The Cabinet of the Virgin Islands is constitutionally charged with the policy making functions of the Territory. Cabinet is assigned the control, direction and development of the Territory. It is constitutionally allowed to make its own rules of procedure for the conduct of its business. Cabinet meets weekly on a given day to establish its agenda for the meeting on another day in the upcoming week.

 Cabinet makes decisions on a collective basis and operate under a strict regime of confidentiality, which is placed on members and public officers that give support and experts that visit to give testimony, to Cabinet. Cabinet is a closed meeting that allows ministers to receive frank and honest information and advice on matters with national and international interests. Members rely on Cabinet as a forum in which they can deliberate in confidence on controversial matters, urgent public affairs, strategic issues and all significant policy matters, including legislation, the public service and the Territory as a whole.

 Cabinet is principally guided by the Cabinet Handbook 2009, the Virgin Islands Constitution Order, 2007 and all other relevant laws of the Territory. Cabinet is chaired by the Governor but both he and the Premier can independently add matters falling under their portfolios to the Cabinet’s agenda.

 The Cabinet is supported by the Cabinet Office as its secretariat and the Cabinet Secretary is its chief adviser. The Cabinet Secretary serves as the liaison between the Public Service and Cabinet. One of the main functions includes helping facilitate and guide members in their conduct of business in the Cabinet.

Functions of the Cabinet

The Constitution of the Virgin Islands, section 47(1), creates the Cabinet as the institution that has responsibility for the formulation of policy and directing the implementation of policy, except for matters that are the Governor’s special responsibility under section 60 (external affairs, defense, internal affairs, terms and conditions of the Public Service and administration of the courts). Of course, the Cabinet is collectively responsible to the House of Assembly.

Likewise, the Constitution establishes the Cabinet Office as a separate office in the Government of the Virgin Islands {section 51(1)} and the Cabinet Secretary as its head {section 51(1) (a)}.

The Constitution (section 51(3):

The Cabinet Secretary shall –

a) provide such policy and technical support to the Cabinet as the Cabinet may require;

b) transmit copies of all papers submitted for consideration by the Cabinet to its members;

c) inform all its members of the summoning of any meeting of the Cabinet and of the matters to be discussed at any such meeting;

d) furnish all its members, as soon as practicable after each meeting of the Cabinet, with a copy of the confirmed minutes of the previous meeting showing the matters discussed and the conclusions reached at the meeting;

e) promote and facilitate adherence to the rules of procedure of the Cabinet;

f) monitor the implementation of Cabinet decisions and report periodically to the Cabinet in respect thereof;

g) perform such other functions as are incidental to the functions of the Cabinet Secretary

Section 51(4) authorizes the Cabinet Secretary to have subordinate public officers to assist him in the execution of his duties.

Membership

A Cabinet form of Government empowers the government and as such there has been a localisation of power in political matters. The membership of the Cabinet includes:

  1. The Premier;
  2. The Minister for Natural Resources and Labour;
  3. The Minister for Health and Social Development;
  4. The Minister for Communications and Works;
  5. The Minister for Education and Culture, and
  6. The Attorney General (non-voting)

 

Differences Between Executive Council Government and Cabinet Government

Although there are similarities between the Executive Council Government and Cabinet Government, differences exist in key areas. Cabinet is a decision-making body whereas Executive Council was an advisory body to the Governor. This meant that under the Executive Council Government, ministers only advised the Governor on items [papers] to be placed on the agenda.  Similarly, ministers advised the Governor on decisions taken at Executive Council, as the decision-making was vested solely in the governor’s authority. Therefore, the Governor was not obligated to consider the views of the ministers when making a decision.

Now the Governor is the Chairman and not a member of the Cabinet. Cabinet makes its own agenda as opposed to the Executive Council where the Governor made the agenda. The Cabinet Steering Group comprising of the Governor, the Premier, and the Cabinet Secretary meets weekly to establish what proposals/papers Cabinet would be considering at the next meeting.

Under the Cabinet form of the government, the Governor can only place papers falling under his portfolio or special Constitutional subjects on the agenda. Only the Premier can place other papers on the agenda. The Cabinet Secretary advises both the Governor and the Premier on these matters.

Cabinet is chaired by the Governor but its business is jointly managed by the Governor and the Premier. Additionally, the Governor chairs Cabinet except in instances when the Governor is in the Territory and away from his office (on leave) and there is a Governor’s Deputy instead of an Acting Governor. In such instances, Cabinet meetings are chaired by the Premier. An Acting Governor also has the authority to chair Cabinet.

The Cabinet is supported by the Cabinet Office which is headed by the Cabinet Secretary. The Cabinet Office facilitates and monitors the implementation of executive decision-making within the government. In addition to its services to Cabinet, the Cabinet Office also supports the National Security Council (NSC) and the Virgin Islands Cadet Corps Council (VICCC). The Cabinet Secretary serves as the secretary to the three bodies: Cabinet, NSC and VICCC.

Cabinet Government is similar to, but yet different from Executive Council Government in key areas inclusive of its status in the organisation of government; localisation of power in political matters; management of business affairs; membership; relationship with the Public Service and the rules of conduct and guidance.