The Council of Ministers is the highest level decision-making body within the Isle of Man Government. It consists of eight Ministers and the Chief Minister and is supported at meetings by a small number officers who are on hand to provide specialist advice.
Its purpose is to set national and international policy, consider issues of critical national importance and provide clear leadership to the Departments, Offices and Statutory Boards which make up the Government.
Council of Ministers functions
As part of its key function to determine policy and priorities, Council considers proposals from Treasury for the annual Budget, and decides on the legislation to be brought forward from across Government during its term in office. Important matters concerning the Island’s relations with other countries will also come before Council for consideration.
Council can appoint committees and working groups to consider and report on specific issues, and these are not always composed entirely of members of Council. Standing committees consider ongoing matters of national importance such as such as security and economic development, while an ad-hoc committee may look at a pressing current issue.
Current committees, working groups and boards and their terms of reference.
Council of Ministers also has some limited statutory decision-making functions - these are functions determined or required by law. An example of this is the statutory power to issue formal directions to Departments and Statutory Boards to take a particular action in the public interest.
Five year programme
Following a General Election, the Council of Ministers draws-up a five year programme to confirm key objectives for their term of administration, the outcomes they wish to see and strategies to achieve them.
Our Island Plan 2021 – 2026 was approved by Tynwald in early 2022 and sets out proposals for building great communities, improving the health and well-being of the population, sustaining and diversifying the economy, protecting the environment and creating lifelong learning and development opportunities for all.
The Ministerial Code provides clear guidance on standards of conduct for Ministers and sets out their duties and responsibilities to Council, Tynwald and their Departments. The Code also covers Ministers’ constituency, private and financial interests.
The Code is not a rule book but a set of guidelines on how Ministers should act and arrange their affairs to uphold the standards. This includes observing Lord Nolan’s Seven Principles of Public Life – these are set out in the Code.
Council meets weekly on a Thursday in the Council Chamber at Government Office in Douglas, although meetings can be held at any time at the discretion of the Chief Minister. Council meetings are an opportunity for Ministers to explore topics of the day and make decisions.
An agenda and papers for discussion are circulated in advance and decisions are usually reached by consensus. Collective responsibility applies to the decisions made by Council, and this concept is described in detail in the Ministerial Code. In general terms, collective responsibility requires that Ministers are able to express their views freely and frankly in private, whilst maintaining a united position when decisions have been reached in relation to the Statement of Intent; the Island Plan; the annual Budget; and policy decisions on matters of national importance.
Minutes of meetings are taken and circulated with documentation at the next meeting. A monthly extract of Council proceedings is subsequently published on the Government website. Although there has been a delay in publishing these for 2022, work is now under way. You may notice that the extracts use language such as 'approved' or 'noted'. That is because different types of papers require a different response or action from Council.
Papers are submitted to Council by Government departments. These can be for approval, to seek direction or supplied for information only. In general, the following definitions are applied:
Seek Approval - a paper asking Council for a decision on a matter that has been clearly laid out by the submitting Department with recommendations.
Seek Direction - the paper seeks to establish Council's broad position on a topic or proposal. In other words, departments are seeking a 'steer' from Council on the direction of a particular policy area.
Information Only - departments provide factual information for noting by Council
Council meetings are attended by the following officers:
- Chief Secretary
- Her Majesty’s Attorney General
- Chief Financial Officer
- Secretary to the Council of Ministers
- Head of Government Communications