It has been widely reported today that the Conservative party have come to a £1Bn+ deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up their minority government, which got me wondering what are the key differences between a 'confidence and supply' deal moreover a formal coalition?

  • Overlap is considerable but a formal coalition is a bit stronger. It's easier to walk away from a confidence and supply deal. Also DUP won't provide any minister while in a coalition they should. Jun 26, 2017 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


This is the UK, so of course there is no formal rule, but based on the 2010 coalition government between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, we would expect a full formal coalition to produce a cabinet containing members of both parties, all acting under the convention of collective responsibility. That is to say, with ministers of both parties publicly supporting and defending the government position, regardless of from which side of the aisle it originally came. This didn't always happen in practice, but a frequent Liberal Democrat complaint after the 2015 election was that that they couldn't get enough public credit for those occasions they forced a change in Conservative policy.

At its most basic, 'a confidence and supply' deal guarantees a minority government the support of another party when the House votes on motions of no confidence (and, before the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, on supply bills, where a loss would also have effectively terminated the government's mandate). In theory, the second party could be in total, public, opposition to any other government bill. In this case, it appears the Conservatives and the DUP have agreed a small tranche of additional legislation where the Tories can expect DUP support, in exchange for support for certain DUP positions, and an estimated £1 billion of additional infrastructure funding being provided to the Northern Ireland executive.

  • I don't understand the logical connection between the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act and the concept of "supply bills". The UK concept of supply bills basically covers approving issues like the government's budget proposals, or more specific financial issues. Bills designated as "money bills" by the Speaker can not be delayed indefinitely by the (unelected) House of Lords (Parliament Act, 1911 - nothing to do with fixed term parliaments), but they can be defeated in the Commons, which would leave the government without a functioning finance policy.
    – alephzero
    Jun 26, 2017 at 18:17
  • 2
    @alephzero Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, there's now a prescribed form for a motion of no confidence, which doesn't mention supply , so there's now the potential for an odd grey area where the government doesn't have any finances, but the old convention that this means they're booted out doesn't apply (probably). It's the kind of thing British constitutional scholars like arguing about.
    – origimbo
    Jun 26, 2017 at 18:24
  • "in exchange for support for certain DUP positions." and about 1 billion pounds.
    – James K
    Jun 27, 2017 at 20:32
  • @JamesK to clearly define the level of sleaze for those not aware, the £1 billion is the estimated cost of additional infrastructure funding being provided to the Northern Ireland executive, not (directly) to the DUP itself.
    – origimbo
    Jun 27, 2017 at 22:02
  • That's true. I've tried to edit that comment into your answer.
    – James K
    Jun 27, 2017 at 22:07

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