Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 20:21 UK

Cabinet government 'may' be back - Lord Butler

The creation of the Conservative Lib Dem coalition could mean a welcome return to cabinet government, a former head of the civil service has said.

Crossbench peer Lord Butler of Brockwell said in a Lords debate on the role of the Cabinet Office on 6 July 2010: "Decisions will have to be discussed and properly recorded and something approaching cabinet government will be - maybe is being - restored."

Lord Butler, Cabinet Secretary from 1988-98, added: "I hope that the Cabinet Office can no longer be a 'prime minister's department' in the situation of the coalition, because who then supports the Deputy Prime Minister [Nick Clegg]?"

Labour former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith used the example of the changes to the role of Lord Chancellor to warn the present coalition government to tread cautiously in its plans for constitutional reform.

Mr Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, outlined plans yesterday for a referendum next year on changes to the voting system and for a reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600. The coalition also wants a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords.

Lord Goldsmith said: "Constitutional changes require proper thought and planning and then more thought. The pieces of our constitution fit together sometimes like an unsolved jigsaw puzzle.

"It's not apparent how they fit together but fit together they do." That did not mean they were "immutable", he stressed. "But, if you are going to make changes to them, you have to plan it carefully and be clear what the end result is going to be."

Lord Goldsmith, who was speaking in the same debate, said this was something that the present government "need to bear very much in mind".

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