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Discover Central Goverment

What are the parts of Central Government?     

Central Government is all the organisations that are controlled directly or indirectly by Government Ministers. There are a range of these and the main ones are:-

a)     What political scientists have called the Core Executive.  This is meant to be the central decision-making body of Government and includes such institutions as the Prime Minister’s Office, the Cabinet and Cabinet Office and the Government Whips’ Office.

b)     The Departments of State such as the Treasury, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Work and Pensions, each of which carries out an area of Government policy.  They are headed by a prominent politician, the Secretary of State, who is a member of the Cabinet. Many areas of policy such as transport or agriculture are devolved to the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and so the Departments of State have only English responsibilities in these areas.

c)     Departmental Agencies are responsible to the Departments of State but have been separated from them because they carry out detailed functions that do not require such detailed political control.  The Secretary of State sets broad objectives but a Chief Executive is responsible for the running of the Agency and for its budget. Examples are the Highways Agency, which manages motorways and trunk roads for the Department of Transport, and the Legal Aid Agency, part of the Ministry of Justice, which provides help for people to fight their case in the courts.

d)     There are a range of Non-Departmental Public Bodies, often referred to as Quangos, which are semi-independent and provide specialist services or advice, ranging from the Advisory Committee on Pesticides to the Bank of England.  The government appoints the people who run them, such as the Governor of the Bank of England, and may set requirements such as the need for the Governor to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer if inflation rises above 3%, explaining the reasons.

e)     There are some Government Departments that need to be kept separate from political control so that their statements and decisions can be seen as independent such as the Food Standards Agency and Ofqual, which supervises national examinations.

f)      The National Health Service for England is effectively an Agency within the Department of Health and the NHS Trusts that run hospitals and the Clinical Commissioning Groups that run GP surgeries are responsible to it. The health services in other parts of the UK are run by the devolved governments.

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