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Cabinet Government

Volume 511: debated on Wednesday 9 June 2010

First, I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who in marked contrast to the previous Prime Minister and his predecessor, long campaigned for Cabinet government to become a reality. I am delighted to tell him that I do not have to answer his question in the future; I can answer in the present, because in the last three weeks we have already taken enormous strides to create proper Cabinet government through the formation of a small number of effective decision-making Cabinet committees that will look across the whole range of Government business, make decisions collectively and not resort to the kind of sofa government that caused so many problems, for example, in the entry to the Iraq war.

I thank the Minister for his answer. The British constitution has sometimes been characterised as a time-limited elective dictatorship and the Prime Minister as an elected monarch. In an era of sofa government, the Cabinet was downgraded to cipher status. Is it not time for really radical change—perhaps with the Cabinet elected by Members of Parliament?

The trend towards elections is indeed one that the Government have in general sponsored, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware. Many Members have put themselves forward and are in the course of being elected for many important posts in the House. But the reality of Cabinet government does not depend on elections, it depends on whether the Prime Minister of the day and, indeed, in the coalition Government, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the day are willing to see collegiate decision making rather than elective dictatorship. They are not only in this instance willing, but keen to do so. If I may point it out to the hon. Gentleman, one of the advantages of the new politics of coalition Government is that it enforces on us collective decision making, because we have to agree between the two parties in the coalition as well.

Order. I do not wish to be unkind to new Ministers, but answers are, frankly, too long. They need to be shorter.