Status of the Leader of
the House of Lords|
1. Our terms of reference require us "to
keep under review the operation of the constitution". In
keeping with that we occasionally publish reports for the information
of the House on issues of constitutional concern or uncertainty.
2. Widespread concern has been expressed in the
House of Lords about the status of the Leader of the House following
the recent ministerial reshuffle. A private notice question was
asked and the chairman
of the committee received correspondence from members, including
from the Leader of the Opposition, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon.
In this report we set out for the information of the House the
facts of the situation as we understand them.
3. We are concerned only with the constitutional
implications of recent events. This report is in no way about
the ability of Baroness Stowell of Beeston to perform the
functions of Leader. It has been clear in exchanges in the House
that the House has full confidence in her.
Background to the reshuffle
4. The Prime Minister began a ministerial reshuffle
on 14 July 2014. On 15 July 2014 it was announced that Lord Hill
of Oareford, until then the Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor
of the Duchy of Lancaster, would be the Prime Minister's nominee
as the next UK European Commissioner. The
Prime Minister announced on Twitter that Baroness Stowell
of Beeston would be the next Leader of the House of Lords and
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Later that day it emerged
that, unlike her predecessors, Lady Stowell would not be a full
member of the Cabinet. She would be a minister "attending
Cabinet" but would not be paid a Cabinet minister's salary.
The Conservative party announced that the difference between the
salary she would be paid as a minister of state and the salary
of a Cabinet minister would be paid from party funds. The fact
that the Leader would not be a full member of the Cabinet meant
that there would be no member of the House of Lords in the Cabinet.
5. On 16 July 2014 the Prime Minister said in
the House of Commons, "I am happy to confirm that the Leader
of the House of Lords will do the same job as her predecessor,
will sit at the same place round the Cabinet table as her predecessor,
and will receive the same amount of money."
Later that day a private notice question was asked in the House
of Lords. In her answers the new Leader said she had "the
authority I need to represent your Lordships in Cabinet."
On salary arrangements she stated, "I can assure the House
that careful consideration is being given to the propriety of
6. In the Court Circular it emerged that on 16
July 2014 the Leader took the oath of office and kissed hands
on her appointment as the Lord Privy Seal (rather than the
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster). The post of Leader does
not itself attract a ministerial salary, so Leaders of the House
of Lords (and Leaders of the Commons) are appointed to other posts
in order to receive a salary. The office of Lord Privy Seal
ranks higher in the order of precedence than the Chancellor of
the Duchy of Lancaster. It also has a particular status in the
House of Lords by virtue of the House of Lords Precedence Act
7. On 22 July 2014 the Leader placed in the Library
of the House a copy of a letter in which she stated that she would
not accept a top-up to her ministerial salary from Conservative
party funds. She stated that as the responsibilities of the Leader
extend to all parts of the chamber she felt it right that her
salary comes from a single source and that source should be the
8. Also on 22 July 2014 the Prime Minister wrote
to Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, the chairman of the Association
of Conservative Peers, stating that he "completely understand[s]
the concern that has arisen in the Lords following the reshuffle".
He agreed "that the Leader of the House should, as a general
rule, always be a full member of the Cabinet; unfortunately it
was not possible on this occasion, owing to the provisions of
the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. I want to reassure
you, and the whole House, that I see the current situation as
a purely temporary one, which I will want to rectify at the earliest
opportunity. I will certainly do so immediately after the General
Election, if I am returned as Prime Minister, if no opportunity
has arisen to do so over the coming nine months." He said
that Lady Stowell would have the same role in Cabinet as her predecessors
and that she would attend the same meetings in Downing Street.
9. The Cabinet Manual states, "Cabinet
is the ultimate decision-making body of government."
The "Haldane report" of 1918 described it as "the
mainspring of all the mechanisms of Government."
The business of government has changed considerably since 1918,
but the Cabinet still occupies a central role in governmentfor
example in deciding on proposals for constitutional reform (such
as altering the composition of the Houses of Parliament).
10. In our January 2010 report on The Cabinet
Office and the Centre of Government, we recommended that changes
by the Prime Minister to the machinery of government which have
constitutional implications should be approached carefully.
11. The distinction between Cabinet members and
ministers "attending Cabinet" is a relatively recent
one. Following the
2001 general election the Minister for Transport was designated
as a minister attending Cabinet.
The first Cabinet after the 2005 general election also included
one such minister: the Minister for Europe.
12. The number of minsters "also attending
Cabinet" increased substantially during Gordon Brown's premiership.
In his first Cabinet Mr Brown had six members attending Cabinet:
four were ministers and two were parliamentary private secretaries
to the Prime Minister.
