Opinion polling in the last months of this Parliament has consistently indicated the likelihood of an election result with no overall majority. This means it is likely there will be a negotiation period for the formation of a potential coalition Government or a Government supported on a confidence and supply arrangement. It is likely this will take longer after the 2015 election than it did after the 2010 election.
We undertook this inquiry to provide guidance to the public on what to expect in the government formation process in a Parliament with no overall majority. The key issues we draw to the attention of the public are:
· The negotiation period in 2015 is likely to be longer than in 2010.
· A Prime Minister who is unlikely to be able to form a new administration is nevertheless likely to remain in office, and in Downing Street, until it is clear that another administration can form a Government which can command the confidence of the House of Commons.
· If there is no parliamentary majority to support the current administration, it will nevertheless continue in office on a caretaker basis until a new government is formed. Caretaker Ministers ought to consult with their counterparts on any major decisions.
· Ministers who lose their seats at the General Election continue in their Ministerial roles until a new government has been formed.
We have welcomed the fact that parties involved in negotiations in 2010 have made formal changes to their internal processes so that there is greater consultation with Members of Parliament, but believe it is wrong that Parliament may not have its first meeting after the election until after a new administration has been appointed.
We consider that it is wrong in principle that the decision on the date of Parliament's return should be in the hands of the Prime Minister, and recommend that the date of Parliament's first meeting after a General Election should be put on a statutory basis. In the event that no single party has a majority in the House of Commons to be elected at the forthcoming general election, Parliament should return as soon as possible, and we recommend that in any case the Prime Minister should set the date for Parliament's return following the General Election for Monday 11 May 2015. We have set out ways to expedite the House's procedures for electing a Speaker and swearing in Members to allow for substantive debate in the House to begin as soon as possible on 11 May. We also recommend that procedural changes are made to enable a future House to hold an early investiture vote to demonstrate its confidence in a new administration and to indicate the end of any caretaker period of government.
Our report also considers the role of the Civil Service and caretaker administration before the election and during the period when government formation discussions are taking place.