Authorising Government expenditure: steps to more effective scrutiny Contents

3The House’s present arrangements for scrutiny and debate of Estimates

I consider the debates on Supplementary Estimates are the most worthless of any that I have known in my career.

—The Rt Hon Winston S. Churchill, CH26

31.We set out above the major structural deficiency of the House’s processes for financial authorisation: the unilateral determination by the Government of multi-annual financial perspectives, with no agreed procedure for participation or review by the House of Commons. We consider below the existing systems for annual financial authorisations by the House and the disciplines they place on the Government, and examine ways in which the House’s participation in annual authorisations may be made more effective.

Presentation of Estimates and timetable for debate

32.Central Government Supply Estimates—papers which set out the Government’s formal spending plans with detailed “ambits” (that is, allocation of specified sums to particular purposes) for the financial year—are now normally published twice a year. The proposals for expenditure which they contain require authorisation in legislation before payments may be made from the Consolidated Fund. The House’s rules on financial procedure require motions to be passed by the House, at the Government’s initiative, authorising such expenditure before the bill giving effect to the expenditure may be brought in.27

33.Estimates days were established following a decision of the House of July 1982 to implement, in an amended form, the recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure (Supply) in its report of July 1981.29 Standing Orders provide for three days to be set aside per year for consideration of Estimates, with the topics determined by the Liaison Committee. Select committees now submit bids to the Liaison Committee for Estimates day debates, generally on the basis of a recent report. The Liaison Committee then makes a selection and reports it to the House: the House approves the proposed subjects by endorsing the report. Each Estimates day is normally informally divided into two half day debates.30

34.Debate on an Estimate now arises on a motion in the following form:

That, for the year ending with [date], for expenditure by [Department], resources, not exceeding [sum] be authorised for use for current purposes as set out in [relevant Estimate], resources, not exceeding [sum] be authorised for use for capital purposes as so set out, and a further sum, not exceeding [sum] be granted to Her Majesty to be issued by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund and applied for expenditure on the use of resources authorised by Parliament.

The subject of debate chosen by the Liaison Committee is indicated on the Order Paper, and the relevant committee report, upon which debate in effect arises, is “tagged” to the motion as a relevant document.

35.The motion is amendable, to an extent. Members may propose reductions in those Estimates selected for debate, but they may not propose increases. This is in accordance with the principle that the Crown alone may initiate expenditure. An amendment which had the effect of increasing expenditure other than at the Crown’s initiative would be disorderly.31

36.The scope of debate is restricted to the formal subject matter of the debate, as recommended by the Liaison Committee and agreed to by the House. This may be only vaguely related to the Estimate in question or part thereof, and is usually more focused on a specific select committee report or reports. This may mean that Members find themselves ruled out of order by the Chair if introducing matters not related to the topic of the debate, even if the contribution does relate to the Estimate of the relevant Department.32

37.All those Estimates not selected for debate—the vast majority—are put to the House for decision, without the possibility of debate or amendment, in the so-called “roll-up” motion at the end of a sole day, or the second of two days, of debate.

38.The House having agreed by resolution to all the Estimates presented, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury formally introduces a Supply and Appropriation Bill founded on those resolutions. Typically, the bill is set down for its second reading the following day: under Standing Order No. 56 the questions on second and third reading are put forthwith.33 The bill is certified by the Speaker as a money bill for the purposes of the Parliament Act 1911, and is passed to the Lords, where it is passed unamended and submitted for Royal Assent. Enactment of the bill provides the necessary legislative authority for release of the sums sought from the Consolidated Fund.

Are the present arrangements effective?

