House of Commons Library

The Budget and the annual Finance Bill

Published Thursday, April 13, 2017

This note discusses the way that Parliament scrutinises the Government's proposals for taxation, set out in the annual Budget statement. It looks at how this procedure may be affected by the timing of a General Election, and gives some suggestions for further reading.

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Each year the Chancellor of the Exchequer presents the Budget, which contains all the tax measures for the year ahead. Traditionally the Budget has been in March, prior to the start of the tax year on 6 April.  The statutory provisions to give effect to these tax measures are set out in a single Bill: the annual Finance Bill.  This note discusses the way that Parliament debates the Budget and scrutinises the Finance Bill, and how this procedure can be affected by the timing of a General Election.

In 2011 the Coalition Government reformed the Parliamentary timetable, moving the Queen’s Speech and the beginning of the annual session to the spring.  In turn provision was made to allow for the Finance Bill to be carried over from one session to the next to ensure that this reform did not substantially reduce the amount of time available for the Bill’s scrutiny.

It has been the practice in recent years for Chancellors to make tax announcements twice a year, using the Pre-Budget Report or Autumn Statement as a second fiscal event. In his Autumn Statement on 23 November 2016 the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that from autumn 2017 the Government would present a single autumn Budget, to allow for greater Parliamentary scrutiny of Budget measures ahead of their implementation. Mr Hammond presented the last Spring Budget on 8 March 2017.

Although the Chancellor may often mention public spending in his Budget speech, the procedure by which Parliament scrutinises and approves of government expenditure is quite separate, and is not discussed in this note.[1] A checklist of Budgets since 2010, with a list of recommended reading on tax policy, is provided in a second short Library paper.[2]

Notes : 

[1]     For more details see, HM Treasury, Main Supply Estimates 2016/17, May 2016 – see in particular, Section 3: Parliamentary procedure, and, Scrutiny Unit, Financial scrutiny uncovered, 2nd ed September 2012.

[2]     Key documents: taxation, Commons Briefing Paper 4680, 24 March 2017

Commons Briefing papers SN00813

Author: Antony Seely

Topics: Elections, Taxation

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