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How government works

In the UK, the Prime Minister leads the government with the support of the cabinet and ministers. You can find out who runs government and how government is run, as well as learning about the history of government.

Who runs government

The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is head of the UK government. He is ultimately responsible for all policy and decisions. He:

  • oversees the operation of the Civil Service and government agencies
  • appoints members of the government
  • is the principal government figure in the House of Commons

The Prime Minister is David Cameron MP and he is based at Number 10 Downing Street in London.

Visit the Number 10 website

The Deputy Prime Minister

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg MP, is the deputy head of government. He is responsible for political and constitutional reform.

Nick Clegg is also responsible for other government policy areas and is consulted on all decisions made by the Prime Minister.

Read more about the Deputy Prime Minister's role and responsibilities.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet

The Cabinet is made up of the senior members of government. Every Tuesday during Parliament, members of the Cabinet (Secretaries of State from all departments and some other ministers) meet to discuss what are the most important issues for the government.

See who is in the Cabinet


01 Prime Minister + 22 Cabinet ministers + 97 Other ministers = 120 Total ministers

Ministers are chosen by the Prime Minister from the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. They are responsible for the actions, successes and failures of their departments.

See full list of ministers

How government is run

Departments and their agencies are responsible for putting government policy into practice.

Civil Service

The Civil Service does the practical and administrative work of government. It is co-ordinated and managed by the Prime Minister, in his role as Minister for the Civil Service.

Around half of all civil servants provide services direct to the public, including:

  • paying benefits and pensions
  • running employment services
  • staffing prisons
  • issuing driving licences

Civil Service website

What is a policy?

A policy is a statement of what the government is trying to achieve and why. Government policy is the sum of all the individual policies – as a whole they help to define where the government stands on broad political issues.

On GOV.UK you can see all our policies and find out exactly what we are doing, who’s involved, who we’re working with (partner organisations) and who we’ve asked (consultations).

See a list of all policies or browse by topics

Laws go through several stages before they are passed by Parliament. The House of Commons and the House of Lords work together to make them.

They can include:

History of government

History of government

Read about past Prime Ministers, the history of Number 10 Downing Street and take a virtual tour of the building on the history section of the Number 10 website.

Read about past Foreign Secretaries and the history of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on the history section of the FCO website.

The National Archives in Kew looks after the records of central government and makes sure everyone can look at them. You can visit the National Archives – it’s free and there’s no need to book. The National Archives also holds a collection of archived government websites.