Formal rules needed to prevent Government chaos as the Coalition enters its last 12 months

Political Editor

New “rules of the game” for the Coalition’s final year are proposed today to prevent the Government plunging into chaos and stop civil servants being sucked into the growing rows between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

A Whitehall think tank has warned that the Lib Dems could lose out as neutral officials side with the Cabinet minister in charge of their department, most of whom are Conservatives. The Institute for Government said David Cameron and Nick Clegg should replace the system of muddling through with formal rules for Whitehall in the 12 months of every five-year parliament.

Extensive interviews revealed that some officials are worried about the neutral civil service becoming “politicised” as the two Coalition parties diverge before the election, which takes place a year today. Some officials revealed they had already been told to keep junior ministers and political advisers on “the other side” of the Coalition “out of the loop”.

The report also called for a “no surprises” rule to prevent Coalition disputes and avoid a breakdown in trust. It pointed to Mr Clegg’s announcement of free school meals for all five- to seven-year-olds and Mr Cameron’s pledge to cut “green levies” on energy bills, both of which provoked rows with their Coalition partners.

The institute also said that the Opposition should be given access to the civil service to discuss its proposals for government a year before the election. Mr Cameron has ruled that Labour will be given only six months. Before the 2010 election, the Tories were allowed 15 months but the election date was not known because it was before the introduction of five-year fixed-term parliaments.

Today’s report said Tory and Lib Dem ministers should have a “safe or secure space” in which to seek civil service costings and analysis for their election manifesto ideas which will not be divulged to the other party. But these “confidential channels” should not be used to find weaknesses in other parties’ plans, which would draw officials into providing “political ammunition”.

Peter Riddell, the IoG’s director, said: “The existence of the Coalition has created new problems for Whitehall as ministers remain as colleagues in governing but are rivals in electioneering. At present, senior officials report being unsure where they should look within the coalition parties for a political lead on policy for after the election.”

He added: “As tensions become more public between the two Coalition parties over new initiatives, it is important to have more explicit guidelines about civil service policy advice for the final year of the parliament. This is needed in the interests of both the civil service and politicians - to avoid officials being put in an invidious position between the two Coalition parties, and, more broadly, to protect civil servants’ impartiality.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine