Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cameron to Cut Number of Ministers

A month ago I wrote a blogpost suggesting that the number of ministers should be cut by 25%. I suggested that "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."

According to today's Daily Telegraph that is exactly what he intends to do.

The Conservatives are to order a radical reduction in the size of Government, which will see a smaller Cabinet and the number of ministers across Whitehall cut...Despite presiding over a Shadow Cabinet of 32, Mr Cameron believes his Cabinet needs to be smaller. The full Cabinet is likely to be closer to 20 with far fewer able to attend.

Decision-making is more difficult in such a large group, many Tory reformers believe and they are urging Mr Cameron to be bold in his push to streamline government.

In total there are 119 ministers and whips on the Government payroll. It is understood that Mr Cameron will look to try and get the number close to 100.

He has said he wants to make parliament smaller “by having fewer ministers.”
All this will apparently become clear in a speech George Osborne is making later today. I couldn't be more delighted.

32 comments:

Not a sheep said...

A reduced government means less patronage which means less control over backbenchers. Will David Cameron actually have the balls to do this once in government and unpopular because of the decisions that he will have to take?

Jabba the Cat said...

A cull of ministers is pretty meaningless. A hostile cull of quango's is an entirely different matter...

jenna said...

Of course he's going to reduce the number of Ministers, MPs and the size of Parliament in general.

We have hundreds of his Brussels based parasitic mates ready to step in.........

Cynic said...

100 Ministers is still too many

He also needs to be bold and redefine the role of Ministers vs Officials and shake up the Senior Civil Service.

I want to see Ministers held to account but as a former Civil Servant I know that too often the doctrine of Ministerial Accountability allows senior officials to cover up their own gross failures to manage. They also swamp Ministers with trivial decisions to divert them from a focus on strategy and from holding the civil service to account

The Party have a huge programme to deliver in clearing up Brown's mess. So fewer Ministers, open recruitment for all SCS jobs and a real performance culture at the top are critical.

bewick said...

Actually I would have thought that there was even more room for a reduction in the number of ministers and other hangers on. Why do we employ high ranking civil servants when the politicians want to bark, in their usually inexpert way, themselves? One or the other I'd say and personally I'd prefer experts instead of amateurs.

And why just a 5% reduction in Ministerial salaries? They will ALL be new after the next election and even a heavily slashed ministerial salary will still represent a substantial rise. More balls please Dave.

IanVisits said...

In a political system that is dominated less by serious policies and more by media headline grabbing soundbites, Mr Cameron should make a declaration of cutting the Ministers down to the totemic number of 100.

One Hundred is a number that the general public can understand in a nano-second and is going to be very headline friendly.

Matthew Cain said...

So Cameron gives a speech yesterday failing to mention this, gets criticised for failing to cut the number of ministers and then 'lets it be known' that actually he will?

Shameless spin.

Pogo said...

It doesn't just need a cull in the number of Ministers - it needs a cull of Ministries as well. I'd suggest a complete close-down of BERR (or whatever it's called this week) and >50% reduction in both Home and Foreign Offices.

THEN... Really get amongst the quangos with a big, sharp, hatchet.

Elliot Kane said...

Definite thumbs up from me, too! That would be a very good start!

Weygand said...

But if reducing the size of the cabinet were to produce an exclusive sofa cabal à la Tony Blair, it would be a very bad thing indeed.

True Belle said...

Judging by the expenses debacle it appears that Ministers and their underling MPs are busy doing nothing anyway- posturing and posing springs to mind. Yes, prune them down.

In case any one becomes outraged by my ignorance I still stand by my words.

Government is very good at CHANGE and CREATING work for changes sake. You know the sort of thing-

I doubt we will ever experience calm clear governance ever again.

This link below is a good reminder of how everything has now gone pear shaped but shouldn't have!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/1999/feb/11/budget1999.budget

Roger Thornhill said...

What Jenna says.

I wonder if Cameron is just preparing for Regionalisation and the final admission that Sovereignty has been illegally handed over to Brussels?

