Cabinet Office

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Template:About Template:Infobox Government agency Template:PoliticsUK The Cabinet Office is a department of the Government of the United Kingdom responsible for supporting the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the United Kingdom. It is composed of various units that support Cabinet committees and which co-ordinate the delivery of government objectives via other departments. It currently has just over 2,000 staff, most of whom work in Whitehall. Staff working in the Prime Minister's Office are part of the Cabinet Office.


The Cabinet Office's core functions are:

  • Supporting the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister - to define and deliver the Government’s objectives, implement political and constitutional reform, and drive forward from the centre particular cross-departmental priority issues such as public service improvement, social exclusion and the third sector;
  • Supporting the Cabinet - to drive the coherence, quality and delivery of policy and operations across departments; and
  • Strengthening the civil service – to ensure the civil service is organised effectively and efficiently and has the capability in terms of skills, values and leadership to deliver the Government's objectives, including ensuring value for money to the taxpayer. This also includes working with the Treasury to drive efficiency and reform across the public sector.

Deputy Prime Minister

Within the department the Deputy Prime Minister has special responsibility for political and constitutional reform:

  • introducing fixed term parliaments
  • legislating to hold a referendum on the alternative vote system for the House of Commons of the United Kingdom
  • legislating to create fewer and more equal-sized constituencies
  • supporting people with disabilities to become MPs
  • introducing a power for people to recall their MP
  • developing proposals for a wholly or mainly elected second chamber
  • speeding up implementation of individual voter registration
  • considering the West Lothian question
  • introducing a statutory register of lobbyists
  • reforming political party funding
  • supporting all postal primaries

He also has policy responsibility for the Electoral Commission, the Boundary Commissions and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.


The department was formed in December 1916 from the secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence under Sir Maurice Hankey, the first Cabinet Secretary.

Traditionally the most important part of the Cabinet Office's role was facilitating collective decision-making by the Cabinet, through running and supporting Cabinet-level committees. This is still its principal role, but since the absorption of some of the functions of the Civil Service Department in 1981 the Cabinet Office has also helped to ensure that a wide range of Ministerial priorities are taken forward across Whitehall.

It also contains miscellaneous units that do not sit well in other departments. For example:

  • The Historical Section was originally founded in 1906 as part of the Committee for Imperial Defense and is concerned with Official Histories
  • The Joint Intelligence Committee was founded in 1936 and transferred to the department in 1957. It deals with intelligence assessments and directing the national intelligence organisations of the UK.
  • The Ceremonial Branch was founded in 1937 and transferred to the department in 1981. It was originally concerned with all ceremonial functions of state, but today it handles honours and appointments.

In modern times the Cabinet Office often takes on responsibility for areas of policy that are the priority of the Government of the time. The units that administer these areas migrate in and out of the Cabinet Office as government priorities (and governments) change.


The Cabinet Office Ministers are as follows:

Minister Rank Portfolio
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP Prime Minister
First Lord of the Treasury
Minister for the Civil Service
Head of government
The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP Deputy Prime Minister
Lord President of the Council
Deputy head of government, political and constitutional reform
The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP Minister for the Cabinet Office
Paymaster General
Civil Service, efficiency and reform
The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP Minister of State Government policy, Coalition Agreement
The Rt Hon Ken Clarke MP Minister of State
Minister without Portfolio
Government policy, Economic affairs
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP Minister of State
Minister without Portfolio
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Relations between government and Conservative Party
The Rt Hon John Hayes MP Minister of State
Minister without Portfolio
Parliamentary advice to the Prime Minister
The Rt Hon David Laws MP Minister of State Coordinating and developing Coalition Agreement policy across government - working to the Deputy PM Nick Clegg and alongside Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Letwin MP
Jo Johnson MP Parliamentary Secretary Number 10 Policy Unit
Nick Hurd MP Parliamentary Secretary (Civil society) Big Society agenda; Charities; Volunteering; Social Enterprise
Key Conservative
Liberal Democrat

All of the Cabinet Office's ministers, excluding the two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, are Cabinet members; or are allowed to attend Cabinet when their brief is on the agenda.

The Cabinet Secretary is Sir Jeremy Heywood; the Permanent Secretary is Richard Heaton; the Head of the Home Civil Service is Sir Bob Kerslake, who is concurrently also Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The Cabinet Office also supports the work of:

  • the Leader of the House of Commons;
  • the Leader of the House of Lords; and
  • the Whips Office.


Template:Main Cabinet Committees have two key purposes:<ref name="CO report">Template:Cite document</ref>

  • To relieve the burden on the Cabinet by dealing with business that does not need to be discussed at full Cabinet. Appeals to the Cabinet should be infrequent, and Ministers chairing Cabinet Committees should exercise discretion in advising the Prime Minister whether to allow them.
  • To support the principle of collective responsibility by ensuring that, even though a question may never reach the Cabinet itself, it will be fully considered. In this way, the final judgement is sufficiently authoritative that Government as a whole can be expected to accept responsibility for it. In this sense, Cabinet Committee decisions have the same authority as Cabinet decisions.


The main building of the Cabinet Office is at 70 Whitehall, adjacent to Downing Street and was built in 1847. Remains of Henry VIII's tennis courts from the Palace of Whitehall can be seen within the building.

The building was originally the Cockpit, used for cock fighting in the Tudor period. It was then converted into a private residence by Charles II for Princess Anne, the future Queen Anne, when she married in 1683. In 1689, both Anne and her closest friend (and later most influential adviser), Sarah, Lady Churchill were imprisoned here by James II after he lost support to Prince William of Orange in the period just before the Glorious Revolution. After Anne's accession in 1702, she gave the Cockpit to Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough and her husband, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. They were the last private residents before it became the Treasury, and was being used as a Cabinet office by 1719.

The department occupies other buildings in Whitehall and the surrounding area, including part of 1 Horse Guards, as well as sites in other parts of the country. In October 2013 during the St Jude storm, a crane collapsed on top of the Cabinet Office. This lead to a closure of Whitehall.


The Cabinet Office has the following responsibilities at a UK national level.

  • political and constitutional reform
  • the Home Civil Service
  • the Electoral Commission
  • the Boundary Commissions
  • the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

Its main counterparts in the devolved nations are as follows:


  • Office of the First Minister (supporting the Scottish Government cabinet)

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Northern Ireland

  • Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (co-ordinating the Northern Ireland Executive)
  • Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (social enterprise)
  • Department of Finance and Personnel (the Northern Ireland Civil Service)
  • Department for Social Development (civil society)

Wales Template:Expand section

See also

  • British Civil Service
  • United Kingdom budget
  • Prime Minister's Strategy Unit
  • Social Exclusion Task Force
  • Cabinet Office Briefing Room
  • Public Sector Internal Identity Federation



External links

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