In a report published today the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee calls for fewer ministerial reshuffles. 

The Committee concludes:

  • Some reshuffling of ministers is inevitable because of resignations and illness but reshuffles have become a habit in the UK.  There should always be a good reason for a reshuffle. 
  • There will be times when a fresh perspective is useful, but most major Government policies will benefit from having continuity of Ministers in the responsible Department.
  • There should be an expectation that Secretaries of State are left in post for the length of a Parliament and more junior Ministers for a minimum of two years.
  • The majority of the Committee concluded that there should be a specific Minister in the Cabinet Office who is responsible for ministerial development.  He or she should oversee ministerial training and appraisal. 
  • There should be compulsory training for all new Ministers, continuous professional development for experienced Ministers and basic ministerial training for shadow Ministers in the 12 months before the expected date of a general election. 
  • Outgoing Ministers should handover directly to their successors, rather than relying exclusively on the civil service to conduct handovers.

Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “Reshuffles are damaging to the effectiveness of individual Ministers and of Government as a whole.  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 proceeded by months of speculation about who will move where, which in itself causes a kind of paralysis within Government.
“I welcome the fact that the current Prime Minister has had only one reshuffle.  I hope our report will encourage future Prime Ministers to follow his example.  We call for Secretaries of State to be left in post for the length of a Parliament.  Taken together with the advent of fixed-term Parliaments, this should enable them to make a real difference.

“We heard a great deal of evidence about the irrationality of reshuffles.  We recognise that, at their heart, reshuffles are political events.  But our report makes some recommendations to improve training, feedback and handovers, which are aimed at making the process more rational.”