39.The consequence of the practices which have developed under the present system since its introduction in 1982 is that the time set aside by the House for consideration of Estimates (already limited) has been subverted, although for—in itself—an entirely legitimate purpose. Estimates themselves–which in the 2016–17 session set out how the Government planned to spend over £500 billion of taxpayer’s money—go largely unnoticed by the public and media, and receive little, if any, direct and focused scrutiny on the floor of the House before being approved.34

40.Dr Joachim Wehner, of the London School of Economics described the situation in these terms:

If my task was to design a parliamentary budget process that hinders parliamentary scrutiny of public finances, it is hard to imagine doing better than designing the process that is currently in place in the UK.35

41.There appears to be little incentive on the part of the Government to change the existing processes. However, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rt Hon David Gauke MP, and the Leader of the House, Rt Hon David Lidington MP, both indicated to us that it was for the House to determine changes to how it examined Estimates.36

42.While the Government appears relaxed about any changes to arrangements for debating Estimates, the Chief Secretary did indicate that any proposals to change the House’s rules governing the approvals of Estimates themselves—such as the orderliness of amendments proposed from the backbenches which sought to raise the upper limit of an Estimate—would raise matters of deeper constitutional principle which the Government would examine critically.37

Timing of the process

43.The current timetable for publication, consideration and authorisation of Estimates—derived from Standing Orders, agreements with the Liaison Committee and Treasury deadlines—is based largely on the Government’s timetable for providing the relevant financial information and securing the necessary authorisations for expenditure. Although the Government has consulted House committees in recent reforms to financial processes which have had an impact on parliamentary consideration—the introduction of resource accounting and budgeting in 2001 and the alignment of Government financial reporting introduced in 2011/12—the scheduling of the presentation of Estimates and the debates on their authorisation is largely dictated by the Government’s own requirements.

44.There are two particular issues:

45.In his written evidence, the Clerk Assistant set out what he thought was the time interval necessary to allow for a reasonable examination of Estimates. He estimated that at a bare minimum the process would require a five week interval between the publication of an Estimate and the date of any debate.39 This would allow for review of the Estimates and their content, consideration of what may warrant debate, the taking of decisions on debate, and giving notice to Members of selected debates while briefing is prepared.

46.The OECD, in its Best Practices for Budget Transparency, suggests that “the government’s draft budget should be submitted to Parliament far enough in advance to allow Parliament to review it properly” and recommends at least three months for budget scrutiny.40 OECD’s written evidence showed that other OECD countries tended to provide much more time for legislative budget scrutiny than does the UK.41

47.Without a longer time interval between publication of Supplementary Estimates and debates on those Estimates, the ability of Members to absorb, analyse, consider, decide and prepare for Estimates day debates, on a basis which genuinely relates to the Estimates under consideration, is severely constrained.

48.The date set in Standing Orders by which Supplementary Estimates have to be considered is designed to ensure that government knows, before the end of the financial year, how much money is available in that financial year, and that money can actually be spent before the year ends. In practice, Government has, in recent years, sought approval for Supplementary Estimates two to three weeks before the deadline set in Standing Orders, having presented the documents to which the vote relates only some two to three weeks earlier. It is open to the Government both to publish and present the Supplementary Estimates earlier, and to seek Parliament’s authority later, and still remain within the current 18 March deadline. It is equally open to the Government to propose that the House vary a date in the Order in respect of consideration of Supplementary Estimates for a particular financial year. Indeed, in theory, the Treasury may lay and seek approval for an Estimate at any time: the deadlines set out in Standing Order No. 55 relate to the latest dates under which House authorisation may be sought under the particular procedures for approval specified in that Order.42

49.The current interval between publication and debate of Supplementary Estimates (often as little as five sitting days) provides very little time to genuinely enable debates to be selected on the basis of the content of those Estimates. Accordingly, we recommend that the Government allows at least five full calendar weeks between publication of Supplementary Estimates and the date allocated for their approval. We consider this to be the likely minimum period necessary for analysis and consideration of proposals, and selection of relevant topics for debate. Without such a change, this House will remain severely constrained in carrying out any effective examination of Supplementary Estimates in advance of their approval.

50.As a consequence of implementation of the Alignment Project, the former round of Winter Supplementary Estimates, which traditionally included approval for the Vote on Account, was abolished in 2011–12: authorisation for changes to Estimates provision and for the Vote on Account for the forthcoming year is now sought once a financial year, via the Supplementary Estimates in the spring. The Estimates day scheduled for consideration of the Winter Supplementary Estimates, which was required to take place by 6 February in each session, was dispensed with.43 It has since become customary to allocate two days for consideration of the Supplementary Estimates.

