Publications / Guides

How do MPs scrutinise the Budget?

Tulip Siddique MP in the House of Commons Chamber, 8 June 2022. ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
Tulip Siddique MP in the House of Commons Chamber, 8 June 2022. ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

The Financial Statement is usually followed by four days of debate on the Budget, each day's debate focusing on specific policy areas. The debate enables the House of Commons to consider the government’s proposals for charges, the role that these charges play in the context of the tax system as a whole, and whether the revenue raised is sufficient given the government’s expenditure plans.

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Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer rises to make his speech, a government Whip moves a motion for an ‘unopposed return’, whereby the House requires the production of Budget documents. A motion in the form of a Humble Address to His Majesty is generally used when the House requests papers from a government department, headed by a Secretary of State. However, the Chancellor is not a Secretary of State and so the motion takes a different form.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s speech is then heard without interruption. Exceptionally, there is also no question and answer period following the Chancellor’s Statement.

Once the Statement is concluded, two motions are moved formally:

  • a motion for the provisional collection of taxes; and

  • a Ways and Means motion on which the debate will begin.

The Leader of the Opposition is the first speaker called in the debate and is also heard without interruption. The Leader of the third-largest party, who speaks later in the debate, is also heard without interruption when his or her turn comes.

Any former Prime Minister, any former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee and Public Accounts Committee will almost certainly be called to speak early in the debate, if they wish to do so. (In the 2021 Budget debate a call list of speakers was made available in advance. This procedural change was necessitated by the arrangements for the virtual Parliament during the pandemic.)

The budget debate has a theme or themes (health, education, housing, etc) for each day, chosen by the government.

The Shadow Chancellor opens the debate on day two, and a relevant Secretary of State opens the debate on the remaining days, depending on the theme or themes for the day.

There are no winding-up speeches on the first day of debate. A Treasury Minister winds up the debate on the subsequent debate days.

The wide-ranging, topic-based organisation of the budget debate is to enable the House to consider not just the government’s proposals for charges, as set out in the Ways and Means resolutions, but also the role that these charges play in the context of the tax system as a whole, and whether the revenue raised by the proposed charges is sufficient given the government’s expenditure plans and the wider state of the economy.

08:06 am, 14 March 2023

Hansard Society (2022), How does Parliament authorise the Government's taxation plans? A procedural guide to the Budget process, (Hansard Society: London)

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