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This article discusses the governmental body, for other meanings see cabinet (disambiguation)

A Cabinet is a body of high-ranking members of government, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers or the Executive Council.

In some countries, particularly those under the Westminster system, the cabinet collectively decides the government's policy and tactical direction, especially in regards to legislation passed by the parliament. In other countries, such as the United States, the cabinet has little collective power or influence over lawmaking, and instead functions largely as an advisory council to the Head of Government. In some countries, cabinets are required to be appointed from sitting members of the legislature.

In most governments, members of the cabinet are given the title of minister, and each hold a different portfolio of government duties ("Minister for the Environment", etc). In a few governments, the title of secretary is also used for some cabinet members. The day-to-day role of most cabinet members is to serve as the head of one segment of the national bureaucracy, as the head civil servant to which all other employees in that department report.


Westminster Cabinets

Under the Westminster system members of the cabinet are collectively seen as responsible for government policy. The ranks of the ministers may be divided into tiers, with some (senior ministers) being members of cabinet (or an "Inner Cabinet"), while others only invited to cabinet meetings to discuss issues relevant to their portfolios. A third category, parliamentary secretaries, similar in function to an assistant minister, exists in some jurisdictions. Parliamentary secretaries do not attend cabinet meetings. All cabinet decisions are made by consensus; voting is not a part of cabinet decision making and a vote would normally never be taken in a cabinet meeting. All ministers, whether members of the cabinet or not, must support the policy of the government publicly regardless of any private reservations. The leader and chair of cabinet (usually the prime minister, although other titles include premier or chief minister) is head of government and is responsible for the allocation of ministerial portfolios. Decisions of cabinet will always require the approval of the prime minister/premier. A reallocation of these portfolios is a cabinet reshuffle. In theory the prime minister/premier is first among equals but in practice the power to expel ministers from the Cabinet and determine their portfolios means that the Prime Minister has a high degree of control over cabinet.

Cabinet deliberations are secret and documents tabled in cabinet are confidential. Most of the documentation associated with Cabinet deliberations will only be publicly released a considerable period after the particular cabinet disbands; for example, thirty years after they are tabled.

The Shadow Cabinet, are the leading members, or frontbenchers, of an opposition party, who generally hold critic portfolios "shadowing" cabinet ministers, questioning their decisions and proposing policy alternatives.

Origins of cabinets

Historically, cabinets are the successors of Privy Councils. The notion of the modern cabinet is credited to the reign of George I and George II; both of whom made use of such a system, as both were non-native English speakers, unfamiliar with British politics, and thus relied heavily on groups of advisors.

European Union

In some European countries and in the institutions of the European Union, a cabinet (pronounced as in French, i.e. IPA /kabiˈne/) carries a different meaning; it refers to the private office of advisors and assistants working directly for a minister or senior executive.

See also

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