Should the number of Ministers be limited?

A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand proposes that Cabinet be limited to a maximum of 20 people.

New Zealand currently has 21 Ministers in Cabinet, six Ministers outside Cabinet, and one Parliamentary under-secretary.

All of the full Cabinet ministers are members of the National Party. Four of the Ministers outside Cabinet are junior National Party ministers with relatively minor portfolios. Two are members of minor political parties (The Māori Party and United Future) who negotiated for a ministerial portfolio as part of a confidence and supply agreement. The under-secretary is ACT’s David Seymour.

The Prime Minister decides how many ministers and parliamentary under-secretaries there are, as well as their portfolios and whether they sit inside or outside of Cabinet.

The large number of Ministers and under-secretaries gives the Government a high degree of influence over Parliament. Ministers are bound by Cabinet collective responsibility and have to support Cabinet decisions whether they agree or not. Twenty-five of National’s 58 MPs are Ministers.

Backbench government MPs do not see their role as holding the government to account.

Once a decision is made in Cabinet, it is highly likely that it will also be supported by Parliament.

A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand proposes to limit Cabinet to a maximum of 20 members. It also allows for up to five ministers outside Cabinet to be appointed.

It proposes to abolish the post of under-secretary, which in constitutional terms is an unsatisfactory hybrid between an MP and a minister.

These limits on Cabinet membership are a reflection of our view that the size of the Executive has been swollen for political reasons concerned with control of Parliament. Ministerial portfolios are being split up in order to tempt other parties when negotiating confidence and supply agreements. More than 25 ministers cannot be justified by the amount of work involved.

What are your views?

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