The Cabinet Manual|
CHAPTER 1: Introduction
1. The draft Cabinet Manual was published by
the Cabinet Office on 14 December 2010. Its development was
first announced in February 2010, when, in a speech to the Institute
for Public Policy Research, the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown,
stated that he had asked the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell,
"to lead work to consolidate the existing unwritten, piecemeal
conventions that govern much of the way central government operates
under our existing constitution into a single written document."
2. The concept of a Cabinet Manual appears to
have drawn extensively upon experience in New Zealand. The Foreword
to the draft specifically cites the New Zealand Cabinet Manual
and describes it as "an authoritative guide to central decision
making for Ministers, their offices, and those working within
Gus O'Donnell visited New Zealand during the general election
campaign, and well-placed commentators such as Professor Robert
Hazell and Peter Riddell
have suggested that the New Zealand precedent was important.
3. In February 2010 the Cabinet Office published
a draft chapter of the Manual on elections and government formation.
The chapter was scrutinised by the House of Commons Justice Committee.
The full draft of the Manual (incorporating a revised version
of the chapter on elections and government formation) was published
with the agreement of the new Prime Minister, David Cameron, and
the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and after its text had
been approved by the Cabinet following consideration by the relevant
4. The draft Manual has chapters on the Sovereign,
elections and government formation, the executive, collective
Cabinet decision-making, ministers and Parliament, ministers and
the law, ministers and the Civil Service, relations with the devolved
administrations and local government, relations with the European
Union and other international institutions, government finance
and expenditure and official information.
5. The draft has been made subject to a public
consultation. The consultation has two stated aims: first, to
ensure that the Manual reflects an agreed position on important
constitutional conventions, and to seek to clarify the position
where there is doubt or disagreement; and second, to check that
the draft covers the issues that need to be covered in a way which
is easy for the intended audience to follow. The Cabinet Secretary
has stated that he expects to invite Cabinet to endorse a revised
version of the Cabinet Manual in the spring of 2011.
6. The Cabinet Manual
refers to many matters of constitutional significance and the
Constitution Committee was invited by the Cabinet Secretary to
comment on the draft. This report accordingly forms our response
to the consultation. It is also intended to inform Members of
the House about the issues which arise from the Manual's publication.
7. In order to assist us in our deliberations
on the draft Manual, we heard evidence from former Cabinet ministers
Lord Adonis and Lord
Wakeham, from the
former Cabinet Secretaries, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster,
Lord Butler of Brockwell,
Lord Wilson of Dinton
and Lord Turnbull,
and from the constitutional expert, Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield.
On 12 January Professor Margaret Wilson, a former New Zealand
Attorney-General and subsequently Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament,
discussed with us informally her experience of the New Zealand
Cabinet Manual. We are grateful for their assistance. Except where
expressly attributed to one of our witnesses, the views contained
in this report are those of the Committee.
8. We wish to state that none of the comments
in this report should be read as an endorsement by this Committee
of the draft Manual or its contents. In particular, although we
comment on specific paragraphs within the draft Manual, the fact
that we do not comment on a particular paragraph or chapter should
not be taken to mean that we regard that paragraph or chapter
as an accurate statement of the relevant position, nor that we
necessarily agree with its inclusion within the text.
9. We discuss in Chapter Two of this report the
purpose and status of the Manual. The Manual has been produced
by the Cabinet Office primarily as a guide for members of Cabinet,
ministers and civil servants.
We therefore consider that a better title for the Manual would
be "The Cabinet Office Manual".
Foreword to the draft Cabinet Manual. For the full document see
Professor of British Politics and Government and Director of the
Constitution Unit, University College London. Back
Chair of the Hansard Society Advisory Council and Senior Fellow
of the Institute for Government. Back
Oral evidence taken before the Political and Constitutional Reform
Committee on the Constitutional Implications of the Cabinet Manual,
13 January 2011, Q 6 (Professor Hazell); Why fears the Cabinet
Manual is a step towards a written constitution are unfounded
Essay by Peter Riddell, Institute for Government www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/1398/why-fears-the-cabinet-manual-is-a-step-towards-a-written-constitution-are-unfounded/ Back
Justice Committee, 5th report (2009-10): Constitutional processes
following a general election (HC 396). Back
Foreword to the draft Manual; see also Political and Constitutional
Reform Committee, 4th Report (2010-2011): Lessons from the
process of Government formation after the 2010 General Election
(HC 528) Q 167 (Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary). Back
Foreword to the draft Manual. Back
References in this report to "the [draft] Manual" should
be read as references to "the [draft] Cabinet Manual".
References to "the draft Manual" are to the draft published
in December 2010; references to "the Manual" are to
the Manual as an ongoing publication. Back
Lord Adonis was Secretary of State for Transport in the House
of Lords. He is currently Director of the Institute for Government.
Lord Wakeham was Secretary of State for Energy; he has also been
Leader of the House of Commons and Leader of the House of Lords
and was appointed in 1999 to chair a Royal Commission on reform
of the House of Lords. Back
Cabinet Secretary 1979-1988. Back
Cabinet Secretary 1988-1998. Back
Cabinet Secretary 1998-2002. Back
Cabinet Secretary 2002-2005. Back
Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary,
University of London. Back
Paragraph 41. Back