Attending Cabinet

Lord Norton

The House last night voted by 177 votes to 29 in support of a motion by Baroness Boothroyd that welcomed Baroness Stowell as Leader of the House, but regretted the decision of the PM to diminish the standing of the House by not making her a full member of Cabinet and requesting him to reconsider the decision.  It was a powerful and relatively short debate.

The controversy arises principally but not exclusively as a  result of the provisions of the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975.  This limits the number of ministers who can be paid the salary of a Cabinet minister to 21 (plus the Lord Chancellor).  In the previous Cabinet, the Leader of the House of Lords was a member and paid as a Cabinet minister.  Unusually, the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley, was not a member, but instead a minister who attended Cabinet.  The same applied to his predecessor, Sir George Young.  However, when William Hague was made Leader of the House of Commons – retaining his post as First Secretary of State – he maintained his membership of the Cabinet.  As a result, the new Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Stowell, was not made a full member, but instead attends Cabinet and is paid as a minister of state.  As such, she is paid less than her predecessor.  A proposal that her salary be topped up out of party funds was declined by Baroness Stowell, not least because it was considered inappropriate for someone who serves the House as a while to be paid by a political party

The position is compounded by the fact that the number of ministers who attend Cabinet, but are not full members, has grown in recent years, producing a crowded Cabinet room.  Out of the 33 ministers who turn up for Cabinet meetings, only two – Baronesses Stowell and Warsi – are peers.  Neither is a member of Cabinet.  It used to be the case, when attendance was confined principally to Cabinet ministers, that at least two (Lord Chancellor, Leader of the House) were peers.  Sometimes the number was higher because a peer was appointed to head a Department.  (Under Churchill, there were seven peers in the Cabinet.)  There was a period of nineteen months during the Second World War when there was no peer in the Cabinet, but that was exceptional.

There is a statutory limit on the number of ministerial salaries and on the total number of ministers who may serve in the Commons.  However, within that, there is no limit on the number who may be appointed as Cabinet ministers – as distinct from being paid as Cabinet ministers.  The relevant point in this context is that someone can be made a full member of the Cabinet without receiving a Cabinet salary.  There is thus no bar on Baroness Stowell being made a full member of the Cabinet, even though she would not be paid as a Cabinet minister – unless, as Baroness Boothroyd noted, someone who is receipt of a Cabinet salary was demoted.

There is one other feature of ministers in the Lords worth mentioning.  Though there is a limit on the number of ministers who can sit in the Commons – and a limit on ministerial salaries whether peers or MPs – there is no limit on the number of peers who can be appointed ministers if they are not paid.  Of the 27 ministers and whips in the Lords, ten are unpaid.  The number of unpaid ministers in the Commons is three.



13 comments for “Attending Cabinet

  1. maude elwes
    30/07/2014 at 9:51 am

    I think this link tells all there is to know about how to win friends and influence people.,_Baroness_Stowell_of_Beeston

    This country’s government policy, along with its appointed system of the collection in our Parliament, is a disgrace to a state that calls itself a democracy. This person is another unelected covert placement into positions she has no right to expect.

    • JH
      30/07/2014 at 2:17 pm

      I guess it depends what one means by democracy. The US, France, Germany among others have appointees (in some cases exclusively).

      The Wikipedia entry incorrectly states Baroness Stowell is ‘seemingly the first ever Lord Privy Seal not to be a member of HM Government’s Cabinet’. As Lord Norton notes above Andrew Lansley and Sir George Young are two very recent examples.

      • maude elwes
        30/07/2014 at 5:23 pm


        Really? Now that is something I didn’t know. It certainly would astound the Germans I know. I also didn’t know the US had a prominent shill stuck in the position of Leader of the Lords, now in on cabinet meetings as well.

        And France.

        Nothing like the chicanery of our unelected and appointed shove ins though. This Baroness, like many of the others, have no place in a democratic Parliament and the nerve of them to expect to go into ministerial cabinet and expect to be paid for it because others did and they were men. Dear oh dear, that will have to be put to rights very quickly, one addition for each challenged group.

        Surely you jest?

        However, what the UK needs is a complete overhaul of its political system and those who slide around within it, who find there way in but out of sight of the voter must be scuppered.

        However, the democracy of any sane persons choice would have to be Switzerland. Where those who oil their way across the floor, akin to the trickery of this Baroness and the other they have in there to keep the seat warm, Warsi, have no business inside there in the first place.

        Our tax revenue should not be handed to interlopers who have not been ‘sanctioned’ by the public in any kind of election and whom they have no idea even exists.

        • JH
          31/07/2014 at 9:28 pm

          @maude elwes

          Ah, sorry. Merely drawing on somewhat aged study of politics and focusing on the Cabinet rather than the legislature, that being the nature of her promotion. Your German friends may know more about the background of e.g. Manuela Shwesig. As for France, Frédéric Mitterrand, for example, may not have been a senator or deputy (or as far as I know local councilor) but he was a Cabinet member. Leading businessman – or cronies – may be members of the US Cabinet. The make-up of the legislatures – and the powers of the different chambers and the powers of the executive and the legislature – are different matters.

