Mark and Ruth look at the growing fashion for re-writing Bills mid-air as they pass through Parliament, adding on all sorts of policy bells and whistles at the last minute.
Departmental Estimates are scrutinised by departmental select committees in the House of Commons. Three days (other than Fridays) are then allotted in each parliamentary session for the consideration of Estimates in the Commons Chamber. These are known as Estimates Days. Any MP can bid, via the Backbench Business Committee, for an Estimates Day debate on one of the departmental Estimates.
Once the departmental Estimates are laid before Parliament initial scrutiny of them is undertaken by departmental select committees.
Explanatory memoranda are also laid alongside the Estimates. These explain the expenditure headings in the Estimates, any changes from previous years, and new areas of spending. They also explain the Barnett formula calculation of the block grant for the devolved governments.
One of the select committees’ core tasks is to 'examine the expenditure plans, outturn and performance of the department and its arm’s length bodies, and the relationships between spending and delivery of outcomes'. The House of Commons Scrutiny Unit provides select committees with briefing material on each departmental Estimate, as well as support with any follow-up scrutiny, including questioning of ministers or senior departmental officials.
MPs find it difficult to scrutinise the Estimates because the documents are dense, complex and difficult to understand. Expenditure is set out under very broad headings and is rarely linked directly to identifiable projects or programmes.
It is therefore difficult for MPs to focus on particular areas of spending other than in very broad terms, and even more difficult to target particular projects or programmes, should they wish to reduce spending via an amendment to the Estimate.
The presentation of Estimates information in the UK has been criticised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Some academic observers contend that the high-level aggregation of financial information means that UK government ministers have far more discretion in implementing public spending than do ministers in other OECD countries.
Previously, the Liaison Committee selected topics for Estimates Day debates, based on applications from select committees. Now, however, under an arrangement recommended by the Procedure Committee in April 2017 and then introduced on a pilot basis, any backbench MP - including select committee chairs - can bid, via the Backbench Business Committee, for an Estimates Day debate on one of the departmental Estimates.
The Backbench Business Committee considers all the bids and then submits formal proposals to the Liaison Committee as to the Estimates debates that should take place on the allocated days. Under the power set out in Standing Order No. 145, the Liaison Committee then recommends these proposals to the whole House, which must agree them.
In deciding on the bids made for an Estimates debate, members of the Backbench Business Committee take into account factors such as demonstrable levels of cross-party support, gender balance, and evidence of speaker demand.
Of the three days allotted in the House of Commons for Estimates Day debates, one day is allotted for consideration of the Main Estimate, and two days for the Supplementary Estimates and Vote on Account (if needed). One of the total three days may be taken in the form of two half-days of debate.
An Estimates debate may be linked to a department's full spending programme or a particular aspect of it, and it may draw on a relevant select committee report.
Delegated legislation is the most common form of legislation in the United Kingdom. It is the legislation of everyday life, impacting millions of citizens daily. But the terminology and procedures that surround it are complex and often confusing. This explainer unpacks delegated legislation - the terminology and Parliament's role in scrutinising it - to reveal more about how delegated legislation really works.
What a week! Suella Braverman's sacking from Government was immediately eclipsed by the appointment of former Prime Minister David Cameron as the new Foreign Secretary. Mark and Ruth explore the many questions this raises, not least for scrutiny of foreign affairs by MPs.
The Prime Minister’s decision to cancel the next stage of HS2 has given rise to criticism that once again the Government has ridden roughshod over Parliament. Just over 1,300 hours of legislative time have been spent on four HS2-related Bills over nine Sessions in the last decade. Why has it taken so long and what now happens to that legislation?
When parliamentarians reassemble at Westminster on 7 November for the start of the new Session, all eyes will be on the legislative programme to be announced in the King’s Speech. Speculation about the likely date of the next general election is rife at Westminster, but until the date is settled there are a lot of parliamentary issues still to be tackled. We’ve picked out a few things to look out for on the political horizon.