51.Peter Wishart MP, who as a member of the Liaison Committee has a role in determining the allocation of subjects to be debate on Estimates days, pointed out to us that “[t]he Main Estimates are where the bulk of the decision making happens, yet we spend less time on debates arising from these than on debates arising from the Supplementary Estimates which mainly involve more minor corrections and adjustments.”.44 He recommended that two days be allocated for debate on the Main Estimates.

52.We consider that two of the three days presently allocated for consideration of Estimates should be allocated for debate on the Main Estimates. We recommend that, with effect from the 2017–18 Session, two days of debate be allocated to the Main Estimates and that the remaining day be allocated to the Supplementary Estimates.

Autumn Budgets and changes to the supply timetable

53.The timing of the supply process and the fiscal cycle is something of an anachronism. As the OECD points out:

The UK Parliament is one of the few legislatures across the OECD countries where spending plans are not authorised prior to the start of the budget year … In such circumstances, there are clear difficulties in motivating parliamentarians to engage in the Estimates oversight function. … The OECD holds the view that the government should present Estimates sufficiently in advance of the fiscal year to which they relate in order for the legislature to be able to exercise its oversight and approval functions before the start of the fiscal year.45

54.We understand that the Treasury has argued in the past that Main Estimates need to follow the Budget (traditionally held in the Spring, in March or April) in order to take account of any changes in spending plans which the government may wish to announce at that time. Accordingly Main Estimates are normally not published until April, with parliamentary consideration not taking place until July. In the intervening period, the Vote on Account previously approved by Parliament provides the Government with funding for the first four months of the financial year.

55.The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement that he proposed from late 2017 onwards to deliver a single Financial Statement and Budget Report in the autumn of each year.46 In our view this change in practice provides an unrivalled opportunity to remove an anomaly which hampers effective scrutiny. Autumn Budgets should enable the timetable for authorisation of expenditure to be rearranged so as to ensure not only that Main Estimates are presented before the start of the fiscal year to which they relate, but also that there is sufficient time before the start of that fiscal year for the examination required by the House and its committees. This could be done without any risk to the certainty upon which the Government relies for parliamentary authorisation of supply, and in a way that is accepted as normal practice in most democratic countries around the world.

56.We requested a note on the implications for Estimates procedure of this change. The Chancellor indicated in response that he is reviewing the Treasury’s approach to spending control, an exercise which may affect procedures on Estimates and the setting of departmental budgets.47

57.We understand that, consequent on the Chancellor’s announcement, the Treasury is also working on plans to change the schedule for the presentation and legislative passage of Finance Bills, which give final legislative authority to the changes in taxation proposed in the Budget and approved by resolution after the Budget debate.

58.Substantial changes to the fiscal timetable are under consideration as a consequence of the Chancellor’s decision to move the Budget to the autumn. Autumn Budgets will break the traditional linkages with the timetables for the Estimates process. It would in our view be timely and appropriate to move to a system whereby Estimates are published and authorised earlier in the supply cycle, so that the House has sufficient time to scrutinise and approve them in a manner more consistent with accepted practice in most modern democratic legislatures.

59.Such a change in the annual cycle will have a substantial effect on the financial planning processes of Departments. The introduction of the change could therefore be staged over two or more supply cycles, with the preparation of draft or shadow Estimates to test the operation of the process.

60.We recommend that the Government review the timetable for preparation and presentation of the Main Supply Estimates in order to enable the consideration and authorisation by the House of these Estimates before the start of the financial year to which they relate. We further recommend that the Government consult this committee, the Treasury Committee and the Public Accounts Committee in drawing up proposals to implement this recommendation.

61.We recommend that in any revision of the timetable for Estimates the Government build in a period of at least five sitting weeks between the presentation of any Estimates and the date on which authorisation is expected to be sought from the House.

62.The present supply timetable, and a possible future timetable under our proposals, are both set out in Figure 1 below.

