Minister without portfolio

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A minister without portfolio is either a government minister with no specific responsibilities or a minister who does not head a particular ministry. The sinecure is particularly common in countries ruled by coalition governments and a cabinet with decision-making authority wherein a minister without portfolio, while he or she may not head any particular office or ministry, does have the right to cast a vote in cabinet decisions. In some countries where the executive branch is not composed of a coalition of parties and, more often, in countries with purely presidential systems of government, such as the United States, the position (or an equivalent position) of minister without portfolio is uncommon.



Bangladesh appoints ministers without portfolio during cabinet reshuffles or fresh appointments. Ministers are not usually appointed without portfolio as a coalition negotiation – all long run ministers end up with a portfolio.



While minister without portfolio is seen by some as a mere sinecure appointment, it has been a role that numerous political notables have played over time, including former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who filled the role in a Pearson cabinet in the 1960s; John Turner also "kept a seat warm" in a Pearson cabinet. Notable Conservatives who filled the role include R. B. Bennett, and Arthur Meighen; however, Meighen served this role after he had been prime minister.

The title of minister without portfolio has been used off and on; in recent times, though, the title has fallen out of favour, and the last minister without portfolio, Gilles Lamontagne, was promoted to postmaster general in 1978. The practice has continued under the guise of ministers of state without responsibilities in the ministers' titles.

The position has also been filled on the federal or provincial level by experienced politicians near the end of their careers as a way of allowing them to counsel the government and take on projects without the burdens associated with administering a government department.


Three "control ministers" served as ministers without portfolio during World War I.

After the Liberation of Denmark in May 1945, the first Danish cabinet included four ministers without portfolio. Among these were Danish ambassador to the U.S. Henrik Kauffmann, who had conducted his own foreign policy throughout the war and refused to follow orders from Copenhagen as long as Denmark remained occupied by a foreign power. Kauffmann served in this capacity from 12 May to 7 November 1945. The three other holders of this title had joined the cabinet a few days before - Aksel Larsen (Communist Party of Denmark), Kr. Juul Christensen (Danish Unity) and Frode Jakobsen (Social Democrats).

Lise Østergaard held a position as minister without portfolio with special attention to foreign policy issues in Anker Jørgensen's cabinet from 26 February 1977 to 28 February 1980.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen appointed Bertel Haarder to Minister without Portfolio, but effectively Minister for European Affairs. Haarder served in this capacity from 27 November 2001 to 18 February 2005. The reason for appointing a minister without a ministry was the Danish European Union Presidency of 2002. Haarder was considered the most experienced Danish politician on European affairs.


Since 1949, a Federal Minister for Special Affairs (Bundesminister für besondere Aufgaben) is a member of the Federal Government that does not have charge of a Federal Ministry, although some have simultaneously been Chief of the Federal Chancellor's Office.




The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1939 (Section 4) allows a member of the Government of Ireland not to have charge of a Department of State; such a person is referred to as a "Minister without portfolio" (Irish: Aire gan Cúram Roinne[1]). Such a minister may nevertheless be given a specific title. The only substantive minister without portfolio has been Frank Aiken, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures during World War II.[2] By the Emergency Powers Act 1939 then in force, the Minister for Defence was able to delegate some competences to him.[3][4] Such delegation is now done instead[citation needed] with Ministers of State: "junior ministers" who are not members of the government. Junior ministers can be given a right to sit at cabinet; they are often known colloquially as "super-juniors." This allows the Government to circumvent the Constitutional limit on the number of Senior Ministers.

On several occasions a minister has been appointed to an incoming government with the title of a new Department of State. Between the date of appointment and the date of creation of the department, such a minister was technically a minister without portfolio.[5] Examples include:

Title Govt Minister Appt to govt Dept created Dept
Minister of Economic Planning and Development 21st Dáil Martin O'Donoghue 8 July 1977[6][7] 13 December 1977[8][9] Department of Economic Planning and Development
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform 31st Dáil Brendan Howlin 9 March 2011[10] 6 July 2011[11][12] Department of Public Expenditure and Reform


It is common practice in Israel to appoint ministers without portfolio as part of the coalition negotiations. All cabinets in recent years have had at least some such appointment. The Governance Law passed in 2013 forbade Ministers Without Portfolio effectively ending the practice, however in spite of some objections, after the 2015 elections this issue was revisited in the Knesset and it was allowed for the practice to resume. The full alphabetical list of Ministers without Portfolio since 1949 is:


In the Italian government, Ministers without Portfolio are nominated by the President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) and formally appointed by the President of the Republic to lead particular departments directly under the Presidency (or Presidium) of the Council of Ministers. Unlike the office of State Undersecretary to the Presidency, who fulfils duties in the Prime Minister's remit, Ministers without Portfolio enjoy the full status of ministers but do not lead an independent ministry. Departments on equalities, European affairs and relations with regions, for example, are usually led by ministers without portfolio.

