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Minister without portfolio

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A minister without portfolio is a government minister without specific responsibility as head of a government department. The sinecure is particularly common in countries ruled by coalition governments and a cabinet with decision-making authority wherein ministers without portfolio, while they may not head any particular offices or ministries, may still receive a ministerial salary and have the right to cast a vote in cabinet decisions. The office may also exist to give party leaders whose offices (such as a parliamentary leader) would not otherwise enable them to sit in Cabinet.


In Albania, "Minister without portfolio" are considered members of the government who generally are not in charge of a special department, do not have headquarters or offices and usually do not have administration or staff. This post was first introduced in 1918 during the Përmeti II government, otherwise known as the Government of Durrës. The members of this cabinet were referred to as Delegatë pa portofol (delegate without portfolio). The name "minister" was used two years later, during the government of Sulejman Delvina.[1] In the 1990s it was common the usage of the name Sekretar Shteti (Secretary of State) to refer to such a position. Mostly these roles were given to smaller allies by the leading parties. Nowadays the name Ministër i Shtetit (State Minister or Minister of State) is used.


Willie Kelly was given the title in the Cook Ministry from June 1913 to September 1914.

Stanley Bruce was given the title of minister without portfolio when he took up his position in 1932 as the Commonwealth Minister in London. He was given the title by Lyons' Cabinet so that he could better represent the PM and his colleagues free from the limitations of a portfolio. In this case the title was a promotion and carried considerable responsibilities.[2]


Bangladesh appoints ministers without portfolio during cabinet reshuffles or fresh appointments. Ministers are not usually appointed without portfolio as a coalition negotiation – all long run ministers end up with a portfolio. Suranjit Sengupta was a minister without portfolio in Sheikh Hasina's second government.[3]



The Constitution determines that the Ministries (and also other bodies headed by a Minister of State) are provided for by law, so the Federal Government has less freedom to create and reformulate portfolios as it happens in other cabinets.

Extraordinary minister[edit]

During the brief parliamentary experience, the position of "Extraordinary Minister" was instituted to provide for political and administrative affairs[4] within the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, it was equivalent in prerogatives, advantages and salaries to a Minister of State. There were no nominations after the return to presidentialism, but a 1964 law created an "Extraordinary Ministry" to coordinate some related bodies that would be equivalent to a ministry of the interior. The reorganization of federal public administration in 1967[5] provided for the appointment of up to four Extraordinary Ministers to perform temporary duties of a relevant nature.

Currently, the legislation requires that the Coordinator of the Government Transition Cabinet (the team of the candidate elected to the office of President of the Republic) be appointed as an Extraordinary Minister if the nominee is a Senator or a Federal Deputy. In 2018, then President Michel Temer issued a provisional measure creating an "Extraordinary Ministry of Public Security", it became a common ministry after National Congress converted the provisional measure into law.[6]


While the minister without portfolio is seen by some as a mere sinecure appointment, it has been a role that numerous political notables have played over time, including future Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who filled the role in a Pearson cabinet in the 1960s; 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; in recent times, though, the title has fallen out of favour, and the penultimate minister without portfolio, Gilles Lamontagne, was promoted to postmaster general in 1978. The practice has continued primarily under the guise of ministers of state without responsibilities in the ministers' titles.

The position has also been filled on the federal or provincial level by experienced politicians near the end of their careers as a way of allowing them to counsel the government and take on projects without the burdens associated with administering a government department.

In January 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Jim Carr as a minister without portfolio, in addition to his role as special representative to the Prairies. Carr had previously served as a cabinet minister until November 2019, leaving as a consequence of his diagnosis with multiple myeloma. [7]



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 as 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 the Danish European Union Presidency of 2002. Haarder was considered the most experienced Danish politician on European affairs.



