Financial relations between the Crown and Parliament

33.2It was a central factor in the historical development of parliamentary influence and power that the Sovereign was obliged to obtain the consent of Parliament (and particularly of the House of Commons as representatives of the people) to the levying of taxes to meet the expenditure of the State. But the role of Parliament in respect of State expenditure and taxation has never been one of initiation: it was for the Sovereign to request money and for the Commons to respond to the request. The development of responsible government and the assumption by the Government of the day of the traditional role and powers of the Crown in relation to public finance have not altered this basic constitutional principle: the Crown requests money, the Commons grant it, and the Lords assent to the grant. In more modern terms, the Government presents to the House of Commons its detailed requirements for the financing of the public services; it is for the Commons, acting on the sole initiative of Ministers, first to authorise the relevant expenditure (or ‘Supply’) and, second, to provide through taxes and other sources of public revenue the ‘Ways and Means’ deemed necessary to meet the Supply so granted. The role of the House of Lords is confined to assenting to such financial provisions of the House of Commons as require statutory authorisation.1

The financial control of the House of Commons is exercised at two different levels. So far as policy is concerned, it authorises the various objects of expenditure and the resources to be used and the sums to be spent on each; it also authorises the levying of taxes. On the level of administration, it satisfies itself that its expenditure decisions have been duly carried out—in other words, that the amounts it has authorised, and no more, have been used for the purposes for which they were granted, and for no other purposes. For both sets of functions the House of Commons has, partly through its own procedure and partly through legislation and administrative practice, devised appropriate machinery.

Footnotes

  1. See paras 37.2–37.6.