Functions of Cabinet Committees
The cabinet committees wield real power of decision on less important general policy matters. Other matters, which must be dealt with in the cabinet, are also whittled in committees. Only the delicate and complex points, or those on which ministers differ, remain for discussion by the cabinet. What has saved the cabinet, as the central decision-making body, is the elaborate network of cabinet committees, which have acted as a clearing house.
This device enables ministers to bargain and compromise with each other and this reduces pressure of work upon the cabinet. Consequently, the cabinet is left free to devote itself to more important matters. The committee system safeguards the principle of collective responsibility, which is an essential feature of the cabinet system.
Thus, ministers of state and deputy ministers who are not members of the cabinet are members of one or more committees. This is a way in which they can and are brought into a closer association with the work of the cabinet. Thus, all ministers continue to be partly responsible for the government’s action. Cabinet committees increase the effectiveness of political control over public services.
The public servants are called upon by the committees to justify their proposals and comment on problems under review. This procedure establishes a close interface between a politicians and public servants and ensures that those who formulate policy are reasonably well informed.
It also eliminates the possibility of any one department carrying a disproportionate weight of opinion. The committees also act as a collective check on individual ministers and on the Prime Minister too. In view of the growth in the volume and complexity of the government business, a proper division of labour and effective delegation within cabinet requires committees to perform functions devolved on them by the cabinet.
They focus supra-ministry attention on particular sectors of administration. Effective coordination is their major contribution. The ad hoc cabinet committees settle specific problems submitted to them and are automatically dissolved as soon as the task is fulfilled. The standing committees have wider competence and their duration is indeterminate.
They may be terminated by the fresh decision of the cabinet or the Prime Minister. The committees are set up either by the cabinet on the proposal of the Prime Minister or directly by the Prime Minister himself. Unlike UK, these committees in India are presided by Prime Minister and their membership is confined only to members of the cabinet. The number of such committees has also been changing from time to time.