Following a 2009 reshuffle, ministers in the Cabinet who were
not full Cabinet ministers were divided into those "also
attending Cabinet" and those who would attend when their
ministerial responsibilities were on the agenda.
Following the recent reshuffle there are 11 ministers "also
attending Cabinet", including the Leader of the House of
Limit on Cabinet membership
13. The membership of the Cabinet is not set
out in law, but the salaries payable to ministers are. These are
prescribed in the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. This
Act also limits the number of ministerial salaries that can be
paid at each level, setting a total of 109 paid ministers. The
Act sets out the salaries of the Lord Chancellor, the Prime
Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, other Cabinet ministers
(including secretaries of state and other ministers)
and non-Cabinet ministers. It limits the number of people who
may receive a Cabinet salary to 21 (plus the Lord Chancellor).
Another Act limits the number of MPs who may be paid or unpaid
ministers in the Government to 95, which includes whips but not
parliamentary private secretaries.
14. The 1975 Act consolidated previous legislation,
the most relevant being the Ministerial and other Salaries Act
1972. In proposing the bill in 1972, the then Leader of the House
of Lords said it would increase from nine to 19 the number of
salaries (increased to 21 under the 1975 Act) paid to Cabinet
ministers. This would leave "a head room of three, if necessary,
over the size of the present Cabinet in the present Administration."
The 1975 Act, although limiting the number of Cabinet salaries,
does not limit the size of the Cabinet or government more generally:
additional unpaid Cabinet members may be appointed.
There is currently an unpaid Minister without Portfolio who "attends
Cabinet" and there are various unpaid junior ministers in
Representation of the House of
Lords in the Cabinet
15. The 1975 Act does not make provision about
which House of Parliament ministers may be drawn from.
Until the recent reshuffle, so far as we are aware, there has
always been at least one member of the House of Lords in the Cabinet.
Until 2005 the Lord Chancellor was the Speaker of the House
of Lords as well as a senior Cabinet member. At the time of the
1975 Act it would have been assumed that at least the Lord Chancellor
would always be a peer in the Cabinet.
16. In 2010 the House of Commons Public Administration
"The presence of Cabinet Ministers in the House
of Lords has diminished markedly since the turn of the twentieth
century, when there were nine Members of the House of Lords in
the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister. Attlee's first Cabinet
in 1945 and Macmillan's in 1957 contained five Lords, and Churchill's
in 1951 included seven. By the mid-1960s, however, it had become
the norm for an incoming Prime Minister to recruit only the Leader
of the House of Lords and the Lord Chancellor from the House
of Lords into his or her Cabinet."
The report noted that secretaries of state have continued
to be appointed from the House of Lords.
17. The Companion to the Standing Orders and
Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords states, "The
Leader of the House is appointed by the Prime Minister, is a member
of the Cabinet, and is responsible for the conduct of government
business in the Lords."
Erskine May also describes the Leader of the House of Lords
as a member of the Cabinet.
We know of no examples of Leaders of the House of Lords who were
not also members of the Cabinet.
18. There are two important aspects of the current
situation: that the Leader is no longer a full Cabinet member,
and that there are no full Cabinet members in the House of Lords.
19. In our report on the constitutional implications
of coalition government we regretted "the decline in the
number of senior ministers in the House of Lords under the coalition
The current situation can be seen as connected to the need for
ministers of both coalition parties to be represented in the Cabinet.
20. The Leader is both a representative of the
Government in the House and a representative of the House in the
Government. Part of how the Leader represents the House in Government
is by giving the update on Lords business which is a standard
part of the Cabinet agenda. But the role extends to more than
21. The Leader may often have to give unpalatable
advice to ministerial colleagues about the chances of their legislation
passing the House, or the time it will take. The Leader may have
to block proposals which would clearly not pass the House or would
be contrary to its interests. The Leader has to express the House's
misgivings to departments about their policies. The Leader has
to ensure that questions and correspondence from peers are answered
promptly and fully. In such matters the Leader needs authority.
While some of that authority can come from tangible things like
sitting at the Cabinet table and receiving Cabinet papers, some
of it is intangible, such as having full Cabinet status on the
same terms as senior ministers in the Commons. Having a member
of the House of Lords in the full Cabinet sends an important signal
to the rest of Government (ministers and the civil service), and
to the House itself, about the status of the House of Lords. If
the Leader is no longer a full member of the Cabinet there may
be a risk that the views of the House are not fully listened to
in the Cabinet.
