How government works

We've put together some information on the main points to help you a long

The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is head of the UK government. He is ultimately responsible for all policy and decisions. He:

  • oversees the operation of the Civil Service and government agencies

  • appoints members of the government

  • is the principal government figure in the House of Commons

The Prime Minister is David Cameron and he is based at Number 10 Downing Street in London.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet is made up of the senior members of government. Every week during Parliament, members of the Cabinet (Secretaries of State from all departments and some other ministers) meet to discuss the most important issues for the government.


Ministers are chosen by the Prime Minister from the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. They are responsible for the actions, successes and failures of their departments.

01 Prime Minister + 21 Cabinet Ministers + 96 Other Ministers = 118 Total Ministers

How the government is run

  • Government departments

Some departments, like the Ministry of Defence, cover the whole UK. Others don’t – the Department for Work and Pensions doesn't cover Northern Ireland. This is because some aspects of government are devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Non-ministerial departments are headed by senior civil servants and not ministers. They usually have a regulatory or inspection function like the Charity Commission.

  • Executive agencies

These are part of government departments and usually provide government services rather than decide policy - which is done by the department that oversees the agency.

An example is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (overseen by theDepartment for Transport).

  • Other public bodies

These have varying degrees of independence but are directly accountable to ministers. There are 4 types of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs).

Executive NDPBs do work for the government in specific areas - for example, the Environment Agency.

Advisory NDPBs provide independent, expert advice to ministers - for example, the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Tribunal NDPBs are part of the justice system and have jurisdiction over a specific area of law - for example, the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Independent monitoring boards are responsible for the running of prisons and treatment of prisoners - for example, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons.

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