Minister without Portfolio

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A Minister without Portfolio is a government minister with no specific responsibilities.



In the Canadian government, there have been a number of Ministers without Portfolio in all except the First Ministry (see: James Cox Aikins). Until September 26, 1926, the term Minister without Portfolio was used. Incumbents were sworn as privy councillors and attended cabinet meetings on the invitation of the Prime Minister. However, after 1926 they were appointed as Members of the Administration and Ministers without Portfolio. Until 1968 they took an oath of office as Members of the Administration. At that time the traditional title of Minister without Portfolio was reintroduced. The title has been used throughout the guide until June 11, 1971 when the Government Organization Act was given royal assent. The act provided for the appointment of ministers of state who may be assigned to assist any minister having responsibility for a department or portion of the public service.

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 recent 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, with its peak during Trudeau's first period in office, during which the staggering figure of 17 ministers without portfolio were appointed over an 11-year period. However, in recent times, the title has fallen out of favour, and the only minister without portfolio appointed since 1990 has been Don Boudria, a Chrétien appointee.


The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1939 (Section 4) ( allows a member of the Government of Ireland to be assigned, but not having charge of a Department of State, such a person is referred to as a "Minister without portfolio" (Irish: "Aire gan ceannas Roinne"). This provision has rarely been used and when so only for short periods before been assigned in charge of a normal department.


In the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China there are several such ministers (政務委員) at one time:

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 Chair of the Labour Party into cabinet meetings (if so they hold the title of "Party Chair"). The sinecure positions of Lord Privy Seal and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can also be used for equivalent effect.

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