Select committee scrutiny and analysis of Estimates

63.Departmental select committees are charged by the House with examining “the expenditure, administration and policy of the principal government departments […] and associated public bodies”.48 Their role in holding Government departments to account is central to the scrutiny activity undertaken by the House.49

64.In June 2002 the Liaison Committee agreed a set of core tasks for select committees which included the task “to examine the expenditure plans and out-turn of the department, its agencies and principal NDPBs.”50 In November 2012 it set out a revised set of core tasks for select committees which included the following task:

to examine the expenditure plans, outturn and performance of the department and its arm’s length bodies, and the relationships between spending and the delivery of outcomes.51

65.In practice, there is broad variation in how this task is approached: the degree and focus of financial scrutiny and the way it is conducted is a matter for each committee. In terms of Estimates, each committee will receive a memorandum from its department accompanying the publication of each Estimate, and some committees will enter into correspondence with departments on the substance of the memoranda. Most committees have a dedicated session each year with Ministers and senior officials to discuss a department’s annual report and accounts, but evidence sessions arranged specifically to examine Estimates are rare, and dedicated inquiries are even rarer—although questions on Estimates are sometimes raised at other oral evidence sessions where relevant. There is no process established, nor time set aside, for select committees to report specifically on Estimates to the House.

Specialist support for select committee scrutiny: the Scrutiny Unit

66.The Scrutiny Unit is a central unit of the Chamber and Committees Team of the House Service. It was established in 2002 to strengthen the scrutiny function of select committees.52 The establishment of this unit had its genesis in a report by our predecessors in 1999.53 Its financial specialists provide regular briefing to each departmental select committee on spending reviews, Budgets, Autumn Statements, the Main and Supplementary Estimates and the annual reports and accounts of each Government department. The unit also publishes factual briefings and presentations on its webpages on the Parliament website: while intended for select committee members and staff and Members in general, these presentations are also available to the public.

Selecting matters for debate on Estimates days

67.Standing Order No. 54 specifies the days to be set aside for consideration of Estimates or reports of the Liaison Committee.54 Standing Order No. 145 provides for the Liaison Committee to determine the subjects to be debated on Estimates days.

68.While it is not a formal requirement under the relevant Standing Orders that bids for these debates are on select committee reports, in practice they almost always are. Current practice is as follows:

69.Once the decision is confirmed, the Chair makes a formal report to the House setting out the Committee’s determination of the subjects to be debated on the forthcoming Estimates days.55 Standing Order No. 145(3) provides that the report shall be decided upon without debate and shall, if agreed to, have effect as if it were an order of the House.

70.The Government schedules the day or days on which the debates are to be held: the Leader of the House typically announces them in response to the weekly Business Question.

71.In cases where the Liaison Committee has not been in a position to make a determination—for instance, at the start of a Parliament when it has not yet been established—the House has agreed to motions to approve all Estimates without debate. In 2015 motions on the Main Supply Estimates were agreed to in that way.56

Determining subjects for debate

72.The reforms of 1982, which introduced the present Estimates days, were intended to provide for an examination, in debate on the floor of the House, of individual Estimates. Although the Select Committee on Procedure (Supply) recommended that the subjects for debate be determined by an Estimates Business Committee, that idea was not proceeded with and responsibility was assigned to the Liaison Committee, with the effects described above.57

73.The academic members of the Study of Parliament Group who submitted evidence to us observed that “the subjects chosen for Estimates day debates are generally policy topics examined in select committee reports, usually tenuously connected to the actual proposals for authorisation before the House”.58 This development is not new: our predecessors reported in 1999 that debates tended to arise on policy matters raised in select committee reports, and there was rarely any debate on the Estimate selected.59

74.Pressure of time for select committee reports to be debated in the Chamber has increased since the implementation of the reforms recommended by the Reform of the House of Commons Committee in 2009. Although select committees can secure, and have secured, debates on their reports through applications to the Backbench Business Committee, the only guaranteed opportunities for such reports to be debated in the main Chamber now arise on Estimates days (half the time available for Thursday sittings in Westminster Hall is also allocated to debates on reports chosen by the Liaison Committee). The Liaison Committee, in determining matters for debate, reflects the concerns of select committees across the range of their remits—expenditure, policy and administration, in the case of departmental select committees—and tends to prioritise policy over administration or expenditure (in the narrow sense of the Estimates).60