Sincerity, thy name is NOT Cameron.

Lallands Peat Worrier said...

Tory Radicalism these days amounts to ... trimming a bit of lard from the ministerial block?

Not, incidentally, that it is a bad idea - but if this is what being "really radical" amounts to these days - well, maybe the impending Conservative Government will be less odious than I imagine...

True Belle said...

Hiccup with link, it went off the page- sorry oh.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/1999/feb/11/budget1999.budget

Plato said...

Good news re a cull of ministers.

Labour's creation of more and more nannying posts has resulted in a massive slagheap of laws and regulations.

I look forward to Cameron getting out his red pen.

wv extra - perfect!

Anonymous said...

I would have thought he could get by with 50 ministers or so. 100 still seems way over the top.

And why not wash out all the useless quangos like the British Fluoridation Society?

Anonymous said...

Of course the number of Cabinet Ministers will drop from 30 to about 20. The Ministerial Salaries Act prevents there from being more than 21 Secretaries of State. That Act also limits the total number of paid Ministers and Whips to about 100. Looks like somebody has just drawn it to Cameron's attention.

Paul Halsall said...

Let's step back a little here.

In an earlier post Iain claimed "we only needed 74 ministers to run the Empire." I wonder what date that came from. Let's put it at the height of the Empire's territory in say 1936. This was also the height of Tory Britain, and a time when a Prime Minister such as Stanley Baldwin never visited or inspected the housing conditions of the working class until he had been a minister for ten years.

In practice the Empire ran itself. Countries such as Australia, Canada, South Africa were entirely self governing with each having a PM and other ministers. I don't suppose Ian is including them in his number of 74 ministers. Other colonies were run by appointed officials who themselves had effective cabinents of other senior officials.

In Britain the state was much smaller. There was no NHS. Higher education was restricted to perhaps 1-3% of the population. Primary and secondary educations was almost entirely locally run, but teachers of course did not require any qualifications (When I first attended Littleborough High in 1971 there was still one old English teacher who had come up through the pupil-teacher system). There were no motorways, and rail did not need as much government regulation (although private enterprise had so failed the railways the the government had forced consoldition into LMS, LNER, GWR etc.)

Since the government now does more there are legitimately more areas for ministers. In fact, considering the much greater size an increase from 74 to 119 is probably a very moderate increase.

More than that, there is the need for younger politicians to get some training in junior ministerial roles.

I don't think we really want to separate our legislature and executive (as in the US). Think Gordon Brown has tended to try to do this with all his use of appointed lords.

JMT said...

What about the psuedo-charities?

the anti smoking lt, ASH, get almost 99% of their funds from the Government.

So they get tax payer cash to make donations to/lobby MPs to impose higher taxes on the public??

Ditto the Carbon Trust.

Is this not essentially money-laundering?

Paddy Briggs said...

"The Conservatives are to order a radical reduction in the size of Government..."

Excellent timing. Just as the world, including Britain, starts to emerge slowly from recession an outcome entirely attributable to more Government intervention not less the Tories go back to the old, discredited and facile "Less Government is more" mantra.

In an economy the size of Britain's it is not the number of ministers that matter but how they are organised and how good they are. And how they are led.

The real issue for the foreseeable future is getting the balance right in a mixed economy. The needs of the time require a greater degree of dirigisme than has been the norm in Western economies since the laisser-faire excesses of Thatcher, Reagan, Clinton and Blair/Brown. I don't know whether that means we need more ministers - perhaps not, just better ones. But it seems counter-intuitive to think that it means less!

Chris Paul said...

It will be interesting to see whether the c 100 vs the 119 are on average better paid! A redistribution from the have nots to the haves would be just typical. As would removing payment from 19 of those with relatively token payments. We'll see. Good to see that GOO is still being allowed to make announcements even though he is surely contributing to the Tory flat line, albeit a rather high flat line.

charles said...

