Til bevillingsoversigt

The legislative impact of cabinet committees

Visiting Fellowships at University of Oxford


Ministers holds de jure responsibility of affairs under the jurisdiction of their departmental area. But cabinets also have informal hierarchies, which means that some ministers de facto make decisions on other ministers' departmental areas. One of the more formalized manifestations of such hierarchies within modern day cabinets are cabinet committees. Committee members are superior to non-members. This concept of top ministers making decisions outside their own departmental area is most likely to affect the legislative process and the content of the legislation. This project will investigate the degree to which this is the case and compare and contrast the extent hereof across European parliamentary democracies.


In contemporary political science many studies have focused on executive control over the legislative agenda and process, while other strands of research investigate internal decision making in cabinet. The aim of this project is to combine these two subdisciplines. It remains unanswered, how internal cabinet decision making affect the legislative process and how this varies across different parliamentary democracies. Answering these questions requires an investigation of the role of cabinet committees, which have been particularly neglected in legislative studies. By bridging studies of internal cabinet decision making processes with legislative studies this project seeks to gain a new and better understanding of executive-legislative relations in parliamentary democracies.


It remains unanswered, how cabinet committees affect the legislative process and how this varies across different parliamentary democracies. To investigate this issue, this project will, firstly, include an in-depth examination of cabinet committees in selected European countries focusing on their role in the legislative process. Secondly, as an extension of this, a comparative analysis of crucial, comparable public sector reforms in selected European countries will be carried out focusing on the impact of cabinet committees. The expectations are that cabinet committees affect both legislative organization and consequently policy, but the scope and extend of this could vary across countries due to different characteristics of the respective political systems.


Holding executive office is important for controlling the legislative agenda in parliamentary democracies. This makes ministers key figures in authoritative allocation of values in these societies. Consequently, cabinet committees are also of obvious societal interest. Yet, at least theoretically, the impact of cabinet committees is not democratically unproblematic. Permanent members of central cabinet committees deal intensively with matters outside their own departmental area. This does not imply specialized expertise in decision making, which could affect policy negatively, and it creates unclear patterns of political responsibility. We need extensive studies of cabinet committees to grasp the extent of potential problems related to their function and what can be done to contain them.