In the second of a short series of posts about government formation after the election, Robert Hazell discusses the weaknesses of the Cabinet Manual in terms of offering guidance on role of the incumbent PM and the caretaker convention.
On 23 February I gave evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee for their inquiry into government formation after the election. We discussed the inadequacy of the guidance in the Cabinet Manual about two things:
- Whether there is a duty on the incumbent Prime Minister to remain in office until it is clear who can command confidence in the new Parliament
- The caretaker convention, which requires a caretaker government to avoid actions or decisions which would bind the hands of a future government.
Duty on incumbent Prime Minister to remain in office
The draft Cabinet Manual published in December 2010 stated:
‘The incumbent Prime Minister is not expected to resign until it is clear that there is someone else who should be asked to form a government because they are better placed to command the confidence of the House of Commons and that information has been communicated to the Sovereign.’