I like the idea of no MPs as ministers. Anyone made a minister should resign their seat: being a minister is a full time job of itself.

Hawkeye said...

"Why else is Peter Mandelson on his way to becoming Minister for Everything?"

There is a postulate that there are only three particles in the entire universe - one proton, one electron and one neutron - but nobody notices because they get around very quickly.

Now you know two things

1) Why Mandy is behaving as he is. You don't need other ministers when you have Mandy

2) You know know the sort of stuff he reads - complete, unsubtantiated bullsh*t.

Anonymous said...

A good idea. However what about bring down the number of MPs to about 420 to 450 (from is now 622?). This would require the boundary commission to look at the constituencies but is long over due in my opinion (America has about 450 Congressmen). I think David Cameron has hinted at this and even mentioned it at PMQs. You would only get the full benefit after another election, never the less I think if Cameron gets in (or when he gets in is more likely)he should think about implementing this.

Peter said...

We don't just need to cut the number of Ministers we need to define the role of Government.
A much smaller Parliament that concentrates simply on law and policy would need fewer MPs and ministers.
Let the professionals and locals run the country.

Anonymous said...

These token announcements are the mark of a bad government in waiting.

What good will reducing the number of Ministers mean? The cost saving will be slight, and it will be the bottom rungs who are removed - the ones with the time to speak at events, sign letters, consider proposals, take legislation through the House, answer PQs etc etc. You also lose the most valuable thing - the Private Office, who will end up scattered around departments, rather than working at the very centre of government, making things work.

If the Tories are serious about government, they should look at the major changes they can make, not the minor changes they can press release.

Quietzapple said...

So Localism and fewer MPs . . ?

Oh Great Emperor, I bring You tidings . . .

Joe Public said...

Cull the duplicated parliamentarians.

If there are Scottish, Welsh & NI Assemblies/Parliaments, 50% of 'proper' MPs are superfluous & should be sacked. [Private industry has to sack workers when their jobs are redundant.]

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10.17:

There are 646 Members of Parliament. (The number is fairly easy to look up on the Parliament website.) In the US Congress, there are 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate.

trevorsden said...

Agreed -- cut the number of ministers and cut the number of MPs as well. Also abolish peers and the House of Lords.

If we need toi bring in people outside parliament then still make them accountable to Parliament. Allow them to attend but not vote.

Cut the cost of government and cut the interference of government.

Anonymous said...

Unsworth -

The number of civil servants has dropped since 1997.

Anonymous said...

I agree we need to cut the size of Government. Too many Ministers saps the strength of Departments. They are expensive beasts to feed - constantly needing to meddle to make themselves look active - and their existence diverts resources from the real job. Too large a Government also feeds the perception - inside Parliament and outside - that an MP's success is measured by how quickly and how far they climb the greasy pole of Government. This suits the Whips but neuters Parliament.

But I'm not so sure about reducing the number of departments super-departments have been tried by both tory and labour and in neither case were they a success.

There is nothing to beat a Minister who can explain clearly his policy priorities, has the strength of purpose not to change these daily to suit the latest media obsession, and leaves the detail of implementation to his staff.

Unsworth said...

@ Anon 1:09 PM

What's your definition of Civil Servant, then?

Anonymous said...

Unsworth -

People employed as civil servants, under CSCS terms. The public sector itself has increased in size (I don't know of a post-war time when it has notably contacted) admittedly admittedly, but to claim that the civil service has increased in size, when it is a specific group in the UK, is incorrect.

It doesn't add up... said...

Sir Humphrey: "I've decided to abolish the Department."

Bernard: "Surely not, Sir Humphrey?"

Sir Humphrey: "Oh yes, Bernard. The top pay for a grade one civil servant is much less than for the head of a QUANGO, and I've already earned my full Civil Service inflation proof pension."

Andrew F said...

PPSs don't get paid. Facts, Iain, facts.

Anonymous said...

With those figures, a 25% cull is far too low - 75% seems closer to the right number.

What Ministers should exist? Defence, Exchequer, FCO, Home Secretary, Education, Health, Trade, DEFRA. Add in a few PPS and junior ministers and you're barely to 30.

The lot whinging about "cuts aren't the answer" are just Labour Trot agent provocateurs (and unfortunately not the fun ones with outlets in SOHO and Pont Street).

Unsworth said...

@ Anon 11:04 AM

Well if you choose to use that narrow definition then, of course, you're right. Now, care to address the issue of the (admitted) vast expansion of the numbers of 'public servants'?

You may care to consider how the Civil Service (your definition) has thus retreated to be replaced by these others who are not bound by the same terms - and how the relative costs (all costs, that is) of the Civil Service have increased in that time. The per capita remuneration/benefits costs are quite interesting.

Anonymous said...

Unsworth -

this 'narrow' definition is rather just the correct definition - it's an important distinction, above and beyond any small/large state debates which is what you are trying to get me to enter in to.

johnpaul said...

Lets face facts the Justice department was creatd by splitting the Home ofice in two not because it was needed ,but Because Jack Straw wanted another crack at the whip as home sec, but couldn't go back as he was booed off stage at the police federation conference a few years ago and They couldn't "say tough on crime" if he was back there

Tub said...

It’s time to cut the number of ministers, the number of MPs and, very importantly, all their salaries. The salaries should be cut to the point where the MPs are forced to have outside jobs. We need to be governed by people who have their feet firmly placed in the real world and who haven’t spent all their working lives in a political bubble.

Unsworth said...

@ Anon 12:09 PM

- Presumably the same individual as the othe two Anons.

" - it's an important distinction, above and beyond any small/large state debates"

Why is it 'important' and why/how is it 'above and beyond etc'? What difference does it make to the central debate here?

The point of Iain's post was that there should be a reduction in Ministerial costs and posts. As Ministers exercise their powers others, be they Civil or other Public Servants, are involved and themselves become net costs to the taxpayer/ratepayer.

That is the crux of the matter, not a pedantic distinction as to the employment/contractual status of some individuals.

So, your point with reference to this is what, exactly? If you don't wish to discuss small/large states or the topic itself why bother commenting?

Oh and please do something about getting a name. All these Anons really don't help to distinguish individual threads.