No more ministers, MPs plead

Too many ministers, MPs say. Photo:
Too many ministers, MPs say. Photo:

By staff

The coalition government has appointed an excessive number of ministers because it wants to increase its control over the Commons, MPs have claimed.

The public administration select committee (Pasc) argued in a report published today that the 'patronage-driven' creation of ministerial posts explained Whitehall's unwillingness to talk about the issue/

"The government say they are keeping ministerial numbers 'under review' but that is political code for their refusal to engage with the committee on this recommendation," committee chair Bernard Jenkin said.

"There are more unpaid ministers in this government than ever – described to us by one eminent witness, Peter Ridell, as 'an abuse'. There are also therefore more ministers in the Commons than ever."

All members of the government, as well as unpaid parliamentary private secretaries (PPS), are obliged to back the administration or resign.

Increasing the 'payroll' vote therefore reduces the impact backbench rebellions can have.

"There are more PPSs than we consider necessary," Mr Jenkin, who rebelled in last week's EU referendum debate, added.

"This is more about exercising patronage over MPs, and thus being able to influence debates and votes, than it is about efficiency and accountability."

Ministerial control of the Commons is set to increase after the 2015 general election, as the number of MPs falls from 650 to 600.

The Pasc committee said the number of ministers in the lower House should fall by eight to match the overall size decrease.

It also called for the number of PPSs to be limited to one per department and suggested the current legal cap on the number of paid ministers should set the absolute limit.


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