Matthew Cain

- or responsiveness?

You can't call it spin until he fails to deliver. At the moment is just saying what he WILL do in the future

Chris Paul said...

An afterthought. Will GOO clarify that Cameron's demand that shadow mimicsters give up outside jobs in the run up to the election is rather more than that and will extend for the lifetime of any government he leads. It would be rather counter-intuitive to just do it until elected and then get back to the three jobs or whatever when they actually have some real responsibilities in office.

Iain Dale said...

Chris Paul makes a tit of himself again. Ministers are not allowed to have outside jobs.

Of course under Labour it has been usual for the Defence Secretary to be a part time one, and double up as Scotland Minister.

Springheel said...

Nice as a gesture but little more than that. Of course, there's nothing wrong with these sort of gestures...

But if (BIG if) we're serious about cutting public sector expenditure and (as important) making what we DO spend effective, then the exercise isn't about cutting ministers - and it isn't even a matter of cutting ministries (or quangoes for that matter). What is needed is a zero based budgeting exercise for the public sector. Look at functions we need/want (and look at cost) to build up from there to a predetermined maximum.

But to do this, you must be ruthless, you must be robust, and you must be clever. So it's not going to happen in the UK.

Nick said...

Now if he was going to cut 25% of all civil servants, that would really be meaningful. Problem is that in the grand scheme of things, cutting 25% of ministers saves nothing. However better to cut them than not cut them. What we need are DEEP cuts everywhere - the 10% everyone seems so frightened of would be a teddy bear's picnic compared to what's really needed.

Thomas Rossetti said...

Not only should Cameron reduce the number of MPs, he should stop the present arrangement whereby a Scottish MP can vote on English issues, but not his own. It is ridiculous and unfair and the House of Commons can only ignore this issue for so long.

Paul Halsall said...

For the UK and the US. The best solution to both fiscal deficits is to raise income tax, progressively, to the levels required to cover problems.

Perhaps also we should have a 1/20th take on all fixed wealth over the median+20% of house prices. [The ...US could also do with a national VAT and gas/petrol tax.]

The basic rule is this. 2-3% of the population own 90% of the wealth.

TAX THE RICH UNTIL THE PIPS SQUEAK.

http://englisheclectic.blogspot.com/2009/09/easy-way-to-solve-fiscal-deficits.html
[The picture is of the great Labour politician who used this phrase in an election *that Labour won* in 1973].

JPT said...

So he says.

Lord Snooty said...

Hmmm. 119 down to 100. Hardly radical, is it? More empty gesture politics from the shallow salesman. Next he'll be putting the prices up on MPs food. Hang on...

Anonymous said...

Every non English elected MP should be cut.

Stop paying the EUSSR dictatorship over £2million per HOUR.

Scrap the barnett formula and stop funding the Scotch, Welsh and Northern Irish EU Regions and redistribute English tax-payers money in ENGLAND.

See were rolling in it!.

Thank you im here all week.

Anonymous said...

Your proposal may lack immediate appeal to ambitious MPs, so why not offer two things in return. Currently, the lowest rank of government office, the Parliamentary Private Secretary, is an unpaid role. Indeed, the current government we hear is struggling to fill all the available PPS posts. As PPSs are required to give up all other outside interests, it does seem reasonable to pay them a modest incremental sum above their Parliamentary salary.

I would also go further. On current plans, an army of special advisors will be recruited if the Conservative Party goes into Government. In 1994/5, there were 34 such advisors; today there are 74, with 25 in Downing Street alone, costing us £5.9m a year . Meanwhile, if the polls are correct, a hundred plus very astute, experienced new MPs will be fighting it out for a limited number of posts on Select Committees, or finding other, possibly more troublesome ways to spend their time. Why not draw on MPs as the source of special advisors, again with a modest increment on their salaries. This would still be much cheaper than recruiting special advisors and funding their entire salaries – a quarter of the current cost if we gave them each a £20,000 premium - and would ensure we get value from more of our MPs.