Minister without portfolio

A minister without portfolio is either a government minister with no specific responsibilities or a minister that does not head a particular ministry. The sinecure position is particularly common in countries ruled by coalition governments and a cabinet with decision making authority wherein a minister without portfolio, while he or she may not head any particular office or ministry, does have the right to cast a vote in cabinet decisions. In some countries where the executive branch is not composed of a coalition of parties and, more often, in countries with purely presidential systems of government, such as the United States, the position (or an equivalent position) of minister without portfolio is uncommon.





While Minister without Portfolio is seen by some as a mere patronage appointment, it has been a role that numerous political notables have played over time, including former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who filled the role in a Pearson cabinet in the 60s; John Turner also "kept a seat warm" in a Pearson cabinet. Notable Conservatives who filled the role include R. B. Bennett, and Arthur Meighen; however, Meighen served this role after he had been prime minister.

The title of Minister without Portfolio has been used off and on; however, in recent times the title has fallen out of favour, and the last minister without portfolio, Gilles Lamontagne, was promoted to postmaster general in 1978. The practice has continued under the guise of ministers of state without responsibilities in the ministers' title, with Jay Hill currently holding such a position (while concurrently serving as Chief Government Whip).


Three "control ministers" served as Ministers without Portfolio during World War I.

After the Liberation of Denmark in May 1945, the first Danish cabinet included four Ministers without Portfolio. Among these were Danish ambassador to the U.S. Henrik Kauffmann who had conducted his own foreign policy throughout the war and refused to follow orders from Copenhagen as long as Denmark remained occupied by a foreign power. Kauffmann served in this capacity from 12 May to 7 November 1945. The three other holders of this title had joined the cabinet a few days before; Aksel Larsen (Communist Party of Denmark), Kr. Juul Christensen (Danish Unity) and Frode Jakobsen (Social Democrats).

Lise Østergaard held a position as Minister without Portfolio with special attention to Foreign Policy Issues in Anker Jørgensen's cabinet from 26 February 1977 to 28 February 1980.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen appointed Bertel Haarder to Minister without Portfolio but effectively Minister for European Affairs. Haarder served in this capacity from 27 November 2001 to 18 February 2005. The reason for appointing a minister without a ministry was due to the Danish European Union Presidency of 2002 and Haarder was considered the most experienced Danish politician on European Affairs.


Since 1949, a Federal Minister for Special Affairs (Bundesminister für besondere Aufgaben) is a member of the Federal Government that does not have charge of a Federal Ministry, although some have simultaneously been Chief of the Federal Chancellor's Office.



The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1939 (Section 4) allows a member of the Government of Ireland not to have charge of a Department of State; such a person is referred to as a "Minister without portfolio" (Irish: Aire gan ceannas Roinne). Such a minister may nevertheless be given a specific title. The only minster without portfolio has been Frank Aiken, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures during World War II.[1] By the Emergency Powers Act 1939 then in force, the Minister for Defence was able to delegate some competences to him.[2][3] Such delegation is now done instead with Ministers of State: "junior ministers" who are not members of the government.


It is common practice in Israel to appoint ministers without portfolio as part of the coalition negotiations. All cabinets in recent years have had at least some such appointment. The full alphabetical list of Ministers without Portfolio since 1949 is:


In the Italian government, Ministers without Portfolio are nominated by the President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) and formally appointed by the President of the Republic to lead particular departments directly under the Presidency (or Presidium) of the Council of Ministers. Unlike the office of State Undersecretary to the Presidency, who fulfils duties in the Prime Minister's remit, Ministers without Portfolio enjoy the full status of ministers but do not lead an independent ministry. Departments on equalities, European affairs and relations with Regions, for example, are usually led by ministers without portfolio.

The last Berlusconi IV Cabinet has had 11 ministers without portfolio:

The current Monti Cabinet has 5 ministers without portfolio:

  • Pietro Giarda (Parliament)
  • Fabrizio Barca (Territorial cohesion)
  • Piero Gnudi (Tourism and sport)
  • Enzo Moavero Milanesi (European affairs)
  • Andrea Riccardi (International cooperation)


A Minister without Portfolio in the Netherlands is a minister that does not head a specific ministry, but assumes the same power and responsibilities as a minister that does. The minister is responsible for a specific part of another minister's policy field. In that sense, a minister without portfolio is comparable to a staatssecretaris (state secretary/junior minister) in Dutch politics, who also falls under another ministry and is responsible for a specific part of that minister's policy field. However, one distinct difference is the fact that a minister without portfolio is a member of the council of ministers and can vote in it, whereas a state secretary is not. The minister for development cooperation has always been a minister without portfolio.