The Monti Cabinet had 6 ministers without portfolio:

The Letta Cabinet had 8 ministers without portfolio:

The Renzi Cabinet has 3 ministers without portfolio:

Republic of Macedonia[edit]

As of 2012, ministers without portfolio (министер без ресор) are:


Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat.[14]


A Minister without Portfolio in the Netherlands is a minister that does not head a specific ministry, but assumes the same power and responsibilities as a minister that does. The minister is responsible for a specific part of another minister's policy field. In that sense, a minister without portfolio is comparable to a staatssecretaris (state secretary/junior minister) in Dutch politics, who also falls under another ministry and is responsible for a specific part of that minister's policy field. However, one distinct difference is the fact that a minister without portfolio is a member of the council of ministers and can vote in it, whereas a state secretary is not. The minister for development cooperation has always been a minister without portfolio.

In the second Balkenende cabinet there were three ministers without portfolio: Agnes van Ardenne (Development Cooperation), Rita Verdonk (Integration and Immigration) and Alexander Pechtold (Government Reform and Kingdom Relations).

In the fourth Balkenende cabinet there were three ministers without portfolio: Eberhard van der Laan (Housing, Neighbourhoods and Integration), Bert Koenders (Development Cooperation) and André Rouvoet, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Youth and Family.

The second Rutte cabinet has two ministers without portfolio: Stef Blok (Housing and the Central Government Sector) and Lilianne Ploumen (Development Cooperation).

New Zealand[edit]

In the First Labour Government from 1935 the Hon. Mark Fagan was a "Minister without Portfolio" from 1935 to 1939, as was the Hon. David Wilson from 1939 to 1949. They were appointed to the upper house and made a "minister without portfolio" to add them to the cabinet although neither were elected to a seat in Parliament.

In the Third National Government, Keith Holyoake was made a Minister of State 1975–77 after he had retired as party leader, and in the Fourth National Government Robin Gray was made a Minister of State 1993–96 after he had retired as Speaker (though he was also Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs). Both appointments were considered sinecures to avoid their return as 'backbenchers'.


From 2009 to 2013 Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen (Labour) was a Minister without Portfolio and Chief of Staff in the Prime Ministers Office, where his job was to co-ordinate within government.


During the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, then-Senate President Manuel Roxas was appointed Minister without Portfolio by the Japanese Government.[citation needed]


Following the Carnation revolution, several politicians were made ministers without portfolio:


From 2007 to 2008, Dragan Đilas was a "minister without portfolio" in charge of the National Investment Plan.

Republic of China (Taiwan)[edit]

In the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China there are several such ministers, at one time. Currently, the ministers without portfolio are:[15]



President Jakaya Kikwete appointed Professor Mark Mwandosya as a minister without portfolio in 2012.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, it is often a cabinet position, and is sometimes used to get people such as the Chairman of the Conservative Party or the Labour Party Chairman into cabinet meetings (if so, they hold the title of "Party Chairman"). The sinecure positions of Lord Privy Seal and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which have few responsibilities and have a higher rank in the Order of Precedence than Minister without Portfolio can also be used for similar effect.

19th century[edit]

Name Portrait Concurrent office(s) Tenure Political party Prime Minister
William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland 3rd Duke of Portland 1804.jpg January 1805 – February 1806 Whig William Pitt the Younger
William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam 2ndEarlFitzwilliam.jpg October 1806 – March 1807 William Grenville
(Ministry of All the Talents)
William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland 3rd Duke of Portland 1804.jpg 4 – 30 October 1809 Tory Spencer Perceval
Dudley Ryder, 1st Earl of Harrowby 1stEarlOfHarrowby.jpg November 1809 – June 1812 Tory (Pittite)
John Pratt, 2nd Earl Camden (created 1st Marquess Camden, August 1812) 1stMarquessCamden.JPG 8 April – December 1812 Tory
Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool
Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave by Sir William Beechey.jpg January 1819 – May 1820
Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne Lord Henry Petty.jpg April – July 1827 Whig George Canning
William Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland July – September 1827 Tory (Canningite)
George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle 22 November 1830 – 5 June 1834 Whig Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.png 3 September 1841 – July 1846 Conservative Robert Peel
Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne Lord Henry Petty.jpg 28 December 1852 – 21 February 1858 Whig George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen
(until February 1855)
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
John Russell Lord John Russell.jpg February 1853 – June 1854 George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen
Spencer Horatio Walpole Spencer Horatio Walpole.JPG May 1867 – February 1868 Conservative Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby
Michael Hicks Beach Michael Hicks Beach, Lock & Whitfield woodburytype, 1876-84.jpg 7 March 1887 – 20 February 1888 Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

