The Role of the Council
Whilst there are some comparisons that can be made, the Council of Ministers is not a parallel to the United Kingdom Cabinet and what can be learned by a comparison with the United Kingdom Cabinet system is limited. Nor is the Council wholly comparable with the Policy and Resources Committee of a United Kingdom Local Authority which provides central direction to a unitary executive authority with a relatively limited range of functions.
The Council of Ministers exercises both statutory and non-statutory functions. These functions are considered below under the headings of:
- Statutory Functions
- Governor in Council Functions
- Advice to the Governor
- External Relations
- Determining Policy and Priorities
- Resolving Difficulties and Providing Information
Meetings are attended by the following officers:
- Chief Secretary
- Attorney General
- Chief Financial Officer
- Secretary to the Council
- Press Relations Officer
The Council of Ministers Act 1990, which came into operation on the 1st October, 1990, is silent on the functions of the Council save for Sections 6 (5) and 8 (1), which provide respectively :
'6. (5) The Council of Ministers shall consider any papers submitted to it by the Governor.'
'8. (1) Where by any statutory provision or resolution it is provided that a member of any body (other than a committee of Tynwald) shall be elected by Tynwald, the provision or resolution shall have effect as if it provided that the member shall be appointed by the Council of Ministers subject to the approval of Tynwald.'
Apart from the foregoing, the statutory functions of the Council of Ministers are limited. In the main, they are items that arise infrequently and were formerly matters for the Governor. These have been transferred to the Council as part of the review of the Governor's functions and are generally functions for which no other more suitable authority has been identified.
An important statutory reserve power which the Council has is the ability to issue directions to Departments and Statutory Boards in relation to any matter which appears to the Council to affect the public interest.
Governor in Council Functions
The 'Governor in Council' was introduced to the Isle of Man in its present form in 1980 by the Governor's General Functions (Transfer) Act 1980 and the Constitution (Executive Council)(Amendment) Act 1980 which inserted into the Interpretation Act 1976 the following definition:
'The Governor in Council' means the Governor acting on the advice and with the concurrence of Executive Council but not necessarily in the Council assembled. The range of functions where the Governor and the Council act together in this way has been considerably reduced since 1980, with the functions being transferred to Departments or to the Council acting alone.
Some examples of residual Governor in Council functions are:
- recommending certain appointments
- the power (with Tynwald approval) to transfer functions between Departments, establish new Departments, dissolve existing Departments and change the name of a Department
- the appointment of Members of Departments
- Council of Ministers Proceedings