In a parliamentary system of government, a clear distinction is made between the head of state and the head of government, a executive and the executive. Here, the head of the state, King or Queen in Britain or President in India, possesses nominal or titular authority whereas the real authority rests with the government of which the Prime Minister is the head.
The King/Queen or President has a de jure authority, no doubt, and legally he possesses all the powers and privileges within the constitution and laws may confer upon him, but in practice, he exercises none. – Kapur, 1950
Powers and Functions of the Prime Minister
Head of government: The prime minister is the head of government and the chief executive of the state.
Administration of the country: The administration of the country is done by the prime minister and his cabinet.
Leader of his party: He is the leader of the party that won the highest number of seats in parliament.
Chairman of all cabinet meetings: He is the chairman of all cabinet meetings.
Ministerial appointment: He appoints his ministers from his party members in parliament.
Removal of a minister: The prime minister can remove or dismiss a minister from his cabinet.
Conferences: He attends and represents his country in most of the international conferences and organizations, e.g. U.N.O., Commonwealth and economic groupings.
Supervision of other departments: Activities of other departments are co-ordinated and supervised by the prime minister and his cabinet.
Functions of the Cabinet in a Parliamentary System of Government
Members of the cabinet are drawn from the parliament, making them also part of the parliament. The prime minister chooses members of his cabinet from his party men in the legislature.
The prime minister and the cabinet are therefore, members of the executive and legislature. Policy and law making are therefore part of their functions in government.
Responsibilities of the cabinet are collective. However, the following are their functions:
Determination of policy: The cabinet has the final determination of the policy to be submitted to the parliament and is also involved with the preparation and approval of the legislative programme for each session of parliament.
Decision-making: The cabinet members usually put heads together for a realistic – policy making for the country.
Presentation and defence of government policies: Measures taken by the government on issues are introduced, explained and defended on the floor of the parliament by members of the cabinet. This shows a kind of effective leadership of the parliament in legislation.
Executive authority vested in the crown: The cabinet determines how the executive authority vested in the crown in respect of appointments, foreign affairs etc should be exercised.
Coordination and control: It is also involved in a general control and coordination of the work of the several departments of the government.
Implementation of laws: The cabinet ensures that laws made by the parliament are properly maintained. This is done through the various departments of government.
Body of royal advisers: The cabinet is also involved in advising the crown on major issues.
The cabinet will have complete power: This borders on how to carry out the wishes of parliament.
Policy for discussion: The cabinet will decide on the policy to put before parliament for discussion.
Formulation and application of rules: The cabinet has to formulate and apply rules for the polity, according to what is known and agreed upon as party policy.
Conversion of group pressure into action: The cabinet is an important element in the conversion of public pressure into action. It is the cabinet which decides whether or not to listen to public pressure and interest.
Government bills: The cabinet initiates government’s bills to the parliament.