75.Although at the end of the 2005 Parliament, the Liaison Committee recommended that the number of Estimates days be increased from three to five and the Reform of the House of Commons Committee recommended that the days be considered backbench days,61 these recommendations were driven by a general desire to obtain more opportunities for debate on reports across the range of select committee activity rather than to achieve greater opportunities for scrutiny of Estimates.62

76.So Estimates days as we now have them are neither fish nor fowl. They are an unsatisfactory way of ensuring debates on matters of policy chosen by select committees rather than Government or Opposition, and they are an ineffective way of allowing all Members of the House an opportunity to voice their views on aspects of the Government’s spending plans (whether their concerns are about efficiency, economy or effectiveness). They are baffling in their structure and purpose to anyone who is not well-versed in the complex mechanisms of parliamentary approval of Supply.63

A proposal for reform

77.We consider that the present system for allocating debates on Estimates days is not operating as it should. It fails on the one hand to ensure the proper consideration of Estimates on the days set aside by the House for that purpose, while on the other hand failing to provide the Liaison Committee with a means of recommending select committee reports for debate on the floor on their own merits.

78.The evidence we have taken from the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Rt Hon Meg Hillier MP, and Dr John Pugh MP, a long-serving member of that Committee, leads us to believe that there would be considerable interest in the House in providing for debates where the content of a departmental estimate can be fully examined.64 Such debates might arise on examination of a whole Estimate, or on a particular subhead. Expenditure on a major programme would also be a legitimate subject for debate in a way which is difficult to achieve at present. Debate could, of course, be informed by relevant reports of select committees, which would be ‘tagged’ to the notice of motion on the Order Paper in the usual way.

79.The Backbench Business Committee, since its establishment in 2010, has demonstrated its ability to schedule debates in the Chamber on matters which attract interest from across the House and for which there is a genuine demand for debate. Its criteria for determining applications are now well-known and are operated in a way which appears to command confidence across the House. It is, we consider, uniquely well placed to determine bids from backbench Members for debates on Estimates to take place on Estimates days.

80.We therefore envisage a reform to the present system for determining subjects for debate, whereby the Backbench Business Committee would consider bids for debates on Estimates days, and make the determination which is presently the responsibility of the Liaison Committee.

81.In return, the Liaison Committee would be allocated three days in backbench time to allocate to debates on select committee work, unconstrained by the requirement to prioritise committee work on Estimates. On such days it would be open to select committees to move and debate substantive motions for resolutions of the House, an option procedurally impossible on an Estimates day.

82.In the short term, such an exchange could be achieved informally by agreement between the two committees: the Liaison Committee could, for instance, report its determination for debate on Estimates days, but in doing so would accept the advice of the Backbench Business Committee on the basis of the bids it had received. Similarly, the Backbench Business Committee could schedule debates on three of its days on subjects chosen by the Liaison Committee.

83.We recommend that the Backbench Business Committee and the Liaison Committee examine informal arrangements whereby the Backbench Business Committee will receive and determine bids for debates on the three Estimates days to be held each session, while the Liaison Committee will recommend select committee business for debate on three of the days controlled by the Backbench Business Committee in that session. We stand ready to assist those Committees in the practical implementation of any such arrangements.

84.Such an informal arrangement could take effect almost immediately, with no change required to Standing Orders. We consider, however, that a substantial period of preparation is required to ensure that the arrangement is implemented in an environment which will enable the full benefits envisaged to be realised. We envisage that the arrangement we propose be given effect no later than the 2018–19 Session, under a protocol to be determined in consultation with the Backbench Business Committee and the Liaison Committee.

Support for new arrangements

85.Some Members will know their way around an Estimate: many more will not. We recommend below that a programme of work be undertaken to improve the information on Government spending plans which is routinely available to the House. Such support is crucial to enable bids for debates to be framed appropriately and for the debates themselves to proceed in a way which genuinely benefits the House.

