individual ministerial responsibility

individual ministerial responsibility
   Individual responsibility refers to the responsibility of each Government minister for the work of his department. He or she is answerable to the House of Commons for all that happens within it. The positive aspect of this is that Members of Parliament (MPs) know that there is someone to whom they can direct their questions and anxieties about policy, at parliamentary questions, in committees, in debates and privately to MPs. The negative aspect is that thereby civil servants are kept out of the political arena and shielded from controversy, making it possible for any future administration to have confidence in Civil Service neutrality.
   ‘Responsible’ means on the one hand that ministers are required to inform Parliament about the work and conduct of their departments, explaining and if necessary making amends for their own and their officials’ actions. They take the praise for what is well done and the blame for what goes wrong. In this sense, answerability and accountability still apply. But ‘responsibility’ goes further and implies liability to lose office, if the fault is suffi- ciently serious. In this second sense, resignations for political or administrative misjudgements and mistakes have in recent decades become extremely unusual. In the nineteenth century, such resignations were not uncommon; few have occurred since World War Two. Many political blunders, misjudgements and departmental administrative failings are committed but they go unpunished by the ultimate sanction. Today, whether or not a minister resigns under the convention will depend on his support from the party, Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues. If there is prolonged adverse publicity that may be damaging to the Government, a resignation is more likely to occur. Most resignations today relate to personal indiscretions of a sexual or financial kind.

Glossary of UK Government and Politics . 2013.

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