Confidence and supply

In a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster system, confidence and supply are required for a government to hold power. A confidence and supply agreement is an agreement that a party or independent member of parliament will support the government in motions of confidence and appropriation (supply) votes by voting in favour or abstaining, while retaining the right to otherwise vote on conscience.[1][2]


In most parliamentary democracies, members of a parliament can propose a Motion of Confidence[3] or Motion of No Confidence in the government or executive. The results of such motions show how much support the government currently has in parliament. Should a motion of confidence fail, or a motion of no confidence pass, the government will usually either resign and allow other politicians to form a new government, or call an election.


Most democracies require an appropriation bill or something similar to be passed by parliament in order for a government to receive money to enact its policies. If an appropriation bill fails, the government loses control of the money supply, and is therefore virtually powerless. The failure of a supply bill thus has the same effect as the failure of a confidence motion. In early modern England, the withholding of funds was one of parliament's few ways of controlling the monarch.

Examples of confidence and supply deals

United Kingdom

Between 1977 and 1979, Jim Callaghan's Labour Party stayed in power thanks to a confidence and supply agreement with the Liberal Party, in a deal which became known as the Lib-Lab Pact. In return, the Labour Party agreed to modest policy concessions for the Liberal party.[4]

Years later, Callaghan said that he regretted the agreement and had "doomed the Labour party."

New Zealand

John Key's National Party administration formed a minority government in 2008 thanks to a confidence and supply agreement with the ACT, United Future and the Maori Party.[5] A similar arrangement in 2005 had led to Helen Clark's Labour Party forming a coalition government with the Progressive Party, with support on confidence and supply from New Zealand First and United Future.


The Australian Labor Party Gillard Government formed a minority government in the hung parliament elected at the 2010 federal election resulting from a confidence and supply agreement with three independent MPs and one Green MP.[6]


After the 2016 general election, a minority government was formed by Fine Gael and some independents, with confidence and supply support from Fianna Fáil in return for a published set of policy commitments from the government.[7] The deal was to last until the end of 2018, with the possibility of renewal before then to bring it up to the maximum five-year term for a Dáil.[8]


  1. James Cook, Governments, coalitions and border politics, BBC News, 7 May 2010
  2. Why the PM is safe in No 10 for the moment, The Independent, 8 May 2010
  3. Otherwise, when it is proposed by the Government itself upon a piece of legislation, "the Chambers are enslaved in the exercise of their principal function just because it was thought that their being master of the fiduciary relationship were to be reaffirmed on each bill": Argondizzo, Domenico; Buonomo, Giampiero (April 2014). "Spigolature intorno all'attuale bicameralismo e proposte per quello futuro".   via Questia (subscription required)
  4. Weaver, Matthew (16 March 2015). "Politics: what is confidence and supply?". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  5. Bryant, Nick (7 May 2010). "Lessons from New Zealand in art of coalition building". BBC News.
  6. Rodgers, Emma (7 September 2010). "Labor clings to power". ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  7. "Confidence and Supply Arrangement". Fianna Fáil. 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  8. Gallagher, Páraic (3 May 2016). "Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil parliamentary parties unanimously adopt Government deal". Newstalk. Retrieved 3 August 2016.

External links

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