          • maude elwes
            05/08/2014 at 1:58 pm


            The US is not a country I have any political admiration for. The chicanery that goes on in that place leaves a nasty in the mouth, especially when the UK have themselves stuck so far up their jumper.

  2. Paul Stockton
    31/07/2014 at 6:26 pm

    I was puzzled as to how the PM got himself into this embarrassing mess. I always thought the Cabinet was a non-statutory body which the PM could make as big or small as he liked. He and others seem to think that the problem was in part created by the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975. Lord Norton says it limits the number of ministers who can be paid the salary of a Cabinet minister to 21 (plus the Lord Chancellor). So I went and read the Act, and that’s not what it says. What it actually does is limit the number of secretaries of state who can be paid a salary to 21. The reshuffle created an additional secretary of state (because William Hague ceased to be Foreign Secretary while continuing as First Secretary of State) but the total number of secretaries of state is still less than 21. There is nothing in the Act to specify which ministers are or are not Cabinet Ministers, but it provides for a higher salary when they are. So I cannot see any reason in the Act why Baroness Stowell, as Lord Privy Seal, cannot be a Cabinet member with the higher salary. Maybe the PM did not want to risk criticism for increasing the size of the Cabinet and thus the cost of the ministerial team, but that’s not the reason he gave.

    • Lord Norton
      04/08/2014 at 9:31 pm

      Paul Stockton: That is indeed what the Act says. The problem is that ministers paid at Secretary of State level already amounts to 21. The problem is not making Baroness Stowell a member of the Cabinet (despite what No.10 appears to think) but paying her the Secretary of State salary. One of those already paid one of the Secretary of State salaries would have to give up the salary. Being paid as a Secretary of State does not mean one carries the formal designation as a Secretary of State.

      • JH
        05/08/2014 at 2:56 pm

        As Meg Russell and Robert Hazell have written ‘The 1975 Act is hard to understand, even for people inside government’ ( While it is distinctly odd that 21, 50, 83 (all in accordance with parts 1, 2 & 4 of Schedule 1 to the Act) and 5, 7 and 5 (without reference to any other parts of the Act) can somehow be arranged so that the total comes to 108 (or 109 if the Lord Chancellor is included), that surely is the case but I have yet to work out how. But to clarify, the 21 is Secretary of state level or above (i.e. the PM).

    • maude elwes
      05/08/2014 at 2:09 pm

      @ Paul Stockton:

      Well that just goes to prove how many of you glued to that place, don’t give a hoot about how many unelected, therefore shove ins, we have in our government whilst it pretends to be a democracy. Which is ludicrous.

      What is her purpose? Who gave her permission to be there in the first place? A PM without a mandate. And on they go undermining the citizen with every move they make. Out of touch and out of sight.

      And as far as Lord Norton tells us about salaries, I say, if they want her there to help them out, then each should donate a part of their pay check to keep her sitting next to them. At least then the tax payer gets a break on that front.

      • 12/09/2014 at 1:52 pm

        There’s an error in your article, Kat(s). The barsenos has gone but the vacancy remains. If the economy is so important that an expert, peter mandelson has to be broguht back to look after it, why is intellectgual property so unimportant that only people who have nothing to do with it are put in charge?

  3. Croft
    02/08/2014 at 11:13 am

    Err how was there not a peer in the cabinet during the war? There was a LC throughout and they are always in the cabinet? Are we mixing cabinet and war cabinet here?

    Viscount Caldecote (1940)
    Viscount Simon (1940-45)
    Viscount Jowitt (1945-)

  4. Lord Norton
    04/08/2014 at 9:34 pm

    Croft: The Cabinet was succeeded by the smaller Cabinet, known as the War Cabinet, of which the Lord Chancellor was not a member. This was announced when Viscount Simon was appointed as Lord Chancellor.

  5. MilesJSD
    07/08/2014 at 10:23 am

    whilst those ‘inside’ the “democracy”, “leading” us,

    namely the Civil Service
    and all upwards to The Queen of The Establishment,

    continue feathering their own nests
    and knocking
    the de-facto externalised greater-population’s
    real-life-now & longest-term-future Needs
    and Sustainworthily-Affordable Hows
    on the head,

    we Peoples remain, both de-facto and constitutionally,
    unorganised sub-critical-masses of ‘minority’ populations;
    yet still disparately desperately and hopelessly
    striving to “win some sort of Peace”.
    But Cabinet, as the executive-core of our Civilisation,
    still goes on drawing huge numbers of human-livings,
    “safely” seated upon the Laurels of the Wars we are still “winning”;

    whilst effectively these traditionally cabinet-controlled Governors
    are not only losing-the-immediate-peace themselves
    but causing us the greater, and so-called ”democratic” populations,
    to continue losing the greater longest-term Peace, too”.

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