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
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Content Marketing Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing, Google certi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn