Ministers and the minister's office

Capturing the interest of a government minister can be one of the most effective and efficient way to impact on government policy. Ministers set the overall direction of their departments, and report back to Cabinet, which makes the ultimate decisions on policy. If your research speaks to a particular issue in a minster’s portfolio which is politically significant or is currently in the public eye, then you are well-placed to be heard.

However, getting the direct attention of a government minister is difficult: they are highly public figures, are extremely busy, and receive a huge volume of correspondence every week. In addition, ministers are unlikely to act on advice or evidence that does not suit their political aims. If your research does attract a minister’s attention, be prepared for it to become part of political debate on that subject.

Below are some points to keep in mind if you do want to approach a minister:

Contact the right people

Know which minister to approach. The Secretary of State has overall responsibility for the department and is unlikely to be the best first contact. Instead, look for a junior minister in the department who has responsibility for the particular area your research could impact on.

It is very difficult to contact a UK government minister directly. Instead:

  • Build relationships with individual civil servants within the relevant department, if possible, at the Associate Director or Policy Advisor level. Civil servants who are trusted by the minister are your route to access. See the section below on contacting and working with civil servants for more information.
  • Circulate summaries of your research to any cabinet committee that deals with relevant policy. Even if the submission is not seen directly by the ministers themselves, it will be taken into account by their officials. A list of current Cabinet committees can be found here; for more information on how committees work, see <beginner’s guide to select committees>.
  • If the issue has a particularly political flavour, consider contacting the minister’s Special Advisor. Special advisors (or ‘spAds’) can be very influential. They advise ministers on the political implications of policy decisions, and may even make policy suggestions themselves, and to do this they develop a wide network of contacts from whom they can pick up ideas. However, spAds operate in a volatile political environment. You might want to read what has to say about their role to get an idea of what working with one could entail.
  • You can write to a minister at their department, but be aware that unless you have the support of a civil servant or spAd you’ve been working with and who can prepare the way, your correspondence will receive a formal response written by a civil servant and the matter will likely not be taken further.