How policy in the UK works

Houses of Parliament, LondonHow the UK is run

At a general election, people aged 18 and over can vote for a candidate to become their member of Parliament (MP). The person who wins the most votes then takes his or her seat in the House of Commons, while the leader of the political party that wins the most seats becomes prime minister.

The prime minister chooses MPs and peers (usually from his or her own party) to be ministers in the government and forms an executive committee known as the cabinet.

The UK government is made up of the prime minister, the cabinet and government departments. It is responsible for proposing policies on matters related to running the country and for carrying out these policies once they are agreed. It is also responsible for how taxpayers' money is spent. Each government department controls a specific area of policy.

In England, childcare and early years policy is currently the responsibility of the Department for Education (DfE).

In Wales, however, it is the responsibility of the Welsh Government. This is because education, including childcare and pre-school education, is a devolved matter, along with health, language and culture and public services. The UK government retains responsibility for tax, defence, foreign policy and benefits.

In addition to voting in UK general elections those living in Wales are able to vote in Senedd (Welsh Parliament) elections.  Voting in a Senedd election is a chance to have a say about who’ll represent communities at the Senedd. Votes can influence who’ll be in charge of the powers the Senedd has to shape life in Wales.  The leader of the political party that wins the most seats becomes First Minister for Wales and chooses MSs (Members of the Senedd) to be ministers in the government.

Civil servants and departments

All UK government departments are led by ministers and staffed by independent civil servants who are not affiliated to any political party. Although the UK government has a great deal of power over the running of the UK, it is always accountable to the UK Parliament, which is made up of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The laws the UK government puts forward must be debated and passed by both Houses of Parliament.

In Wales, the Welsh Government is accountable to the Welsh Parliament, known as the Senedd, which passes laws on devolved matters. The Welsh Parliament is made up of Members of the Senedd (MSs) elected by voters in Wales.


Select committees in the Commons scrutinise the work of UK government departments while Lords select committees look at broader policy issues. The Education Committee in the Commons is responsible for scrutinising childcare and early years policy in England. Recently the Affordable Childcare Committee in the Lords was appointed to consider issues relating to affordable childcare.

In Wales, a range of committees monitor the work of the Welsh Government, with the Children, Young People and Education Committee responsible for scrutinising childcare and early years policy.

In both England and Wales, the political parties in opposition play an important role by challenging the government and offering alternative policy ideas.

How does PACEY fit in? 

In England, PACEY staff regularly meet with ministers and officials from the Department for Education (DfE), the UK government department responsible for childcare and early education policy in England.

We are also in frequent contact with officials at the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), the non-ministerial department responsible for inspecting and regulating all early years providers in England. PACEY is a member of influential sector-wide stakeholder groups within DfE and Ofsted.

In Wales, PACEY Cymru staff regularly meet with ministers and officials from the Welsh Government and are also in frequent contact with officials from Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) who are responsible for registering, regulating and inspecting childcare and play in Wales and Estyn the education and training inspectorate for Wales. PACEY Cymru is a member of influential sector-wide stakeholder groups within Welsh Government, CIW and Estyn.

We are also in contact with other departments such as the Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to raise sector-wide concerns about issues such as taxes and benefits.

PACEY regularly responds to government consultations and parliamentary inquiries relevant to our members. 

How can I get involved or voice my concerns?

Have you got a concern related to government policy? Contact PACEY’s policy team. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.