'The minister for human resources': MPs want Whitehall HR chief

Who administers the ministers? Another red box needed, MPs argue.
Who administers the ministers? Another red box needed, MPs argue. Photo: Politicalpictures.co.uk
Alex Stevenson By

Ministers need a minister to train them to be better ministers, a group of non-ministers has concluded, in a clear-cut case of ministerial overdrive.

MPs made the suggestion in a report presenting a broader range of proposals to enhance the job performance of those who govern the country.

The Commons' political and constitutional reform committee divided on the issue, with some members arguing that ministerial development should be a task for the prime minister and Cabinet ministers.

"However, the majority of us believe that there should be a specific minister in the Cabinet Office — who themselves attends Cabinet — who is responsible for ministerial development," the report stated.


"Ideally, this should be an experienced minister, who is in a position to oversee the development of his or her colleagues without being open to the charge of self-interest."

MPs suggested this figure would work with the Institute for Government think-tank, which already provides a degree of informal support for ministers, "to provide continuous professional development sessions".

They also called for compulsory training for all new ministers and basic training for shadow ministers in the run-up to a general election.

Not all will believe veteran Cabinet ministers like Ken Clarke would agree to submit to such a programme, however.

The report made clear it opposed the churn caused by regular reshuffles, which it warned had become a "habit" in Britain.

MPs said secretaries of state should expect to remain in their post for an entire parliament, while ministers remain in place for a minimum of two years.

"Reshuffles are damaging to the effectiveness of individual ministers and of government as a whole," committee chair Graham Allen said.

"They also hinder parliament’s ability to hold government to account. In the UK, we've got used to having reshuffles every couple of years, but other countries manage very well without them.

"Every time there is a reshuffle, it is preceded by months of speculation about who will move where, which in itself causes a kind of paralysis within government."

Westminster is awash with rumours of a potential reshuffle in the next few weeks, as David Cameron looks to bolster up his right-wing credentials in the run-up to the next general election.

"We recognise that, at their heart, reshuffles are political events," Allan acknowledged.

"But our report makes some recommendations to improve training, feedback and handovers, which are aimed at making the process more rational."

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