Minister of State is a title borne by politicians in certain countries governed under a parliamentary system. In some countries a Minister of State is a Junior Minister of government, who is assigned to assist a specific Cabinet Minister. In other countries a Minister of State is a holder of a more senior position, such as a Cabinet Minister or even a Head of Government.
In several national traditions, the title "Minister of State" is reserved for government members of cabinet rank, often a formal distinction within it, or even its chief.
In the republic of Burma, the title was used for the Chief ministers of the following autonomous states, from 1947/48 till the abolition of that autonomy in 1962: Arakan State (Rakhine), Chin State, Kayin State (Kayin), Kayah State (Karenni), Kachin State and Shan State
In the Netherlands (Minister van Staat in Dutch) and Belgium (also Ministre d'État in French), Ministers of State is a title of honour awarded formally by the Monarch, but on the initiative of the government. It is given on a personal basis, for life rather than for a specified period. The title is granted for exceptional merits, generally to senior politicians at the end of their party career. Ministers of state are often former cabinet members or party leaders. Ministers of State advise the Sovereign in delicate situations, with moral authority but without formal competence.
In Belgium they are entitled to a seat, alongside the members of the government in power, in the Crown Council; to date the Crown Council has been convened on only five occasions, the first being in 1870 for the Franco-Prussian War, and the latest in 1960 in connection with the independence of the Belgian Congo. Apart from that, the only privileges of being a "minister of state" are precedence according to protocol on state occasions and a ministerial car registration number. De facto, appointments tend to respect the almost obsessional balances between the Flemish and French-speaking communities as well as between the 'ministeriable' political families: mainly Christian-democrats, Socialists, Liberals, also (moderate) Nationalists, occasionally an Ecologist). Other former careers include those of Étienne Davignon (European Commissioner) and Luc Coene (prime-ministerial Kabinetschef, roughly Chief of staff). In January 2006 the number of ministers of state reached 51 with Johan Vande Lanotte, shortly after he laid down his portfolio and title of Vice-Prime Minister to head the Flemish Socialist SP.A party. After formateur Yves Leterme returned his commission in August 2007, King Albert II consulted 13 Ministers of State individually, without convening the crown council as such.
In both countries, junior ministers are called State Secretary (staatssecretaris or secrétaire d'état), similarly to France. Some State Secretaries may, in specific circumstances, style themselves as Minister (not Minister of State) when visiting a foreign country.
The first Minister of State in New Zealand was Keith Holyoake, a former Prime Minister. Other prominent people to have held the office include Jim Bolger and Robin Gray (a former Prime Minister and a former Speaker, respectively). Examples of people who held the office simply in order that they might be appointed as associate ministers include Mita Ririnui, Damien O'Connor, and Dover Samuels.
In France during the Ancien Régime and Bourbon Restoration, the title "Ministre d'État" had a specific designation. The title first appeared under Louis XIII. The "ministres d'État", appointed by lettres patentes, attended meetings of the Conseil du Roi (which would later become the Conseil d'État). From 1661 on — at the start of Louis XIV's "personal reign" — the king called whomever he wished to his Council; invitations were only good for one session and needed to be renewed as long as the individual retained the king's confidence. However, having attended one session of the Council gave the person the right to be called "ministre d'État" for life, and also gave him the right to an annual life pension of roughly 20,000 livres. There were few "ministres d'État" at Council meetings (between three or four during the reign of Louis XIV); they also attended the "Conseil des Dépêches" (the "Council of Messages", concerning notices and administrative reports from the provinces).
Suppressed during the French Revolution, the title "ministre d'État" reappeared during the Bourbon Restoration as essentially an honorary title given (not systematically) to Ministers after their demission or their departure from office; refusal on behalf of the King to award this title to a demissioned Minister was seen as an affront.