The Leader of the House

Sir George Young

The new Cabinet has been announced.  One unusual feature is that the new Leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young, is to attend but will not be a member of Cabinet.  I have not seen any reports of the rationale for this, unless some of the responsibilities are to be assumed by the new Deputy Prime Minister.

The Leader of the House has been an important Cabinet post, the holder being responsible for the management of the Government’s business and chairing the Cabinet’s legislation committee to decide the programme for the new session.  The title itself did not become established until the mid-19th Century and until 1942 was  normally held by the Prime Minister, unless the PM sat in the Lords. 

It could be argued that the difference between being a member of Cabinet and attending Cabinet is not that great, the former having a right to speak and the latter only speaking when invited, but it is an unsual move in a Parliament when business management will enter largely unchartered territory.


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Leader of the House

  1. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,

    One wonders if there will be a British counterpart to the American “committee caucus” on the Cabinet. That is will Lib Dems and Conservatives who are members of the cabinet occasionaly assemble to discuss party business with no others in attendance. If so arguably Sir George would be excluded and this would increase his credibilty with the Cabinet as a whole. Of course if all this is true but he is invited to attend such a caucus then the whole idea would be moot at best. But it occurs to me…

    • The Duke of Waltham says:

      Well, one would assume that the Cabinet is not supposed to discuss political matters, but I have heard some references to the contrary, namely that the main meeting may be followed by an unofficial discussion of political nature. Perhaps Lord Norton can clarify here?

      • The Duke of Waltham says:

        And I did remember correctly about one thing: the chairman of the party in power is usually given a sinecure so that they may participate in Cabinet meetings. In this case, it is the title of “Minister without Portfolio”. There are several more sinecures in the Cabinet (most of them retained to pay officials in posts with no salary of their own), and their distribution continues, to an extent, recent Labour practice: Nick Clegg is Lord President of the Council, the Leader of the Lords is Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Leader of the Commons is Lord Privy Seal and the Minister for the Cabinet Office is Paymaster General. William Hague has been named First Secretary of State, which is an honorific rather than a sinecure; setting aside “our favourite minister”, perhaps?

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Somehow I am losing track of this whole site. I do not know if you are bing sarcastic about the cabinet discussing politics. I think politics is increasingly narrowly defined but cannot be defined so narrowly as to exclude what cabinets chiefly discuss…

      • The Duke of Waltham says:

        Well, you have a point in that everything discussed in the Cabinet has a political flavour… Perhaps I thought too highly of politics in separating the administrative and communicational aspects of government. 😀

      • Lord Norton says:

        Frank W Summers and DoW: There are what as known as ‘political Cabinets’. That is, at the end of a formal Cabinet meeting, the officials may be asked to leave the room so that ministers can discuss essentially party political matters. However, it will be interesting to see whether such political Cabinets are held in the new situation.

  2. ken says:

    One hugely symbolic, and very practical, sign of any ‘new politics’ would be the demise of the post of ‘Leader of the House’. Nothing shouts more than this archaic and, for the Houses, demeaning title about Government over-dominance of Parliament (especially the Commons).

    What’s wrong with each party having a ‘Business Manager’ or similar (with or without a separate Chief Whip as they choose)? Such an arrangement would fit in better with the (albeit timid) Wright Committee reforms, and would assist more fundamental and necessary reform of Parliament’s central institutional/ organisational structures.

    There is a great need for a revamp of the HC Commission, for example, where a better system of Member representation is required. Now that that 2 of the previous 3 backbench representatives – all implicated to varying degrees in the House’s mishandling of the expenses fiasco – are out of the picture (through retirement and ministerial elevation), surely the Speaker and the House should take the chance to have a clean slate. Statutory changes should be made thereafter to restructure the Commission’s membership, its (s)election, and, especially if there is to be some sort of Business Committee, its powers and functions.

    • Lord Norton says:

      ken: I agree that this provides a valuable opportunity for a major overhaul. The present structure, not least in respect of the Commission, is creaking. The Wright Committee provides important changes but then again it was operating under limited terms of reference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s