Clearly they’ve been busy in Cabinet Office. As well as a new Cabinet Office Manual dealing with such tricky issues as a hung Parliament, they’ve also now finalised and published the version of the Memorandum of Understanding agreed a few weeks ago at the JMC (Domestic) meeting. The new version is Cm 7864, and can be found on the Cabinet Office website here.
I’ve only had time for a quick scan of the new version of the MoU, but there’s only one substantial change from its earlier incarnations that I have noticed: the new protocol on dispute avoidance and resolution, which was published separately a couple of weeks ago (and which I discussed HERE). The provisions relating to the working of the JMC (Europe) and devolved administrations’ engagement with EU institutions have also been made more detailed and explicit, and there are some changes setting out clearer arrangements for such matters as financial assistance to industry. There are also more explicit provisions about the role of the Joint Ministerial Committee (paras. 23-6 and Supplementary Agreement A), and secretariat arrangements for the JMC. Beyond that, there are a large number of minor updating changes, for new departmental names and so forth. One that I notice are specific exceptions for UK Budget proposals and national security from the commitments to consult the devolved administrations (new paragraph 6). Given the entangled nature of the financial system, and the fact that UK Budget decisions have a direct bearing on devolved functions when it comes to public spending, excluding these from all consultation requirements appears to me to be utterly wrong. I’ll return to this issue in due course.
Cabinet Office also say that they have updated their devolution guidance, which is available here. It’s not immediately clear to me what has changed here, as the important material – in the Devolution Guidance Notes (the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, not Cabinet Office, in any event) and the Cabinet Office’s Guide to Making Legislation – remains unaltered.