Minister of State

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Minister of State is a title borne by politicians or officials in certain countries governed under a parliamentary system. In some countries a "Minister of State" is a junior minister, who is assigned to assist a specific cabinet minister. In other countries a "Minister of State" is a holder of a more senior position, such as a cabinet minister or even a head of government.

High government ranks

In several national traditions, the title "Minister of State" is reserved for government members of Cabinet rank, often a formal distinction within it, or even its chief.

  • In Australia s. 64 of the Commonwealth Constitution empowers the Governor-General, as the Queen's representative, to appoint Ministers of State 'to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish'. Junior Ministers may not be responsible for an entire department, but may serve under a senior Minister who is so responsible, with the junior Minister administering a particular area of policy. For example, the Minister for Sport is responsible for sport within the Department of Health and Ageing, which is in turn administered by the Minister for Health and Ageing.
  • In Brazil, Minister of State (Portuguese: Ministro de Estado) is the title borne by all members of the Federal Cabinet.
  • In Kenya, a Minister of State generically refers to a more senior Minister by virtue of the revenue power, or security implications of their Ministry. For instance, powerful Ministries housed under the Office of the President, Office of the Vice-President and Office of the Prime Minister are titled as "Ministries of State for". Actual examples include Ministry of State for Internal Security and Provincial Administration; Ministry of State for Immigration; and Ministry of State for Public Service.
  • France: Under the Fifth Republic, Minister of State (Ministre d'État in French) is an honorific title bestowed during his nomination on a Minister. Ministres d'État, in the protocol, rank after the Prime Minister and before the other Ministers but enjoy no other specific prerogatives. Initially, the title of Ministres d'État didn't explicitly include a portfolio (a practice common under previous regimes), although in time both the title and a specific portfolio have since normally been conferred together. As under previous regimes, a series of Ministres d'État in the same cabinet may also reflect a balance between the different political trends in the ruling party (or within the ruling coalition). A Ministre d'État is not to be confused with a Secretary of State (Secrétaire d'État), a Junior minister assisting a Minister and who may only attend cabinet meeting if the topic discussed touches his responsibilities. Former Ministres d'État include former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
  • In Japan, Minister of State is the title borne by all members of the Japanese Cabinet.
  • In Luxembourg, Minister of State (French: Ministre d'État; Luxembourgish and German: Staatsminister) is an additional title borne by the Prime Minister. Unlike the title 'Prime Minister' (French: Premier ministre; Luxembourgish: Premier; German: Premierminister) which was instituted only in 1989, that of Minister of State has been held by the head of government since 1848. As Minister of State, his role is to control and coordinate the activities of the other Ministers.
  • Monaco: The Minister of State of Monaco is the principality's Head of government, subordinate to the Prince of Monaco and responsible for enforcing its laws.
  • In Portugal, Minister of State (Ministro de Estado) is a member of the Council of Ministers who holds a more distinct position within the cabinet, roughly equivalent to Deputy prime minister.
  • In Scandinavian states, the equivalent title Statsminister is used for the head of government (i.e. the prime minister), and compound titles of which -minister is a part may be used for major-portfolio Ministers.
  • Spain: When Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo was Prime Minister of Spain (1981–1982), Ministers of State were created who held a more distinct position within the Government. However, this initiative did not last since his successors did not follow this path.

Minor government ranks

In various nations, especially in former members of the British Empire, "Minister of State" is a junior ministerial rank, often subordinated to a cabinet member.

Subnational office

In the republic of Burma, the title was used for the Chief ministers of the following autonomous states, from 1947/48 till the abolition of that autonomy in 1962: Arakan State (Rakhine), Chin State, Kayin State (Kayin), Kayah State (Karenni), Kachin State and Shan State

Other use

Netherlands and Belgium

In the Netherlands (Minister van Staat in Dutch) and Belgium (also Ministre d'État in French), Minister of State is a title of honour awarded formally by the Monarch, but on the initiative of the government. It is given on a personal basis, for life rather than for a specified period. The title is granted for exceptional merits, generally to senior politicians at the end of their party career. Ministers of state are often former cabinet members or party leaders. Ministers of State advise the Sovereign in delicate situations, with moral authority but without formal competence.

