Report published on the Revision of the Cabinet Manual
8 July 2021
Following its inquiry into whether the Cabinet Manual needs to be updated, the Constitution Committee has published a short report on the Revision of the Manual.
- Report: Revision of the Cabinet Manual (HTML)
- Report: Revision of the Cabinet Manual (PDF)
- Inquiry: Revision of the Cabinet Manual
- Constitution Committee
Following significant developments since the publication of the first Cabinet Manual in 2011, particularly in relation to Brexit and devolution, as well as the anticipated repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the Constitution Committee conducted an inquiry into whether the Manual needs to be updated and what role it should play as a public facing document.
- The report explores the process of updating the Manual, how Parliament should be involved and what role the Manual should play as a public document.
- The report emphasises that as the Cabinet Manual is now a decade old, it needs to be regularly updated, as an out-of-date Manual will lack authority, cause confusion about what constitutional arrangements apply and risk becoming moribund.
- The report highlights that documents such as the Cabinet Manual, Ministerial Code and Civil Service Code are an important part of the United Kingdom's constitutional framework and that together with the Nolan Principles, respect for the Manual and Codes is essential for upholding principles of good governance, including adherence to constitutional conventions and the proper conduct of public and political life.
- A draft update of the Cabinet Manual should be produced as soon as possible, and not later than 12 months from the date of this report.
- Thereafter any updates to the Cabinet Manual should as a matter of routine be considered at the beginning of each Parliament and endorsed by the Cabinet.
- Future drafts should be shared with the Constitution Committee and the relevant committees in the House of Commons and devolved legislatures for comment.
- The Cabinet Manual should continue to be drafted in an accessible and clear style which does not presume detailed knowledge of the UK constitution and the operation of government.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton, Chair of the Constitution Committee, said:
“Since the publication of the first Manual in 2011 there have been significant developments in relation to Brexit and devolution, as well as the anticipated repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. We therefore decided to conduct a short inquiry into whether the Manual needs to be updated and what role it should play as a public facing document.
“We have previously recommended that the Manual be regularly updated, with any revisions reflected immediately in the online version. In response to the evidence, we received during our inquiry, we recommend that any updates to the Cabinet Manual should as a matter of routine be considered at the beginning of each Parliament and endorsed by the Cabinet. As with the first edition, this process should include consulting parliamentary committees, academics, and the public on a draft version.
“However, as an update to the Manual is now well overdue, we recommend a draft update should be issued within the next 12 months, in advance of the next general election.
“The Manual and the associated Codes are crucial to maintaining the public's trust in government. They must never be treated as optional extras to be swept aside or ignored to suit the convenience of the executive”.