Minister without portfolio is not a common type of cabinet position, and the last minister without portfolio served in 1949. The most famous one was Juho Kusti Paasikivi, who was a part of the "Triumvirate" of Prime Minister Risto Ryti, Minister of Foreign Affairs Väinö Tanner and Paasikivi during the Winter War and the year 1940.[8]


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 the ministry is now commonly assigned to the Heads of the German Chancellery to give this important government functionary cabinet-rank. The ministry was first created in October 1953 to give a ministry level position to Franz Josef Strauss, but has been used almost exclusively for the Head of the Federal Chancellery since the 1960s. A notable exception occurred in the course of German reunification when four members of East Germany's last government were made "Minister for Special Affairs" from October 3, 1990, to January 1991.


The position of a Minister without portfolio was first created in 1918, with Emmanouil Repoulis being the first Minister without portfolio. Previously, the term had been used to describe Prime Ministers who had not undertaken any secondary Ministerial position (e.g. Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Prominent politicians like Georgios Papandreou, Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, Napoleon Zervas and Spyros Markezinis served as Ministers without portfolio during their career, while novelist Nikos Kazantzakis had a brief, 46-day-long tenure as Minister without portfolio in Sofoulis' 1945 cabinet.

In 1991, the position was renamed to Minister of State; the last person to be designated Minister without portfolio and simultaneously the first Minister of State, is Mikis Theodorakis.




Since the inception of the state, Indonesia had ministers without portfolio, usually given the title Menteri Negara ('State Minister'). The number was not fixed, entirely depended on the behest of the President. Although not explicitly forbidden, Law No. 39/2008 on State Ministries mandated that a ministry must have specific function and responsibilities and also must have minimum number of directorates and other ministerial apparatuses, thus formation of minister without portfolio is currently unlikely in post-Reformation Indonesia.

Below is the list of ministers without portfolio that ever existed in Indonesian history.

Presidential Cabinet (19 August – 14 November 1945)[edit]

First Sjahrir Cabinet (11 November 1945 – 28 February 1946)[edit]

  • Rasjidi (on religious affairs)

Third Sjahrir Cabinet (5 October 1946 – 27 July 1947)[edit]

Sixth Development Cabinet (6 June – 1 October 1997)[edit]

The cabinet was unique, with President Suharto moved the Minister of Information Harmoko to the office of State Minister of Special Affairs (Indonesian: Menteri Negara Urusan Khusus) on 6 June 1997. The Ministry of Special Affairs was dissolved on 1 October 1997, following the inauguration of next-term's parliament and the appointment of Harmoko as its speaker.


The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939 allows a Minister to be a member of the Government of Ireland who does not have charge of a Department of State, such a person to be known as a "Minister without portfolio".[12] Such a minister may be given a specific style or title. The only substantive minister without portfolio has been Frank Aiken, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures during World War II.[13] By the Emergency Powers Act 1939 then in force, the Minister for Defence was able to delegate some competences to him.[14][15]

On a number of occasions a minister has been appointed to an incoming government with the title of a new Department of State. Between the date of appointment and the date of creation of the department, such a minister is formally a minister without portfolio.[16]

Title Govt Minister Appt to govt Dept created Dept
Minister for Economic Planning and Development 15th Martin O'Donoghue 8 July 1977[17] 13 December 1977[18][19] Department of Economic Planning and Development
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform 29th Brendan Howlin 9 March 2011[20] 6 July 2011[21][22] Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
Minister for Rural and Community Development 31st Michael Ring 14 June 2017[23] 19 July 2017[24] Department of Rural and Community Development
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science 32nd Simon Harris 27 June 2020[25] 2 August 2020[26] Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science

When Helen McEntee took six months' maternity leave on 28 April 2021, her portfolio as Minister for Justice was reassigned to Heather Humphreys, in addition to Humphreys's existing portfolio as Minister for Social Protection and Minister for Rural and Community Development. McEntee remained a member of the coalition government as minister without portfolio,[27] and was reassigned to the Department of Justice on 1 November 2021.[28] On 25 November 2022, Heather Humphreys was again appointed as Minister for Justice to facilitate a second period of six months' maternity leave from December.[29][30]


