How David Cameron can attend Cabinet if he's not an MP

Former prime minister quit the Commons in 2016 but has been made a life peer and will sit in the House of Lords

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Former British prime minister David Cameron attended Cabinet for the first time in seven years on Tuesday, after his surprise appointment as Foreign Secretary in Monday's reshuffle.

He attended his last Cabinet meeting 2,681 days ago – on July 12, 2016 – after announcing he was stepping down. He has replaced James Cleverly, who became Home Secretary following Suella Braverman's sacking on Monday.

Mr Cameron admitted such a return is “not usual” but said he wants to support Prime Minister Rishi Sunak through a “difficult job at a hard time”.

Welcoming Mr Cameron back on Tuesday, Mr Sunak said: “A warm welcome to those for whom it’s their first Cabinet and also a welcome to those for whom it may not be their first time.”

“Our purpose is nothing less than to make the long-term decisions that are going to change our country for the better.

“I know that this strong and united team is going to deliver that change for everybody.”

How can Cameron sit in the Cabinet?

Mr Sunak made him a life peer, meaning he will now sit in the House of Lords. This enables him to sit in Cabinet, as members must be in either the House of Commons or House of Lords.

This is not unusual in so far as most departments have ministers in the Lords to be able to answer questions in the upper house.

But it is the first time in a long time that a peer has held a such a high-profile Cabinet position.

It could take several weeks for his appointment to be confirmed, though, which means he is not Lord Cameron yet.

Rishi Sunak holds first cabinet meeting since reshuffle

Rishi Sunak holds first cabinet meeting since reshuffle

Has this ever happened before?

Yes, in 1970, former prime minister Alec Douglas-Home returned to Cabinet to become the Foreign Secretary.

But Mr Cameron’s appointment means it is the first time in more than four decades that a member of the upper chamber has held one of the so-called four great offices of state – prime minister, chancellor of the exchequer, foreign secretary and home secretary.

Peter Carrington was the last peer to do so – as foreign secretary from 1979 to 1982.

Peers have held other cabinet roles in recent years, including Nicky Morgan, who stayed on briefly as culture secretary under Boris Johnson after leaving the House of Commons in the 2019 election, and Peter Mandelson, who Gordon Brown ennobled in 2008 to return to the cabinet as Business Secretary.

In 2010 Mr Cameron made Baroness Warsi Conservative Party Chair and Minister without Portfolio, making her the first Muslim woman to serve in Cabinet.

If he is not an MP can he be questioned about foreign policy in Parliament?

No, but Mr Cameron has insisted he will be held to account in the House of Lords and select committees after the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle raised concerns that MPs will not be able to question him in the House because he is a peer.

Outside parliament, he can still be questioned by journalists.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 12:48 PM