Edwardian and wartime[edit]

Name Portrait Concurrent office(s) Tenure Political party Prime Minister
Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne Marquess of Lansdowne.jpg 25 May 1915 – December 1916 Liberal Unionist H. H. Asquith
Arthur Henderson 1910 Arthur Henderson.jpg Member of the War Cabinet 10 December 1916 – 12 August 1917 Labour David Lloyd George
Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount Milner Lord Milner.jpg 10 December 1916 – 18 April 1918 Conservative
Jan Smuts Jan Smuts 1947.jpg 22 June 1917 – 10 January 1919 South African Party
Edward Carson Sir Edward Carson, bw photo portrait seated.jpg 17 July 1917 – 21 January 1918 Ulster Unionist Party (Irish Unionist)
George Barnes George Nicoll Barnes in 1916.jpg Member of the War Cabinet (until October 1919) 13 August 1917 – 27 January 1920 Labour
Austen Chamberlain Laszlo - The Rt. Hon. Sir Austen Chamberlain.jpg Member of the War Cabinet 18 April 1918 – 10 January 1919 Conservative
Eric Campbell Geddes Sir Eric Campbell-Geddes in 1917.jpg 10 January – 31 October 1919
Laming Worthington-Evans Laming Worthington Evans.jpg Member of the War Cabinet (until October 1919) 10 January 1919 – 13 February 1921
Christopher Addison Christopher Addison, 1st Viscount Addison.jpg 1 April – 14 July 1921 Liberal
Anthony Eden Sir Anthony-Eden number 10 Official.jpg Minister for League of Nations affairs 7 June – 22 December 1935 Conservative Stanley Baldwin
Eustace Percy Portrait of Lord Eustace Percy.jpg 7 June 1935 – 31 March 1936
Leslie Burgin Minister of Supply-designate 21 April – 14 July 1939 National Liberal Party Neville Chamberlain
Maurice Hankey Maurice Hankey.jpg Member of the War Cabinet September 1939 – 10 May 1940 no party Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Greenwood ArthurGreenwood2.jpg 11 May 1940 – 22 February 1942 Labour Winston Churchill
William Jowitt William Allen Jowitt c1945.jpg 30 December 1942 – 8 October 1944


Name Portrait Concurrent office(s) Tenure Political party Prime Minister
A. V. Alexander INF3-62 A V Alexander Artist's signature E A B.jpg 4 October – 20 December 1946 Labour Co-operative Clement Attlee
Arthur Greenwood ArthurGreenwood2.jpg 17 April – 29 September 1947 Labour
Geoffrey FitzClarence, 5th Earl of Munster 18 October 1954 – 1957 Conservative Winston Churchill
Anthony Eden
Stormont Mancroft, 2nd Baron Mancroft 11 June 1957 – 1958 Harold Macmillan
Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, 11th Earl of Dundee 23 October 1958 – 1961 Unionist
Percy Mills, 1st Baron Mills Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 9 October 1961 – 14 July 1962 Conservative
Bill Deedes 13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Alec Douglas-Home
Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington Peter Carington.PNG Leader of the House of Lords 20 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
Eric Fletcher 19 October 1964 – 6 April 1966 Labour Harold Wilson
Arthur Champion, Baron Champion Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 21 October 1964 – 7 January 1967
Douglas Houghton 6 April 1966 – 7 January 1967
Edward Shackleton, Baron Shackleton Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 7 January 1967 – 16 January 1968
Patrick Gordon Walker 7 January – 21 August 1967
George Thomson 17 October 1968 – 6 October 1969
Peter Shore 6 October 1969 – 19 June 1970
Niall Macpherson, 1st Baron Drumalbyn 15 October 1970 – 1974 Unionist Ted Heath
Morys Bruce, 4th Baron Aberdare 8 January – March 1974 Conservative
David Young, Baron Young of Graffham Lord young of Graffham.jpg advising on unemployment 11 September 1984 – 3 September 1985 Margaret Thatcher
Jeremy Hanley Chairman of the Conservative Party 20 July 1994 – 5 July 1995
Brian Mawhinney 5 July 1995 – 2 May 1997
Peter Mandelson Peter Mandelson - WEF.jpg called the "Dome Secretary" 2 May 1997 – 27 July 1998 Labour Tony Blair