22. Moreover, it is a core part of our constitution
that ministers are drawn from the legislature and that the legislature
is bicameral. It sits very uneasily with those principles for
one House of Parliament to be unrepresented in the full Cabinet.
23. It is not our intention in this report to
make recommendations. We note the Prime Minister's assurance that
the current position is temporary and will be rectified at the
first opportunity. Were it desired to prevent a repeat of this
situation, that may be achieved in law through an amendment to
the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. For example, the
Act could be amended to provide that one of the 21 salaries for
Cabinet ministers must be paid to a member of the House of Lords
or to provide that the Leader of the House of Lords must be among
the 21, or in either case to increase the number to 22.
1 For example, Money Bills and Commons Financial
Privilege (10th Report, Session 2010-12, HL Paper 97). Back
HL Deb, 16 July 2014, cols 594-98. Back
The Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
and Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Warsi, also attends
Cabinet but is not a full member of it. Back
HC Deb, 16 July 2014, col 856. Back
HL Deb, 16 July 2014, col 595. Back
Ibid., col 596. Back
The Cabinet Manual, 1st edition (October 2011), paragraph
Ministry of Reconstruction, Report of the Machinery of Government
Committee, 1918 (Cd. 9250), paragraph 5. Back
Constitution Committee, The Cabinet Office and the Centre of
Government, (4th Report, Session 2009-10, HL Paper 30), paragraphs
In this analysis of ministers attending Cabinet we exclude the
offices of Attorney General and Lords Chief Whip. It has been
long-standing practice for the Attorney General to attend Cabinet
where his presence is necessary. Practice has varied as to whether
Lords Chief Whips have attended Cabinet. The Lords Chief Whip
has not attended Cabinet in this Parliament. Back
'Labour: The Reshuffle-The New Cabinet', The Independent,
9 June 2001. Back
'After the election: The full cabinet', The Guardian, 9
May 2005. Back
'Gordon Brown's First Cabinet', Government Web Archive available
'Labour in crisis: The reshuffle: Who's in, who's out', The
Guardian, 6 June 2009. This list did not include parliamentary
private secretaries. Back
Until the recent reshuffle the Leader of the House of Commons
was in the category of ministers attending Cabinet. In the recent
reshuffle the Leader of the House of Commons, who is also First
Secretary of State, was made a full Cabinet minister. Back
The other posts are "(a) Lord President of the Council, (b)
Lord Privy Seal, (c) Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, (d)
Paymaster General, (e) Chief Secretary to the Treasury, (f) Parliamentary
Secretary to the Treasury, and (g) Minister of State". Back
Schedule I, Part V. The structure and drafting of the Act can
be hard to follow and in this respect may be open to different
interpretations. However, it is clear from statements at the time
the Act was passed and practice since that the limit is 21 Cabinet
House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, section 2 and Schedule
2. The limits on Cabinet and Government membership are explained
in the House of Commons Library note Limitations on the number
of Ministers and the size of the Payroll vote (SN/PC/03378,
14 September 2012). Back
HL Deb, 1 February 1972, col 680. Back
Shaun Woodward MP served as the unpaid Secretary of State for
Northern Ireland from 2007 to 2010. Back
With the implied exceptions of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor
of the Exchequer. Whereas different salaries are payable for other
ministers if they are an MP or a peer, no provision is made for
the possibility of those office holders being peers. Back
Public Administration Committee, Goats and Tsars: Ministerial
and other appointments from outside Parliament (8th Report,
Session 2009-10, HC 330), paragraph 47. Back
Ibid., paragraphs 48-50. In 2009-10 there were two secretaries
of state in the Lords, in addition to the Leader of the House. Back
Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings
of the House of Lords (2013 edition), paragraph 4.03. The
phrase has appeared in the Companion since 1972. Back
Malcolm Jack (ed.), Erskine May's Treatise on The Law, Privileges,
Proceedings and Usage of Parliament (24th edition, 2011),
page 74. Back
In proceedings on the private notice question the Leader stated,
"Some documentation I have seen suggests that one of my most
distinguished predecessors, my noble friend Lord Carrington, was
not a full member of the Cabinet when he was Leader of your Lordships'
House." (op. cit., col 597.) Lord Carrington was Leader
from October 1963 to October 1964. He was also a Minister without
Portfolio. Hansards from that time list him as a full Cabinet
member. In addition, Lord Carrington in his memoirs twice referred
to being in the Cabinet as Leader: Reflect on things past:
The memoirs of Lord Carrington (1988), pages 183 and 188. Back
Constitution Committee, Constitutional implications of coalition
government (5th Report, Session 2013-14, HL Paper 130), paragraph