86.Under the current timetable, it is open to question whether it would be genuinely practicable to make the change we recommend for Supplementary Estimates. Even if it were feasible, Members would have limited information on which to base their bids, the Backbench Business Committee would have little time to consider their merits, and announcements on topics chosen would be likely to be done at the very last minute, all of which would reduce the effectiveness of such change. We reiterate the recommendations made at paragraphs 60 and 61 above concerning a minimum period of five weeks for parliamentary consideration of Supplementary Estimates.

Evaluation and further consideration

87.Our objective is to ensure more effective examination of Government spending plans. Should the pilot we recommend above be proceeded with, we will evaluate the outcomes by the end of this Parliament and recommend, if necessary, that the arrangement be put on a more formal footing for the Parliament to be elected in 2020.

Rules on the consideration of Estimates

88.The Clerk Assistant set out in detail the rules of the House which govern supply procedure, some of which restrict the ability of Members to table amendments to motions for the approval of Estimates.65

89.We received submissions inviting us to consider amendments to the House’s rules in this regard, most notably inviting us to recommend abolition of the rule under which amendments which would raise the upper limit of an Estimate are disorderly.66

90.The Clerk Assistant pointed out that abolition of this rule would in effect mean abandoning the constitutional principle, first set out in an order of the House in 1713, that the House will only consider proposals for expenditure which are made by the Crown.67 As we have noted above, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury reacted sharply to any suggestion that the rule of Crown initiative should be dispensed with.68 Sir Stephen Laws also drew to our attention the potential difficulties of removing a rule which prevents parliamentarians initiating expenditure.69

91.Our predecessors in 1999 when considering reform of Estimates day procedure contemplated allowing non-binding motions on Estimates which would give the House’s opinion on an increase, but which if passed would not result in an increase in the authorisation. While an imaginative proposal, it is difficult for us to see why such motions could not could not now be moved in backbench time—a possibility not available in 1999—either by individual Members or by a Select Committee chair opening a debate on a committee report.

92.To relax the existing rule against amendments to Estimates motions which increase, formally, the total upper limit of expenditure would be a rupture of some magnitude with the presently-understood constitutional settlement between the Crown and Parliament. It could not be undertaken lightly. We conclude that at present we should proceed with a more modest change to arrangements for considering Estimates, though we do not rule out a future relaxation of the rule.

More systematic budgetary scrutiny

93.The introduction of a Budget Committee, supported by a Budget Officer, was a reform proposed by Sir Edward Leigh MP and Dr John Pugh MP in their 2012 report to the Chancellor on financial procedure in the House of Commons. While we have not examined the implications of such a committee in detail, there are apparent benefits to the establishment of a dedicated committee of the House, with specialist support, to examine and report to the House on the merits of Government spending plans. This is an issue which we may consider further in the context of the House’s participation in spending reviews.

26 Oral evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure on Public Business, 16 March 1931, HC (1930–31) 161, Q 1527

27 Standing Order No. 49; House of Commons Service (EST 08) Annex A para 2

28 The Supplementary Estimates for 2016–17 laid before Parliament on 6 February 2017 included a Main Estimate for the Department for Exiting the European Union, established on 17 July 2016: HC (2016–17) 946, pp 739–748.

29 First Report form the Select Committee on Procedure (Supply), HC (1980–81) 118–I

30 There is also provision in Standing Orders for formal half-day Estimates debates, but it is rarely used.

31 House of Commons Service (EST 08) Annex A para 1

32 See, for example, HC Deb, 1 March 2016, columns 847–51 (debate on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Supplementary Estimate for 2015–16).

33 Standing Order No. 56 refers to Consolidated Fund Bills, as such bills were termed before the reforms brought in by the Treasury’s Alignment Project.

34 The total resource and capital for which the Government sought authorisation in the Main Supply Estimates for 2015–16 was £551 billion: Central Government Supply Estimates 2016–17, Main Supply Estimates, April 2016, HC (2015–16) 967.

