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What are constitutional conventions?

Non-legal rules which ensure agents of the government act responsibly


What does the ministerial code say about (personal) individual ministerial conduct?


1.1 Ministers of the Crown are expected to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety
1.2f. Ministers must ensure no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and private interests
1.2g. Ministers should not accept any gift or hospitality, which might, or might reasonably appear to, compromise their judgement or place them under improper obligations
1.2i. Ministers should not government resources for party political purposes


In the previous coalition government, what was significant about ministers personal conduct?

that it was the basis for almost all minesterial resignations


For the following people explain why they resigned;
(a) David Laws
(b) Liam Fox
(c) Andrew Mitchell
(d) Chris Huhne
(e) Brooks Newmark

(a) Resigned as Chief Secretary to the treasury in May 2010 over expenses claim
(b) Liam Fox resigned as Defence Secretary in October 2011 after granting a friend access to Ministry of Defence operations
(c) Resigned as Chief Whip Secretary to the Treasury, in October 2012, after row with police and referring to them as "plebs"
(d) Chris Huhne resigned as Energy Secretary in February 2012 after being charged (and later found guilty) of perverting the course of justice, after having his wife claim she was driving when a speeding offence was charged
(e) Brooks Newmark resigned as Minister of Civil Society after sending explicit images of himself to a journalist posing as a Tory PR girl.


Other than personal conduct, what else are ministers responsible for?

The conduct of their departments


What does the ministerial code say about (departmental) individual ministerial responsibilty?


1.2b. Ministers have a duty to account, and to be held account, for the policies, decisions and actions of their departments
1.2c. It is of paramount importance that the minister gives accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadverdant error at the earliest oppurtunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the PM.


What are the facts of the west coast rail disaster?

A franchise decision was suspended in September 2012 on the eve of a legal decision
It was discovered there had been a mistake in calculations
£40 million was needed to reimbure the bidders
First had been awarded the new franchise, however, thier bid reflected wrongful information given to them
No resignations as there had been a recent Cabinet reshuffle


How can departmental ministerial responisbility be criticised?

As it creates the risk no one will suffer from serious faults other than the victims and the taxpayer


What is an agency within a department?

They operate as a seperate unit but still part of the deparment e.g. DVLA, prison service, borders agency.
(a) Ministers are responsible for policy
(b) A CEO is responsible for the operations


What can be a difficulty of agencies within departments?

There are arguments over whether failings are policy or operational
There is no direct way for public/parliament to hokd the CEO to account


What was significant about the Crichel Down Affair (1954)?

(a) Agricultural land had been acquired by the Ministry of Air in 1938 for bombing practice.
(b) It was promised back to the owners but failed in their promise
(c) Sir Thomas Dugdale resigned after a public inquiry discovered serious failures within his department
(d) The land had been sold for a huge profit


What are the main features of collective responsibility?

(a) All ministers are responsible for decisions made in parliament
(b) Decisions in Cabinet are binding on all ministers
(c) Support all government decisions
(d) Minister should resign if they do not agree with a decision
(e) Public confidence is maintained if government speaks with one voice


What should happen if the government is defeated in Parliament?

All members of the Cabinet should resign


What does the ministerial code guarantee in regards to collective responsibility?

Secrecy in Cabinet meetings is guaranteed by the ministerial code


Name key persons who have resigned by not obeying collective responsibility and why?

(a) Robin Cook resigned in 2003 due to disagreement over another war in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support

(b) More recently Stephen Phillips resigned in November 2016 over difference about the Government's position on the triggering of Article 50 without Parliamentary approval and on the handling of child refugees.


What exceptions are there in regards to collective responsibility?

(a) Where there is a coalition government disagreements are permitted
(b) When there are free votes and the Government has no policy on the issue
(c) Ministerial Memoirs (except matters of national security)