Lessons from the process of Government formation after the 2010 General Election - Political and Consitutional Reform Committee Contents

6 The Cabinet Manual

87. On 14 December 2010 the Cabinet Office published the Cabinet Manual in draft for consultation. We welcome this step.

88. The Cabinet Secretary has described the Cabinet Manual as

the first, comprehensive account of the workings of Cabinet Government [which] will consolidate the existing unwritten, piecemeal conventions that govern much of the way central government operates under our existing constitution into a single written document.[102]

89. The December 2010 Cabinet Manual states that it

is intended to be a source of information on the UK's laws, conventions and rules, including those of a constitutional nature, that affect the operation and procedures of government. It is written from the perspective of the Executive branch of government. It is not intended to have any legal effect or set issues in stone. It is intended to guide, not to direct.[103]

90. While the Cabinet Manual as a whole was not originally in the scope of this inquiry, several issues regarding the Cabinet Manual have arisen in the course of our evidence-taking. In particular, many of our recommendations draw on and suggest changes to the Cabinet Manual draft chapter on Elections and Government Formation that was originally published in February 2010. This illustrates the potential significance of the Cabinet Manual. During our inquiry we and our witnesses have raised questions about not only the content of the Manual but its use and constitutional status. For instance, in countries internationally, arrangements for government transitions might be expected to be provided for in a codified constitution, an entity that the UK lacks. It is important to ask how far and effectively the Cabinet Manual can be seen as potentially performing the role of de facto codified constitution for the UK, and whether it is acceptable that it should do so. We have therefore announced a broader inquiry into the Cabinet Manual, intended initially to inform the consultation which ends early in March 2011.

102   Justice Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2009-10, Constitutional Processes Following a General Election, HC 396 Back

103   Cabinet Office, The Cabinet Manual - Draft, December 2010, p3 Back

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