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The Cabinet Manual
A guide to laws, conventions and rules on the operation of government
The following is from an article in issue 64 of Lobster Magazine by Simon Matthews titled "Nobody told us we could do this - The bluffer’s guide to running Britain". It serves as a lucid introduction to the contents of this file.
- In 2009 (when Labour was so far behind in the polls that no historical precedent could be found for an electoral recovery from such a position) the Civil Service began ‘war gaming’ the possible outcomes of the 2010 general election. Sir Gus O’Donnell, its head, supervised this because he was ‘concerned that the rules in the case of a hung Parliament needed to be clear.’ Furthermore: ‘Buckingham Palace were anxious to have it sorted out prior to Polling Day.’ O’Donnell’s activities were not given a great deal of publicity and culminated in a seminar, held at Ditchley Park, in November 2009, under the auspices of The Institute of Government. A selection of academics, civil servants, politicians and the chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee were invited to attend.
- Following this event O’Donnell drafted "A Compendium of the Laws, Conventions and Constitutional Underpinning of the UK System of Government". Apparently anodyne, buried in its text were suggestions about how the Civil Service would ‘assist’ the formation of an administration if a general election failed to give any one party an overall majority in the House of Commons. It only remained that the document should – in some way – be ‘officially’ approved or accepted by Parliament. O’Donnell sent it to Dr Tony Wright MP, the chair of the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, who declined to consider it.10 It was then sent to Sir Alan Beith MP, chair of the Ministry of Justice Select Committee, where it was adopted on 23 February 2010. It was never debated or voted on in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
As Rob Wilson MP notes on page 59 of his book "Five Days to Power" - ISBN 1849540810 :
‘The Civil Service, rather covertly, had got what it wanted: a set of rules that it administered and therefore controlled.’
Click on a date/time to view the file as it appeared at that time.
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