21st century[edit]

Name Portrait Concurrent office(s) Tenure Political party Prime Minister
Charles Clarke CharlesClarke2014.jpg Labour Party Chair 9 June 2001 – October 2002 Labour Tony Blair
John Reid John Reid on his last day as Home Secretary, June 2007.jpg 24 October 2002 – April 2003
Ian McCartney 4 April 2003 – May 2006
Hazel Blears Hazel Blears, June 2009 2 cropped.jpg 5 May 2006 – June 2007
no appointment 28 June 2007 – May 2010 Gordon Brown
Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Warsi Baroness Warsi Official.jpg Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party 12 May 2010 – September 2012 Conservative David Cameron
Grant Shapps Grant Shapps Official.jpg 4 September 2012 – May 2015
Ken Clarke Kenneth-clarke-hi-res.jpg trade envoy 4 September 2012 – July 2014
John Hayes John Henry Hayes.jpg Senior Parliamentary Adviser to the Prime Minister (Cabinet Office) 28 March 2013 – July 2014
Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Minister.jpg Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party 11 May 2015 – present David Cameron

United States[edit]

In the United States, an individual who has great influence on government affairs without holding formal office might be described as a "minister without portfolio". Such an appellation is completely unofficial (possibly intended jokingly or disparagingly) and merely serves to underscore the extent of the individual's already-existing influence; it does not grant any new influence or power. Examples include Bernard Baruch[16] and Arthur Burns.[17]

As the Vice President of the United States influences policy insofar as the president allows,[18] the role of vice president is similar to that of a minister without portfolio.


  1. ^ "Minister without Portfolio". Focal. Foras na Gaeilge. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Chubb, Basil (1982). Government & Politics of Ireland (2nd ed.). Stanford University Press. p. 170. ISBN 0-8047-1115-1. 
  3. ^ Emergency Powers Act, 1939; §6 Delegation of statutory powers and duties.
  4. ^ S.I. No. 157/1944 — Air-Raid Precautions (Approval of Expenditure by Essential Undertakers) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations, 1944.
  5. ^ "Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, 1977: Fifth Stage.". Dáil debates. Oireachtas. 10 November 1977. Retrieved 8 May 2012. The Minister for Economic Planning and Development is a member of the Government not having charge of a Department of State, who is therefore, under section 4 (2) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939 a Minister without portfolio. His title is not derived from the title of a Department of which he is head, because it does not exist, but it is a title that has been assigned to him by the Government pursuant to section 4 (3) of the 1939 Act. 
  6. ^ "Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government.". Dáil debates. Oireachtas. 5 July 1977. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Mr. Martin O'Donoghue". Dáil Éireann Members Database. Oireachtas. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1977 Section 2". Irish Statute Book. Attorney General. 6 December 1977. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "S.I. No. 377/1977 — Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1977 (Appointed Day) Order, 1977.". Irish Statute Book. Attorney General. 9 December 1977. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Appointment of Ministers and Ministers of State". Dáil debates. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 2011, Section 7". Irish Statute Book. Dublin: Attorney General. 4 July 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  12. ^ "S.I. No. 401/2011 — Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 2011 (Appointed Day) Order 2011.". Irish Statute Book. Dublin: Attorney General. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  13. ^ "Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica 30 gennaio 2015 - Accettazione delle dimissioni della dott.ssa Maria Carmela LANZETTA dalla carica di Ministro senza portafoglio. (15A00810) (GU Serie Generale n.27 del 3-2-2015)". The official website of the Gazzetta Ufficiale. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Bauman, Michael (1984-06-27). "Mysterious Baruch". Milwaukee Journal. p. 18. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  17. ^ "The Administration: Minister Without Portfolio". Time. 1969-02-07. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Baumgartner, Jody C. (1 Jan 2006). The American Vice Presidency Reconsidered. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 127. ISBN 9780275988906. 

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