⇒ The Government is constitutionally responsible to parliament
⇒ The Government must get support from parliament for its policies
⇒ How ministerial responsibility works in practice is harder to determine than theory
⇒ If a minister doesn’t want ministerial responsibility to apply in certain situation they can dismiss it as it is just a convention
⇒ Ministers are individually responsible for their departments and they are accountable for all things done under their responsibility
⇒ If there is a break in the convention (i.e. a minister doesn’t do what they are supposed to or do not take responsibility for their department) then they’re supposed to resign. However, that is NOT the role of the court to enforce!
⇒ Liam Fox broke the ministerial code (a Constitutional Convention)
⇒ The Ministerial code lays down the standard of conduct expected from ministers
⇒ It is published after a general election
⇒ It establishes levels of accountability for ministers
⇒ If you have something codified like this you would think it is clear as to what is expected, but the language can be fairly ambiguous in codified conventions, such as in the ministerial code itself
⇒ Codifying conventions would “raise issues of definition, reduce flexibility, and inhibit the capacity to evolve” and “might create need for adjudication”
⇒ Examples of codified conventions:
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⇒ The Government works together – they do this mainly through holding cabinet meetings (members of state hold regular meeting to determine government policy)
⇒ Ivor Jennings (1936) says cabinet “provides unity to the British system of government” and is the “core of the British constitutional system”
⇒ Once a decision is reached by cabinet it is binding by all of them (even if someone disagrees) and they must all agree with it in public
⇒ It is possible for the Government to say the convention of collective ministerial responsibility does not apply on a certain matter, allowing the ministers to have any view they like on that matter
⇒ Robin Cook (2003) said he had to resign because he felt he “can’t accept ministerial responsibility” by agreeing to the Iraq war
⇒ Clare Short didn’t resign over the same issue but made a statement saying that what the Prime Minister was doing was reckless for government and world
⇒ SO, where a minister cannot accept collective ministerial responsibility, the convention states that ministers must resign
⇒ A minister wrote memoirs about his time in government which publicised information from cabinet meetings he had attended. His wife published it, as he died, but the government sought an injunction to stop further information being published.
⇒ The court said that collective ministerial responsibility meant the memoirs couldn’t be published. However it was argued that collective ministerial responsibility is just a convention so the courts should not enforce this. Nevertheless, the court said there was a common law doctrine of confidentiality which was enforceable on all ministers in cabinet – so they could use this doctrine to enforce the convention
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