In the second Balkenende cabinet there were three ministers without portfolio: Agnes van Ardenne (Development Cooperation), Rita Verdonk (Integration and Immigration) and Alexander Pechtold (Government Reform and Kingdom Relations).

In the fourth Balkenende cabinet there are three ministers without portfolio: Eberhard van der Laan (Housing, Neighbourhoods and Integration), Bert Koenders (Development Cooperation) and André Rouvoet, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Youth and Family.

In the current Cabinet Rutte there is only one minister without portfolio: Gerd Leers (Immigration and Asylum).

New Zealand

In the First Labour Government from 1935 the Hon. Mark Fagan was a "Minister without Portfolio" from 1935 to 1939, as was the Hon. David Wilson from 1939 to 1949. They were appointed to the upper house and made a "minister without portfolio" to add them to the cabinet although neither were elected to a seat in Parliament.

In the Third National Government, Keith Holyoake was made a Minister of State 1975-77 after he had retired as party leader, and in the Fourth National Government Robin Gray was made a Minister of State 1993-96 after he had retired as Speaker (though he was also Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs). Both appointments were considered sinecures to avoid their return as 'backbenchers'.


From 2009 Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen (Labour) has been Minister without Portfolio and Chief of Staff in the Prime Ministers Office, where his job is to co-ordinate within government.


From 2007 to 2008, Dragan Đilas was a "minister without portfolio" in charge of the National Investment Plan.

Republic of China (Taiwan)

In the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China there are several such ministers, at one time. Currently, the ROC's ministers without portfolio are:[4]

  • Yiin Chil-ming (殷啟銘)
  • Ovid Tzeng (曾志朗)
  • Chang Jin-fu (張進福)
  • Kao Su-po (高思博), also serving as Minister of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs
  • Fan Liang-shiow (范良琇), also serving as Minster of Public Construction Commission
  • James Cherng-Tay Hsueh (薛承泰), also serving as Governor of Fujian Province
  • Liang Chi-yuan (梁啟源)
  • Lin Junq-tzer (林政則), also serving as Governor of Taiwan Province

One of these posts is typically, but not always, reserved for the chairperson of the important Council for Economic Planning and Development, who is usually considered a cabinet member but not officially so, and so requires the post to have the actual powers of a cabinet member.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, it is often a Cabinet position, and is sometimes used to get people such as the Chairman of the Conservative Party or the Labour Party Chairman into cabinet meetings (if so, they hold the title of "Party Chairman"). The sinecure positions of Lord Privy Seal and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can also be used for equivalent effect.


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Minister without Portfolio — ► NOUN ▪ a government minister with cabinet status but not in charge of a specific department of state …   English terms dictionary

  • minister without portfolio — noun (plural ministers without portfolios) : a member of a ministry to whom no special department is assigned * * * pl. ministers without portfolios. a minister of state who is not appointed to any specific department in a government. [1910 15] * …   Useful english dictionary

  • minister without portfolio — noun (plural ministers without portfolio) British a member of a ministry with no specific departmental responsibilities …   Australian English dictionary

  • minister without portfolio — minister who does not have a specific office …   English contemporary dictionary

  • minister without portfolio — pl. ministers without portfolios. a minister of state who is not appointed to any specific department in a government. [1910 15] * * * …   Universalium

  • minister without portfolio — noun A member of a government having the rank of cabinet minister, but not assigned to oversee a particular government department or other permanent area of responsibility …   Wiktionary

  • Minister without Portfolio — noun a government minister who has cabinet status, but is not in charge of a specific department of state …   English new terms dictionary

  • minister without portfolio — a member of the British government who does not have responsibility for any particular department …   English dictionary

  • Manager Without Portfolio — A manager in title only, that is, one who manages a function , but does not manage a staff .The term often applies to those holding managerial titles in small companies. E.g., the Marketing Manager or Human Resources Manager in a small enterprise …   Wikipedia

  • Manager without portfolio — A manager in title only, that is, one who manages a function, but does not manage a staff. The term often applies to those holding managerial titles in small companies. E.g., the marketing manager or human resources manager in a small enterprise… …   Wikipedia

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