Publications / Guides

What is the Budget?

The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt walks outside Downing Street with the Budget box. ©HM Treasury / Zara Farrar
The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt walks outside Downing Street with the Budget box. ©HM Treasury / Zara Farrar

In order to raise income, the Government needs to obtain approval from Parliament for its taxation plans. The Budget is the means by which the House of Commons considers the government’s plans to impose 'charges on the people' and its assessment of the wider state of the economy.

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The Budget is usually held on a Wednesday, although there is no prohibition on it being held on another day of the week (the Budget of 29 October 2018, for example, was held on a Monday).

If it is held on a Wednesday, the Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer follows Prime Minister’s Questions. On any day, it would follow any Urgent Questions, ministerial statements and Points of Order, should there be any. There are no Ten Minute Rule Bill proceedings on Budget day.

The Statement and debate are usually chaired by the principal Deputy Speaker (who is also the Chair of Ways and Means), rather than the Speaker. (There have been occasional exceptions – the Speaker presided in 1968 and 1989.)

The Budget process has four key parliamentary stages:

The Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement to the House of Commons consists of two distinct elements:

  1. an update on the state of the economy, and;

  2. an outline of the government's taxation plans.

The Financial Statement and Budget Report (known as the Red Book) are laid before the House of Commons for scrutiny, accompanied by an array of supporting documentation including economic forecasts from the Office of Budget Responsibility , departmental press notices concerning the tax measures, policy costings, and data sources.

Members of Parliament (MPs) consider the Financial Statement in a wide-ranging debate lasting four days. The debate is organised into topics, with each day dedicated to a particular policy theme or themes (for example, health, education, housing).

Each individual tax or duty must be agreed in the form of ‘Ways and Means’ resolutions. These are put to the House of Commons as motions, which become resolutions once agreed, in the normal way.

Once the Budget resolutions have been agreed, these ‘charging’ or ‘founding’ resolutions form the basis of the Finance Bill. The Finance Bill cannot be introduced until the resolutions are agreed.

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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