Earlier this year the Conservative Party called for a general election with the aim of securing a stronger majority for future Brexit negotiations. After nearly two months of campaigning, the election did not produce a majority government; no party secured a sufficient number of seats to command a majority in the House of Commons, and the election resulted in a Hung Parliament.
A Minority Government
To maintain the position in the Executive, the Conservative Party arranged a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to form a new minority government. This was published in the Confidence-and-Supply agreement between them. The deal grants the Conservatives the support of the 10 extra seats provided by the DUP, thereby putting them back in the position of a majority government for certain purposes listed below.
Confidence and Supply Agreement
A confidence-and-supply agreement is a means for a minority government to guarantee it will command a majority in the House of Commons. Despite not having enough seats on its own, the Conservative Party can rely on the support of the DUP in motions of confidence and certain core legislative matters to ensure a stronger government. In exchange, the Government will supply additional funding for some of the DUP’s policies.
This can be distinguished from a coalition government, which is a more formal agreement where all parties involved cooperate in running the government together. In a coalition, the party or parties with fewer seats still gain positions in the cabinet, are granted ministerial roles, and generally play a larger part in the Executive. Through the Confidence and Supply Agreement, the Conservative Party remains the only party officially in the Government and is supported by the DUP.
Key points of the agreement between the Conservative Party and the DUP:
- The DUP will support the Government on all motions of confidence, as well as on the Queen’s speech, the Budget, finance bills, money bills and supply and appropriation legislation and estimates.
- The DUP will also support the Government on all Brexit legislation and legislation pertaining to national security.
- Support on all other matters will be agreed on a case by case basis.
- An extra £1 billion of funding has been allocated to Northern Ireland for the purposes of health, infrastructure and education budgets. The Government has stated this will not increase budgets in Scotland or Wales.
- The Conservative Party has dropped its commitments to changing the Pensions Triple Lock and the Winter Fuel Payment.
During the campaign to leave the European Union, the DUP was amongst those in favour of Brexit, and that position has not changed. The Party’s aims on keeping the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland frictionless hints that it may want to work towards a softer Brexit than the Conservatives. However, on other matters related to leaving the EU, the DUP’s aims match those of the Conservative Party.
The Government has announced that the agreement will remain in place for the length of this Parliament. The current Parliamentary session is set to run until 2022, so unless Parliament is dissolved early, the arrangement will last for five years before it is reviewed.