Ministers without Portfolio: Responsibilities

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at on 23 November 2023.

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Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

What the responsibilities of the Ministers without Portfolio are.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

What the responsibilities of the Ministers without Portfolio are.

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister without Portfolio

Ministers without Portfolio contribute to the policy and decision-making process of a Government. It is routine for the chair of the governing party to be made a Minister without Portfolio. As such, they serve as a member of the Cabinet. My role as a Cabinet Office Minister is to provide scrutiny and oversight across all Departments to ensure that we deliver best value for the public.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I welcome the right hon. Lady back to the Front Bench. If a Prime Minister needs to install a Minister for common sense, is that an admission that they do not really have any?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister without Portfolio

I have seen the reports in the paper describing me as the Minister of common sense. I appreciate that the concept is difficult for Opposition Members to grasp. I am committed to delivering common-sense decisions, such as delaying the ban on petrol and diesel cars, delaying the ban on oil and gas boilers, scrapping High Speed 2 from Birmingham to Manchester and reducing the overseas budget—all common-sense policies that those on the Opposition Benches have voted against. Those on the Government Benches are full of common sense. I am building on all those policies.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

I welcome the Minister to her post. If her Front Bench is full of common sense, which will she tackle first: a Home Secretary who thinks that Stockton North is a proverbial toilet; a Foreign Secretary who, during a critical time in geopolitics, is not even accountable to this House; or a Transport Secretary whose Network North plan thinks that Manchester is in Preston?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister without Portfolio

First of all, I did not hear my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary say the comments that the hon. Member repeated; as far as I am aware, he has denied saying them. As I said, I am building on the success of this Government. Let me give another: the biggest permanent tax cuts in modern British history announced yesterday—cutting taxes, not like the Opposition, who want more borrowing and spending.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on her new role. Will it include the possibility of re-examining the vaccine damage payment scheme, which has been described at the public inquiry as not fit for purpose? The £120,000 maximum payment has not been increased since 2007, and the 60% disability threshold is causing a massive injustice. Will she address those issues, please?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister without Portfolio

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing this matter, which he has worked extremely hard on, to the attention of the House. I am grateful for that suggestion; I will take it away and come back with further information.

Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)

I congratulate the new Minister without Portfolio on her position, and I wish her well. Having seen the Prime Minister’s struggles using a contactless card at a petrol station, and his impression that a private helicopter is the best way to get to Southampton, I think he probably was in need of some common sense, so it is no surprise that the right hon. Lady has been referred to in that way. Given she is in the market for some common-sense ideas, I suggest that the Government adopt a policy that people who live here pay taxes on all their income, and abolish the non-dom tax status. Perhaps she could cast her mind to abolishing the tax breaks for private schools, and spend that money on the 93% who go to state schools. Is it just the case that this Government are totally out of common sense and ideas?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister without Portfolio

It does not surprise me that those on the Labour Benches attack private schools, which lots of parents want to send their children to. For them, that is common sense. For them, that is freedom of choice, which I stand by. Of course, should they close private schools down, the public sector would have to find billions more to fund it: again, not value for money—something that I am here to deliver—from Labour.