It is common practice in Israel to appoint ministers without portfolio as part of the coalition negotiations, as it allows small coalition partners a seat at the cabinet table. All cabinets in recent years have had at least some such appointment. The Governance Law passed in 2013 forbade ministers without portfolio effectively ending the practice, however in spite of some objections, after the 2015 elections this issue was revisited in the Knesset and it was allowed for the practice to resume. The full alphabetical list of ministers without portfolio since 1949 is:



In Kenya, ministers without portfolio are not common. However three individuals have held the position in the country's history. They are:

  • Chunilal Madan (1956–1957) He was the first Kenyan minister with Asian descent and also country's first minister without portfolio. He was appointed to oversee Kenya's Colonial government operations prior to being appointed as a judge in the country's Supreme court in 1957.
  • Raphael Tuju (2018–2022). He was appointed by Uhuru Kenyatta to oversee government operations in his second term of presidency.
  • Cleophas Wakhungu Malala (2023-to date). He was appointed as the secretary general of the ruling party UDA to oversee the operations of the ruling party and push the hustler agenda for the next five years.


  • Carmelo Abela (2020–2022)[31]
  • Joe Mizzi (1996–1998)
  • Konrad Mizzi (2016–2017) On April 28, 2016, following the appearance of his name in the Panama Papers leaks, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced in a press conference at the Auberge de Castille that Konrad Mizzi was to be removed from the position of Health and Energy Minister. Mizzi would however retain the title of minister without portfolio, working within the Office of the Prime Minister.[32][33]


Ram Sharan Mahat.[34]


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 or 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 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 were 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.

The second Rutte cabinet had two ministers without portfolio: Stef Blok (Housing and the Central Government Sector) and Lilianne Ploumen (Development Cooperation).

The third Rutte cabinet had four ministers without portfolio: Sigrid Kaag (Development Cooperation), Sander Dekker (Legal Protection), Martin van Rijn (Medical Care), and Arie Slob (Primary and Secondary Education and Media).

The fourth Rutte cabinet has eight ministers without portfolio: Carola Schouten (Poverty, Participation and Pensions), Liesje Schreinemacher (Development Cooperation), Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy), Conny Helder (Long-Term healthcare and Sport), Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen reduction), Franc Weerwind (Legal Protection), Hugo de Jonge (Housing and Urban Development), and Dennis Wiersma (Primary and Secondary Education and Media).

New Zealand[edit]

In the First Labour Government from 1935 Mark Fagan was a "minister without portfolio" from 1935 to 1939, as was 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 was replaced as Speaker (though he was also Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs). Both appointments were considered sinecures to avoid their return as 'backbenchers'.

The following were appointed to the Executive Council as ministers without portfolio.[35]


  Liberal   Reform   United   Labour   National
†: Died in office

Name Portrait Term of office Prime Minister
James Carroll 16 March 1892 20 February 1896 Ballance
Alfred Cadman 21 December 1899 9 May 1901
William Montgomery 19 July 1893 7 November 1895
Mahuta Tāwhiao 22 May 1903 6 August 1906
Āpirana Ngata 7 January 1909 28 March 1912 Ward
Peter Buck 28 March 1912 10 July 1912 Mackenzie
Thomas Buxton 28 March 1912 10 July 1912
Māui Pōmare 10 July 1912 3 May 1916 Massey
William Fraser 27 July 1920 16 July 1923†
David Guthrie 25 June 1924 31 March 1927†
Heaton Rhodes 18 January 1926 10 December 1928
Francis Bell 24 May 1926 25 August 1928
Sir Joseph Ward 28 May 1930 8 July 1930† Forbes
Robert Masters 20 August 1930 22 September 1931
Mark Fagan 6 December 1935 18 July 1939 Savage
David Wilson 18 November 1939 30 May 1940
Paraire Karaka Paikea 21 January 1941 6 May 1943†
Eruera Tirikatene 26 May 1943 13 December 1949
Adam Hamilton 16 July 1940 5 October 1942
Gordon Coates 16 July 1940 5 October 1942
William Polson 15 March 1950 12 December 1950 Holland
Sidney Holland 20 September 1957 12 December 1957 Holyoake
David Seath 24 January 1962 20 December 1963
Hugh Watt 13 March 1975 12 December 1975 Rowling

North Macedonia[edit]

As of 2017, ministers without portfolio (министер без ресор) are:


From 2009 to 2013 Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen (Labour) was a Minister without Portfolio and Chief of Staff in the Prime Ministers Office, where his job was to co-ordinate within government.


