Why do All the Ministers Have to be Members of the HOC?

So… why do all the ministers have to be members of the House of Commons?

They don’t.

Right now there is the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor for the transitional period, The Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC.

A complete list of all Ministers here

Sorry, I probably should have mentioned I live in Canada and am refering to Canadian ministers, though I don’t think that would really make a difference.

I checked here and all the ministers listed do belong to the HoC.

Also, I was always under the impression that chosing ministers only from parliament was an old tradition. Was I mistaken?

I would say it’s got to do with departmental responsibilty. The Liberals could make whoever they want Finance Minister, but it probably wouldn’t play well with the electorate. Assuming something happens with regards to a surplus or something related, who would the opposition parties question in the house on this matter? The assistant to the Minister? Seems like it would be a lot of work to keep an assistant briefed on all the financial issues. Might as well make him the Minister.

Hope that makes sense…if not I’ll be back in the morning to try again.

There is no legal requirement that ministers of the Crown be members of the House of Commons. For example, the government leader in the Senate is a member of the Cabinet, and two Prime Ministers (Abbott and Bowell) sat in the Senate.

There is, however, a very strong constitutional convention that the ministers must be elected so that they can represent their departments in the Commons and be responsible to the Commons for the conduct of the department. That is the essence of responsible government in the British Parliamentary system: the executive branch is directly responsible to the legislative branch for their conduct of public affairs. A minister who is not in the Commons fails to meet this basic requirement. You can imagine the scene in Question Period:

Opposition MP: I have a very important question for the Honourable Minister of Whatchamacallits and Thingummybobs.

Government MP: Well, the Minister of of Whatchamacallits and Thingummybobs is not present in the House because he hasn’t got a seat.

Opposition MP (outraged): This is just another example of this Government’s contempt for this House and its duty to account to the people’s representatives. Every day the Minister of of Whatchamacallits and Thingummybobs fails to appear to account for himself is another day of the decline of this Government’s overall accountability… [etc.]

A person who is not a member of the Commons can be appointed to the Cabinet, but they must seek election to the Commons as quickly as possible. For example, Prime Minister Chrétien appointed Brian Tobin to the Cabinet. Since Tobin didn’t have a seat, a party stalwart in Newfoundland resigned his seat so that Tobin could run in the by-election.

In the bicameral Australian parliaments (the Commonwealth and the states of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania), government ministers can be members of either house of parliament. However, the constitutional convention also applies (as in the UK and Canada), that the Government leader (Prime Minister or Premier) must have a seat in the lower house of parliament. As an example of how the convention works:

In December 1967 the Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt, disappeared while swimming at a Victorian beach, and was presumed drowned. In the subsequent party room ballot for the leader’s position held on 9 January 1968, the successful candidate was John Gorton, who was sworn in as Prime Minister the next day. However, Gorton was a Senator, and **not ** a member of the House of Representatives - thus becoming the first Senator to have been appointed Australia’s Prime Minister. Convention decreed that Gorton get into the lower house of parliament as quickly as possible.

Gorton resigned from the Senate on 31 January 1968 to contest the by-election for the now vacant seat of Higgins (previously held by the deceased Harold Holt). He thus became, for a short space of time, a Prime Minister without a seat in parliament. On 24 February 1968 Gorton easily won the seat of Higgins, thus returning to parliament as a member of the House of Representatives.

Northern, during the Trudeau era, weren’t a certain number of western Senators appointed to Cabinet, simply because there were no Liberals from the Prairies in the H of C, and it was considered bad form to leave such a large area totally unrepresented?

From Eugene Forsey’s “How Canadians Govern Themselves” http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/library/idb/forsey/toc-e.asp

Thanks, Muffin. I’d forgotten Joe Clark appointing Quebec Senators to Cabinet. Of course, it’s easy to forget that government altogether.

Joe Who?