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.


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)

Blog / How should Parliament handle the Seventh Carbon Budget - and why does it matter?

The Climate Change Act 2008 established a framework for setting carbon budgets every five years. But the role of Parliament in approving these budgets has been widely criticised, including by the Prime Minister. The Environmental Audit Committee has proposed improvements in the scrutiny process to ensure effective climate action, particularly in the context of the UK’s commitment to achieving 'Net Zero' emissions by 2050. These reforms will significantly alter the way Parliament handles the Seventh Carbon Budget in 2025.

18 Apr 2024
Read more

News / Tobacco and Vapes Bill: free vote blows smoke in Rishi Sunak's eyes - Parliament Matters podcast, Episode 30

Rishi Sunak offered his MPs a free vote on his flagship Tobacco and Vapes Bill and dozens concluded they could not support it. As well as exploring the politics of the Bill, Ruth and Mark discuss the concept of a free vote and how they have been deployed in previous parliamentary sessions.

19 Apr 2024
Read more

Guides / Private Members' Bills (PMBs)

Private Members' Bills (PMBs) are bills introduced by MPs and Peers who are not government ministers. The procedures, often a source of controversy, are different to those that apply for government bills. Below are 7 short guides that explain key aspects of the process, as well as data on the number of PMBs that are successful each Session, and our proposals for reform of the PMB system.

Read more

Blog / Two Houses go to war: the Safety of Rwanda Bill and the origins of the Parliament Act

The Parliament Act is being bandied about in the media again in connection with the Rwanda Bill. This blogpost explains why the Parliament Act cannot be used in relation to the Rwanda Bill and looks at the origins and key features of the Act to place the current debate about the role of the House of Lords in its historical context.

25 Mar 2024
Read more

Blog / Creeping ministerial powers: the example of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill

The Government’s flagship Tobacco and Vapes Bill will ban the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2009. The genesis of the delegated powers in the Bill – dating back a decade - tells an important story about the way in which incomplete policy-making processes are used by Ministers to seek ‘holding’ powers in a Bill, only for that precedent to then be used to justify further, broader powers in subsequent Bills. This ‘creeping’ effect in the legislative process undermines parliamentary scrutiny of ministerial action.

15 Apr 2024
Read more