Mandelson on 11 out of 19 cabinet committees

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Indy Politics
The key back-room role of Peter Mandelson, Labour's election campaign manager, in the new Government is demonstrated by his appointment on 11 of the 19 cabinet committees created to date.

Although Mr Mandelson, whose official title is Minister without Portfolio, is a junior minister outside the Cabinet, he is on more committees than any other minister, apart from John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who sits on 12.

Mr Mandelson does not chair any of the committees but is on most of the important policy ones, including constitutional reform, future legislation, European issues, welfare-to- work, and food safety.

Although there are the same number as under the last government, more may be created to deal with new initiatives. The fact that several committees encompass important new policy areas which straddle government departments suggests a more collective style of government is being adopted.

The previous prime minister, John Major, tended to take decisions in concert with one or two ministers in meetings at No 10, while the setting-up of committees on, say, welfare-to- work and constitutional reform suggests that decisions on controversial areas will be taken by senior ministers working on these committees.

Mr Major became the first prime minister to disclose the names and membership of cabinet committees shortly after his 1992 general election victory.

Previous prime ministers had been reluctant to reveal the details out of concern that backbench MPs from differing wings of the ruling party would complain that they were not adequately represented on the important committees.

The new Government has abolished four of the committees which existed during Mr Major's premiership: nuclear defence policy, competitiveness, co-ordination and presentation of government policies, and terrorism.

There are four new committees covering devolution, welfare-to-work, the incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as a new group on food safety.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is chairing four of the committees: on constitutional reform policy; Northern Ireland; defence and overseas policy; and the intelligence services. Mr Prescott, chairs the committees on home and social affairs, the environment, local government and London. Ann Taylor, the Leader of the House, is on 10, of which she chairs three.