During the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, then-Senate President Manuel Roxas was appointed minister without portfolio by the Japanese Government.[citation needed]


In Poland, the term is used for a minister who is a member of the Council of Ministers but does not head a government department and is not supported by a ministry. A minister without portfolio performs tasks determined by the Prime Minister. Since the enactment of the 1997 Constitution, this option has been provided for in Article 149(1).[36]


Following the Carnation Revolution, several politicians were made ministers without portfolio:

After the 1st Constitutional Government (1976–1978), there haven't been any appointments of ministers without portfolio.

A similar but not sinecural cabinet position, that of Minister Adjunct (ministro adjunto), who does not head a particular ministry but is instead tasked with the general interministerial measures found in the government programme, has been created in some Portuguese governments.


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


In Singapore, the appointment holder is known as a 'Minister in the Prime Minister's Office'.


In Spain, in addition to the Ministers in charge of a Department, there may be Ministers without a portfolio, who will be responsible for certain government functions. In the event that there are Ministers without a portfolio, the scope of their powers, the administrative structure, as well as the material and personal resources attached to it will be determined by Royal Decree.[37]



In the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China, there are several ministers without portfolio at once. Currently, they are:[39]


President Jakaya Kikwete appointed Professor Mark Mwandosya as a minister without portfolio in 2012.


Since 2015, the cabinet list has included a minister without portfolio:

United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

The Vice President of the United States is a member of the Cabinet but heads no department. As such, the Vice President may be assigned to policy areas of the President's choosing such as foreign diplomacy (Richard Nixon), space programs (Lyndon B. Johnson) or public health (Mike Pence). Prior to the mid-19th century, the Vice President's position as President of the Senate caused the office to be seen as primarily legislative in nature, and as such they were not assigned to deal with public policy.

Cabinet-level officials are president-designated additional members of the Cabinet, which can vary under each president. Most of them head no department, and some of them are not officers of the United States. For example, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget is the head of the Office of Management and Budget, which is an office within a department, namely the Executive Office of the President of the United States headed by the White House Chief of Staff. Similar situations apply (or applied) for the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, the Trade Representative, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Security Advisor, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

An individual who has great influence on government affairs without holding formal office might be described as a "minister without portfolio". Such an appellation is completely unofficial (possibly intended jokingly or disparagingly) and merely serves to underscore the extent of the individual's already-existing influence; it does not grant any new influence or power. Examples include Bernard Baruch,[40] Arthur Burns,[41] and Ivanka Trump.[42]

Herbert Hoover, the Secretary of Commerce under presidents Harding and Coolidge, took the position on the understanding that he would have input on all matters pertaining to the economy. He used this concession so eagerly that Treasury official S. Parker Gilbert dubbed him "Under-Secretary of all other departments."[43]


In the first government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam founded by Hồ Chí Minh after the August Revolution in September 1945, Cù Huy Cận and Nguyễn Văn Xuân were assigned the "Minister without Portfolio" positions.[44] In January 1946, the "Provisional Coalition Government" was installed, and Nguyen Van Xuan retained the post of Minister without Portfolio while Cu Huy Can was elevated to the Ministry of Agriculture.[45] From November 1946 to early 1955, the Viet Minh (and later the Worker's Party)-led "New Government" fought against the return of France to Indochina and the post Ministers without Portfolio was held by Nguyễn Văn Tố, Đặng Văn Hướng and Bồ Xuân Luật.[46] Since the 1954 Geneva Convention, the position has been vacant, except briefly during the 1960–1964 cabinet elected by the 2nd National Assembly, where Lê Văn Hiến occupied the post "Minister without Portfolio and Deputy Chair of the State Planning Commission."[47]

In 2014, Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng tasked the Cabinet Office to examine the possibility of re-introducing the post "Minister without Portfolio."[48] There have been no further developments since.


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