Charles Walker, a Tory MP, is hoping to table an amendment today to the Alternative Vote bill which would limit the number of ministers in the next Parliament.
His argument is that ministers are the “only cadre” of public life which is not seeing swingeing cuts. And he proposes that there should be an 8 per cent reduction in line with the proposed shrinkage of the House of Commons.
At present there are 95 ministers in the Commons and 24 in the Lords – at the very upper limit allowed under existing legislation from 1975.
Walker tells me that each minister (even those without salaries, of which there are 10) costs £500,000 in terms of cars, offices and staff, according to research by Lord Turnbull. Making the cut he suggests may sound tokenistic but it would save £4m or more.
The question is whether his amendment will be called; he finds out around noon.
What makes this interesting is that a prominent Liberal Democrat called for a cut in the number of ministers to no more than 73 before the election: Nick Clegg, who is now deputy prime minister. Given that the AV bill is his baby it will be interesting to see how he votes on the amendment – if it gets an airing, that is.
Walker is – unsurprisingly – among the more rebellious of Tory MPs according to this superlative piece of analysis by Jonathan Isaby at ConservativeHome. By contrast there are 43 Tory MPs (non-ministers) who have followed the whips through every division.