In Belgium they are entitled to a seat, alongside the members of the government in power, in the Crown Council; to date the Crown Council has been convened on only five occasions, the first being in 1870 for the Franco-Prussian War, and the latest in 1960 in connection with the independence of the Belgian Congo. Apart from that, the only privileges of being a "minister of state" are protocollary precedence on state occasions and a ministerial car registration number. De facto, appointments tend to respect the almost obsessional balances between the Flemish and French-speaking communities as well as between the 'ministeriable' political families: mainly Christian-democrats, Socialists, Liberals, also (moderate) Nationalists, occasionally an Ecologist). Other former careers include those of Étienne Davignon (European Commissioner) and Luc Coene (prime-ministerial Kabinetschef, roughly Chief of staff). In January 2006 the number of ministers of state reached 51 with Johan Vande Lanotte, shortly after he laid down his portfolio and title of Vice-Prime Minister to head the Flemish Socialist SP.A party. After formateur Yves Leterme returned his commission in August 2007, King Albert II consulted 13 Ministers of State individually, without convening the crown council as such.

In both countries, junior ministers are called Secretary of State (staatssecretaris or secrétaire d'état), similarly to France. Some Dutch Secretaries of State may, in specific circumstances, style themselves as Minister (not Minister of State) when visiting a foreign country.

New Zealand

  • To bestow a sinecure — the role has been given to senior figures who did not occupy positions of leadership, but who were held in high esteem or who were wanted in Cabinet. For example, a former Prime Minister might be appointed Minister of State as an "elder statesman" — this was the purpose for which New Zealand Prime Minister Rob Muldoon originally created the position in 1975.
  • To create a sort of junior minister — using this office, politicians can be appointed to associate roles without having a substantive ministerial role of their own. There is no formal rank of "assistant minister" or "deputy minister" in New Zealand, but if someone is a full minister, they can be assigned to an associate role helping a different full minister. Someone appointed Minister of State is technically a full minister and can thus be assigned associate roles, thereby creating a type of minister whose only effective authority is as an associate minister.

The first Minister of State in New Zealand was Keith Holyoake, a former Prime Minister. Other prominent people to have held the office include Jim Bolger and Robin Gray (a former Prime Minister and a former Speaker, respectively). Examples of people who held the office simply in order that they might be appointed as associate ministers include Mita Ririnui, Damien O'Connor, and Dover Samuels.

Ancien Régime France

In France during the Ancien Régime and Bourbon Restoration, the title "Ministre d'État" had a specific designation. The title first appeared under Louis XIII. The "ministres d'État", appointed by lettres patentes, attended meetings of the Conseil du Roi (which would later become the Conseil d'État). From 1661 on — at the start of Louis XIV's "personal reign" — the king called whomever he wished to his Council; invitations were only good for one session and needed to be renewed as long as the individual retained the king's confidence. However, having attended one session of the Council gave the person the right to be called "ministre d'État" for life, and also gave him the right to an annual life pension of roughly 20,000 livres. There were few "ministres d'État" at Council meetings (between three or four during the reign of Louis XIV); they also attended the "Conseil des Dépêches" (the "Counsel of Messages", concerning notices and administrative reports from the provinces).

Suppressed during the French Revolution, the title "ministre d'État" reappeared during the Bourbon Restoration as essentially an honorary title given (not systematically) to Ministers after their demission or their departure from office; refusal on behalf of the King to award this title to a demissioned Minister was seen as an affront.

British diplomacy

From 28 January 1944, the last two British Ministers Resident in the Middle East, concerned with former British protectorate Egypt, were styled Ministers of State in the Middle East.

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