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.
The legal basis for parliamentary control of Government expenditure dates back to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 and Parliament’s decision to legalise the standing army but provide its expenses only for 12 months in advance. This 12-months in advance principle was extended to other areas of Government expenditure until, by 1830, all civil government expenditure was provided on this basis. Six key principles or rules now govern what has become known as the Estimates process.
The principles or rules governing the Estimates process are derived variously from practices of the House of Commons stretching back to the early eighteenth century, from Standing Orders, and in some instances from statute.
Resources are authorised by Parliament only for use in the financial year set out in the Supply and Appropriation Act. The original purpose behind this rule was to prevent the Government hoarding surplus money from one year to the next and then spending it in ways not authorised by Parliament. This annuality rule was first applied in the 1862-63 session, following a recommendation from the then newly-established Committee of Public Accounts in 1861. The rule is now formally set out in the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 and is important in the context of NAO auditing of government accounts at the end of the financial year.
Expenditure resolutions must, subject to certain exceptions, be given statutory effect in the parliamentary session in which they are passed (although this has been disapplied from time to time, including in relation to the post-2011 shift in the start and end of parliamentary sessions from autumn to spring. The rule is now regarded as far less important than it used to be).
"receive no petition for any sum relating to public service or proceed upon any motion for a grant or charge upon the public revenue, whether payable out of the Consolidated Fund or the National Loans Fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament, or for releasing or compounding any sum of money owing to the Crown, unless recommended from the Crown."
The provision that the House will only consider expenditure proposals made by the Crown dates back to an Order of the House of Commons on 11 June 1713 which stated "That this House will receive no Petition for any sum of money relating to public services but what is recommended from the Crown." This Order gave the Government the sole power of financial initiative in Parliament. It was partly designed to limit ‘pork barrel’ politics by MPs seeking funds for local constituency expenditure but with little or no regard for the nation’s finances.
In practice, Supply and Appropriation Bills go to the House of Lords but their passage there is a formality: such Bills are not printed and are not debated or amended.
Preliminary approval of expenditure by MPs must be given in a resolution of the House prior to legislation to enact the spending plans.
Standing Order No. 49 sets out that "Any charge upon the public revenue whether payable out of the Consolidated Fund or the National Loans Fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament including any provision for releasing or compounding any sum of money owing to the Crown shall be authorised by resolution of the House."
The Supply and Appropriations Bill for final authorisation of the release of monies from the Consolidated Fund to departments can therefore only be brought forward once the House has considered the Supply motions. In the same way, the Finance Bill follows consideration of the Budget motions.
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.