The Constitution Unit


Press Notice: the Constitution Unit welcomes new Cabinet Manual

14 December 2010

The Constitution Unit is very pleased that the Cabinet Office has finally published the draft Cabinet Manual. It clearly sets out the key conventions and practices by which governments operate, and brings them together in one place.

"This is a huge advance" said the Unit's director Prof Robert Hazell. "Publication of the early chapter on elections and government formation proved its worth in May, enabling people to be much better prepared for a hung Parliament. That chapter has been improved and updated. And now we have 10 more chapters: an insider's guide for the outside world on how Cabinet and Whitehall works". 

"This is not a power grab by the civil service" Prof Hazell continued. "It describes existing practice, with much of the information already available, but scattered in different places. The draft Cabinet Manual has been approved by Cabinet. Ministers have agreed that it summarises the practices which they should follow. Future governments can review and update it. It is a collective document on which Parliament and others are being invited to comment. But ultimately it has to be owned by the government of the day".

"Nor is the Manual likely to lead to a written constitution. That is a far bigger step, for which there is little public or political demand. In the meantime, the Manual is a really useful guide to how the British constitution actually works". 

Notes for Editors

  • The Constitution Unit made the case for a Cabinet Manual, in its report last December on Making Minority Government Work, and in evidence to the Justice Select Committee in February which prompted the Cabinet Office to publish the chapter on Elections and Government Formation before the general election. Details can be found at here.
  • Robert Hazell is available for interview, email r.hazell@ucl.ac.uk, office 020 7679 4977. Brian Walker is the Unit's Press Officer who can be contacted on 07802 176347.
  • The Constitution Unit is an independent and non-partisan research centre within the Department of Political Science at University College London.