4 The Programme for Government
44. An initial coalition agreement was created by
the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties on 11 May, five
days after the election.
Nine days later on 20 May, the Government published a more detailed
document entitled The Coalition: Our Programme for Government,
which outlined the Government's substantive policies.
On 21 May, the Government published the Coalition Agreement
for Stability and Reform, an operational document setting
out "the basis upon which the Conservative and Liberal Democrat
Parliamentary Parties will jointly maintain in office Her Majesty's
45. We are not concerned here with the content of
the Programme for Government, but rather with its constitutional
status. We may consider as part of a future inquiry the operations
of coalition government, as opposed to the processes by which
that Government came into being.
Status of the coalition agreement
46. It has been suggested that the coalition Government's
programme for government lacks a popular mandate because it was
created after the general election and therefore the electorate
had no opportunity to vote on it.
According to Professor Blackburn, "its moral authority in
terms of representing a democratic mandate for government is open
47. However, the majority of our evidence does not
suggest that the programme for government lacks legitimacy because
48. We agree, for two reasons. The first is that,
as submitted by Professor Dawn Oliver, Emeritus Professor of Constitutional
Law at University College London,
no government for many decades has won the votes
of a majority of those who voted in an election, given the fact
that most constituencies are won on three or four etc cornered
fights and the winning candidate seldom wins a majority of the
votes cast. Thus winning an election does not necessarily grant
a government a 'mandate'.
49. The second reason is that a coalition government
has no opportunity to put its programme to the people. As Dr Catherine
Haddon, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Government, told
us: "I don't know how it would work in practicality. You
can't then re-have the election on the basis of voting for the
50. However, there remains a distinction between
policies contained in a coalition government's programme for government
and those contained in a manifesto. Oliver Letwin agreed that
a manifesto and a coalition agreement are:
completely different kinds of document... it is at
least open to voters to read the manifesto and that some votersmaybe
a higher proportion of those making up their mind than those already
settled in their convictionsdo read manifestos, or read
summaries of manifestos, or read summaries of the manifestos in
the newspapers and elsewhere. Therefore, at least I think one
can say that some of the main lines of the manifesto probably
have some influence on the outcome of a general election...The
coalition agreement manifestly can't because it isn't in existence
at the time of a general election. It is a totally different status
51. A policy contained in a coalition agreement does
not have the same mandate as a manifesto pledge, except where
the policy was reflected in the manifestos of both parties to
the coalition. In the case of a pledge which was contained in
one coalition party's manifesto, the popular mandate in support
of it was not enough to give that party a majority. Where policies
are included in a coalition agreement that were not included in
the manifesto of any party to a coalition government, these carry
the same authority as a non-manifesto policy adopted after an
election by a single-party government.
52. This seems to us to have two consequences. The
first is that a coalition government has a duty to ensure that
Bills and other decisions which originate from policies in the
programme for government are subjected to rigorous scrutiny by
Parliament, and that Parliament is given sufficient opportunity
to carry out this scrutiny. As Dr Ruth Fox from the Hansard Society
given that [Bills originating from the programme
for government] are not manifesto Bills, there is also, it seems
to me, an onus on the Government in terms of bringing forward
its legislation to ensure that it does so in a way that allows
for maximum scrutiny of those issues.
This sees parliamentary scrutiny as a form of compensation
for a democratic gap.
53. We have previously expressed our commitment to
pre-legislative scrutiny, especially for Bills of legal and constitutional
its nature, the policies of a coalition government have not been
endorsed by the people. This makes full pre-legislative scrutiny
and proper consultation on those policies all the more important.
54. The second consequence is that Members
of the House of Lords may not feel bound to apply the Salisbury-Addison
convention to policies contained in a coalition government's programme
55. The Joint Committee on Conventions published
a report in 2006 which articulated the Salisbury-Addison convention
The Convention which has evolved is that:
In the House of Lords:
A manifesto Bill is accorded a Second Reading;
A manifesto Bill is not subject to "wrecking
amendments" which change the Government's manifesto intention
as proposed in the Bill; and
A manifesto Bill is passed and sent (or returned)
to the House of Commons, so that they have the opportunity, in
reasonable time, to consider the Bill or any amendments the Lords
may wish to propose.
56. The Joint Committee also recommended against
attempting to define what constitutes a manifesto Bill.
57. It is for individual Members of the House of
Lords to decide whether to apply this convention to Bills which
originate from the coalition Government's programme for government.
We have sought the views on this matter of the Leaders of the
main political parties in the House of Lords, as well as the Convenor
of the Independent Crossbench Peers. However, we received a range
of opinions from a number of witnesses and no definitive consensus
has emerged. Baroness
Royall, Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition in the House
of Lords, has argued that these cannot rightly be called manifesto
Bills. Robert Hazell
argued in oral evidence that the convention actually applies to
all government Bills.
58. There is some academic debate as to whether the
Salisbury-Addison convention continues to exist.
We will return to this issue in detail when we examine the Government's
proposals to reform the House of Lords.
59. Doubts about the applicability and even existence
of Salisbury-Addison, as discussed above, draw attention to the
centrality of conventions to the operation of the UK political
settlement, and the confusion that can sometimes surround them.
This informality is associated with the un-codified nature of
the UK constitution, another issue to which we shall return.
Internal Party Processes
60. We heard evidence about the Liberal Democrat
party's internal "triple lock" arrangement for agreeing
to a coalition (or other) arrangement.
David Laws described this as "a process of approval that
required the parliamentary party, our federal executive, which
is the sovereign party body, and ultimately a special conference
having to sign off on the agreement".
We note that the Labour and Conservative parties do not have such
an arrangement in place. It
is for the political parties to decide if they wish to review
their internal procedures in light of the events of May 2010.
54 Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition negotiations,
Agreements reached, 11 May 2010 Back
HM Government, Our Programme for Government, May 2010 Back
For an example see Ev w1. Back
Ev w7 Back
Ev w1 Back
Q 149 Back
Q 114 Back
Q 157 Back
Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Second Report of
Session 2009/10, Fixed Term Parliaments Bill Back
HC 1212-I (2005-06), Para 99 Back
HC 1212-I (2005-06), Para 113 Back
Ev w10 [Baroness D'Souza]; Ev w11 [Baroness Royall of Blaisdon] Back
Ev w11 Back
Q 156 Back
Ev 64 Back
Q 8 Back
Q 8 Back