With the country facing a hung Parliament how will a government be formed and then sustained in office? Plotting a roadmap through the constitutional issues, this paper highlights and explains key parliamentary dates and events that will shape the process, and sets it in historical context.
The fundamental principle at the heart of our parliamentary democracy is that the government must command the confidence of the House of Commons. In the event of a hung Parliament - where no party secures an outright majority - the arithmetic presents politicians with a conundrum: who commands their confidence and should therefore govern?
The answer to that question will be determined through a complex nexus of constitutional conventions, laws and precedents, party political calculations and gauging of the public mood. There is guidance and rules to resolve who should govern in the event of a hung Parliament including the Cabinet Manual and the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
Drawing on these and other sources, this briefing paper addresses how a government will be formed and then sustained in office. It also looks at how a minority government might operate in Parliament, focusing on the impact it may have on parliamentary process and procedure.
Table of contents
Introduction: Minority government in context
- Historical comparisons and precedents
Part 1: Forming a government
- What does ‘command confidence’ mean?
- The incumbent Prime Minister: stay or go?
- When will Parliament meet?
- The State Opening of Parliament: will the Queen attend?
- The Queen’s Speech debate: confidence of the House?
- Will there be a second general election?
- What difference does the Fixed Term Parliaments Act make?
- Seats vs- votes: what counts?
- An alternative party leader / Prime Minister?
- How long can be taken to form a government?
Part 2: Parliamentary procedure: help or hindrance?
- Does it matter if votes are lost?
- Whats about the House of Lords?
- Will minority government mean less legislation?
- Will the Speaker’s casting vote influence decisions?
- Managing time: potential problems ahead
- The establishment and composition of select committees
- The fiscal maze
- Delegated legislation: an increase in deferrals and withdrawals?
- Accountability and transparency
Enjoy reading this? Please consider sharing it
Whilst the *Miller* case may be seen as a victory for Parliament, it simultaneously highlights significant constitutional weaknesses on issues such as devolution and the role of referendums. Is it time to consider whether the UK constitution needs more legal as opposed to political regulation?
In Canada, the ‘professional politician’ remains the exception rather than the rule, and MPs with prior political experience don’t have an advantage in the development of their parliamentary careers.
If the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published regular 'Metrics for Global Britain' it could attach clear indicators to an otherwise politicised term, enhancing the committee's scrutiny work and providing hooks for boosting its public and media profile. In evidence to the committee published in July, we explained how.
MPs are setting up the new sifting committee for delegated legislation under the EU (Withdrawal) Act, but the new procedure simply bolts a toothless sift onto the front of existing inadequate procedures.
At a time of political upheaval – with questions being asked about the leadership, policies and competence of both main UK parties – our Audit of Political Engagement reveals some interesting findings about the ways in which Conservative and Labour supporters view these factors differently and how their importance has changed over time.
As the EU (Withdrawal) Bill arrives back in the House of Commons for consideration of House of Lords amendments, this briefing paper for MPs sets out our concerns about three amendments - 110, 10 and 4 - concerning scrutiny of delegated powers and Statutory Instruments.