Of the UK government’s 100-odd ministers – secretaries of state and junior ministers – the ones who receive the most attention are based in the House of Commons. However, a small but important number of ministers sit in the House of Lords. Most, but not all, government departments are assigned a Lords minister to represent them in the Upper House. Lords ministers are generally considered junior ministers, and like other junior ministers report to their department’s secretary of state.
Commons and Lords ministers perform a similar role. They are responsible for implementing the government’s policies and taking legislation through parliament. They oversee policy, spending and the management of public services in their department, and are accountable to parliament for this work.
But the way that Lords ministers approach the role, and the support they are given to undertake it, can be very different from their Commons counterparts. So too can the background from which they come into the position.
Commons ministers must already be MPs and will usually have several years’ experience in parliament before they become a part of government. But dependent on how and when they are appointed, Lords ministers may have no previous experience in government or parliament, with many of them coming from the private sector. Previous experience can have a big effect on how an individual adapts to their new role – a process that sometimes takes place at very short notice.
This paper explores the experience of previous Lords ministers to offer insight into the role and provide advice for anyone becoming a Lords minister. It is the latest in the Institute for Government’s Becoming… series, and follows previous papers on becoming prime minister, secretary of state and a junior minister.