35 Q 5

36 Qq 144, 154, 159

37 Q 157

38 In Session 2016–17 the Supplementary Estimates for financial year 2016/17 were laid on Thursday 9 February 2017—the day the House adjourned for the February recess. The Liaison Committee reported its determination of subjects to be debated to the House on Monday 20 February—the next day the House sat. The House agreed to the determination on Tuesday 21 February. The Estimates were debated on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February: the vote on all outstanding Estimates took place at 7pm on Tuesday 28 February. The Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill was brought in upon the resulting resolutions that evening, and was certified by the Speaker as a money bill. It received its second and third reading formally on Wednesday 1 March, without a vote, and was sent to the Lords. The Lords passed it without amendment on 9 March and Royal Assent was notified to both Houses on 16 March 2017.

39 House of Commons Service supplementary memorandum (EST 11), paras 23 and 24 and table

40 OECD Best Practices for Budget Transparency, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2002, p. 8

41 OECD (EST 04), figure 2

42 The Standing Order deadlines for approval of 5 August, for Main Estimates, and 18 March, for Supplementary Estimates, Votes on Account and Excess Votes, themselves derive from vestigial requirements of the Supply timetable: up until the early 20th century the House would typically prorogue in early August until the following February, making it necessary to stipulate that appropriations to the Crown be considered before Prorogation.

43 Standing Order No. 55 was so amended on 14 December 2011, the amendment to take effect from the beginning of the 2012–13 Session.

44 Peter Wishart MP (EST 05), para 13(b)

45 OECD (EST 04), para 6

47 Correspondence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter is set out in the Appendix.

48 Standing Order No. 152 (Select committees related to government departments).

49 Liaison Committee, First Report of Session 2014–15, Legacy Report, HC 954, para 115

50 “Core tasks” for select committees were originally proposed by the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons in February 2002: a list of core tasks was agreed by the Liaison Committee on 20 June 2002 and promulgated on 26 June 2002. See Liaison Committee, First Report of Session 2002–03, Annual Report for 2002, HC (2002–03) 558, Appendix 1.

51 Liaison Committee, Second Report of Session 2012–13, Select Committee effectiveness, resources and powers, HC 697, para 20. The task cited is task 3 of 10.

52 Further information on the Scrutiny Unit is available at

53 Procedure Committee, Sixth Report of Session 1998–99, Procedure for Debate on the Government’s Expenditure Plans, HC 295, para 54: the Committee recommended an “Estimates group” of advisers seconded from the National Audit Office to provide specialist support to select committees examining Estimates.

54 The Clerk Assistant says in his evidence that “This reference to reports of the Liaison Committee is to allow the House to approve the recommendations of the Liaison Committee of the Estimates which should be considered.” EST 08, para 10, footnote 5

55 Since its determination of the topics to be debated on the supplementary Estimates days in the spring of 2016 it has been the practice for the Liaison Committee not to specify the expected date of the debate, but to provide that the matters be debated on a day no later than the latest date set out in Standing Order No. 55.

56 In 2015–16, the first session of the present Parliament, the Main Supply Estimates for 2015–16 were presented on 2 July 2015 and the relevant motions were agreed to on 14 July 2015. The Liaison Committee was established on 10 September 2015.

57 Study of Parliament Group (EST 09) paras 13 and 14

58 Ibid, citing J McEldowney and C Lee, “Parliament and Public Money”, in P Giddings ed, The Future of Parliament: issues for a new century (London, 2005), pp 78–87, at p 78

59 Procedure Committee, Sixth Report of Session 1998–99, Procedure for Debate on the Government’s Expenditure Plans, HC 295, para 4

60 Study of Parliament Group (EST 09) para 14

61 Liaison Committee, Second Report of Session 2008–09, Financial Scrutiny: Parliamentary control over Government Budgets, HC 804, para 96; Reform of the House of Commons Select Committee, First Report of Session 2009–10, Rebuilding the House: Implementation, HC 372, para 12.

62 Study of Parliament Group (EST 09) para 15

63 See evidence from John Pugh MP, Qq 110–118

64 Qq 108, 117

65 House of Commons Service (EST 08) Annex A para 2

66 Peter Wishart MP (EST 05) para 12

67 House of Commons Service (EST 08) paras 45–51

68 Q 157

69 Q 24

18 April 2017