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List of Ministerial Responsibilities

Volume 507: debated on Wednesday 10 March 2010

4. What the cost was of producing the list of ministerial responsibilities published by her Department in October 2009; and if she will make a statement. (321238)

The list of ministerial responsibilities is produced in-house by the Cabinet Office. Costs are met from within existing Cabinet Office budgets and are not separately identifiable.

This document is terrific value for money. On page 2, it ranks the Cabinet members in order of importance. For years, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was ranked No. 2, but last October he was demoted to No. 4. Was that the unleashing of the forces of hell within the Cabinet Office?

The hon. Gentleman is almost at the point of doing a PhD thesis on departmental responsibilities, so great is his fascination with the topic, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer is more focused on guiding this country out of recession and ensuring that people keep their jobs and that businesses survive the deepest global recession than he is on the list of departmental responsibilities.

I agree with the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) that the document is very useful, but rather than a beauty contest—a list of who the Prime Minister likes at a certain time—it is something that many hon. Members use for the purpose of information. The problem is that, as soon as it is published, it is out of date. What is being done to ensure that Ministers’ offices are aware of what their Ministers’ responsibilities are? When members of my office have used that list to ring up Departments, they have found that the portfolios have changed.

Perhaps I can undertake to ensure that a review is conducted to ensure that Ministers’ specific responsibilities are accurately documented, for the convenience of Members across the House.

Why has the Cabinet Office refused to publish a list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries to accompany the list of Ministers? Is it because 12 PPS posts remain vacant since last June’s ministerial reshuffle? Those are traditionally the first rungs of the ministerial ladder: ambitious Back Benchers—well represented today—should be stampeding to get a toehold. Do the vacancies reflect a lack of talent on the Labour Back Benches, or just a lack of appetite to serve the present Prime Minister?

The people at home who may be gripped watching Cabinet Office questions will be bewildered by the Opposition’s preoccupation with such matters when there are so many big issues facing our country, which every single Member listed in the directory of Ministers is focused on tackling, in the interests of the people they represent.