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How does the UK Cabinet work?     

The Cabinet is a group of about 20 senior Ministers who meet every Tuesday. This is more often if there is a pressing issue to discuss.

The Prime Minister decides who will be in the Cabinet. But, it is accepted that all the Ministers who run Departments are Cabinet Members, as is the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House, the Minister who looks after Government Business in the Commons. The Chair of the Conservative or Labour Party may also be a member.

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary, who is the most senior civil servant, draw up the Agenda.

The Cabinet Office, staffed by civil servants, prepares papers for the Cabinet. It will coordinate issues that cut across Government Departments and looks to see that Cabinet decisions are carried out.

What do they discuss at UK Cabinet Meetings?

Cabinet meetings will discuss:-

  • Proposals for legislation and whether there will be any problems getting it through the House of Commons
  • Major issues especially if they cut across the responsibilities of different Ministers
  • Briefings from the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister on foreign policy and European issues
  • Briefings from the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the economy.
  • Decisions from Cabinet Committees. These are made up of smaller groups of Ministers and do detailed work on topics. Cabinet Ministers will normally see the decisions of these Committees but will not discuss them in Cabinet unless they are very controversial.
  • Political strategy in a meeting as the Political Cabinet. This is without civil servants present. Items may include how to counter the Opposition, improve Government popularity or difficult policies, such proposed welfare cuts.
  • Emergencies, such as floods or a terrorist attack by meeting as COBRA with the relevant Ministers and the Prime Minister present.

As well as the weekly meetings, Cabinet is best thought of as a system.  There are a range of meetings between the Prime Minister and one or two Ministers.

Ministers will keep in touch with each other over issues and meet if necessary.

Officials at No 10 and the Cabinet Office will be in contact with Cabinet Ministers to make sure that there is overall agreement on a course of action that might be controversial.