Skip to main content

Government and Opposition roles

Government ministers and Opposition spokespersons all work in the House of Commons. Specific Peers also represent government departments and opposition parties in the House of Lords.


Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is an MP and head of the government. The leader of the party that wins the most seats in a general election is appointed Prime Minister by the King.

The Prime Minister is officially responsible for choosing the other members of the government.

The Prime Minister can decide when to ask the Monarch to dissolve Parliament and hold a general election.

The Prime Minister answers questions every Wednesday in the House of Commons from midday to 12.30pm. Questions can come from any MP and on any subject.

Leader of the Opposition

The leader of the largest opposition party is the Leader of the Official Opposition. This role commands an additional salary to the parliamentary salary received as an MP. The Leader of the Official Opposition picks a 'Shadow Cabinet' to follow the work of government departments.


The Cabinet consists of a maximum of twenty-two paid government ministers chosen by the Prime Minister. They can be Members of either House of Parliament. The Cabinet develop government policies and some members head government departments.

Shadow Cabinet

The Shadow Cabinet consists of members from the main opposition party in the House of Commons and Lords, currently the Labour party. Its role is to examine the work of each government department and develop policies in their specific areas.

Contact the House of Commons Enquiry Service

The House of Commons Enquiry Service provides information on the work, history and membership of the House of Commons.

  • Telephone: 0800 112 4272 (Freephone) or 020 7219 4272
  • Email:
  • Text relay: Dial 18001 followed by our full number

Our telephone enquiry service is open from 10am - 12 midday and 2pm - 4pm, Monday to Friday.


The House of Commons Enquiry Service produces a series of free guides which you can read online, download or order copies.

House of Commons on Twitter

Follow @HouseofCommons for updates on the UK House of Commons Chamber.

Related information

Related internet links

Parliament is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch Prime Minister's Questions

Watch live and archived footage of Prime Minister's Questions.