The Cabinet is the pre-eminent body of government of the United Kingdom.
It is made up of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and all other Secretaries of State, including other Ministers of ‘Cabinet-rank’ such as the Chief Whip, any Minister without Portfolio (normally a party Chairman) or some other key Ministers (such as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury) and the Commons and Lords business managers (the Leaders of both Houses).
As of September 2021, the following sat in the Cabinet:
Prime Minister – Boris Johnson
Chancellor of the Exchequer – Rishi Sunak
Foreign Secretary – Liz Truss
Home Secretary – Priti Patel
Justice Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister – Dominic Raab
- Defence Secretary – Ben Wallace
Health Secretary – Sajid Javid
Education Secretary – Nadhim Zahawi
Culture Secretary – Nadine Dorries
Business Secretary – Kwasi Kwarteng
International Trade Secretary – Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary – Michael Gove
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – Therese Coffey
Transport Secretary – Grant Shapps
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – Stephen Barclay
Environment Secretary – George Eustice
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – Brandon Lewis
Secretary of State for Scotland – Alister Jack
Secretary of State for Wales – Simon Hart
Leader of the House of Lords – Baroness Evans
COP26 President – Alok Sharma
Leader of the House of Commons – Jacob Rees-Mogg
Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Simon Clarke
Government Chief Whip – Mark Spencer
Attorney General – Suella Braverman
The following also attend Cabinet:
Education Minister – Michelle Donelan
Home Office and Justice Minister – Kit Malthouse
Minister of State at the Cabinet Office – Lord Frost
Minister without portfolio – Oliver Dowden
It is the Cabinet’s endorsement of decisions as a whole that forms the instrument of government in the United Kingdom.
The key convention for Cabinet Government is that of ‘collective responsibility.’ This means that all members of the Cabinet must abide by and support its decisions, regardless of their individual view on a specific matter in question. Any member who dissents after a Cabinet decision has been taken, or who refuses to toe the line, would be expected to resign, or at the very least to remain silent on the issue.
Meetings of the full Cabinet are normally held once a week on a Thursday morning, although historically the frequency has varied. The Prime Minister sets the agenda for meetings and chairs proceedings. Members of the Cabinet present papers prepared by their departments to their colleagues for endorsement. The backing of the Cabinet is the strongest endorsement a policy can obtain from government.
Cabinet provides a forum for debate for key government figures, allowing for compromises to be struck, for dissent to be acknowledged and for future policy direction to be considered.
The length and content of Cabinet meetings is often taken as an indication of a Prime Minister’s style of leadership – whether Cabinet is used as a genuine forum for debate, or as a ‘rubber-stamping’ exercise. Prime Ministers will often seek Cabinet approval for their approaches to ensure all Ministers are ‘on-side’.
Minutes of Cabinet meetings are taken. These are distributed to those in attendance and to top civil servants. Votes are not taken, as all decisions are made unanimously and individual opinions are not recorded. Minutes of Cabinet meetings, and copies of the papers presented, are released publicly after a time delay of 30 years.