Appropriation of expenditure

33.9Appropriation was originally ‘a system of attributing sums advanced to particular services of the Government (ie showing what sums were appropriated to what services) for the purpose of establishing whether the estimates presented to Parliament were reflected in the eventual pattern of expenditure’.1 The appropriation by the House of Commons of the individual amounts authorised as Supply to the specific services for which they were voted in the Estimates is secured through the appropriation provisions of Supply and Appropriation Acts. Outside Parliament this principle is enforced by permanent machinery for administering and accounting for the sums issued to departments and the resources used in accordance with the relevant parliamentary authorisation.

Three important precepts of financial practice are implied in the appropriation of expenditure:

  1. An amount appropriated to a particular service cannot be used for another service.
  2. The amount appropriated is a maximum amount.
  3. The amount is available only to defray costs or the use of resources which have arisen during the financial year in respect of which the amount has been appropriated by the relevant Act.

The procedure governing the appropriation of Supply is described in detail in the next chapter.


  1. 1. Craies on Legislation (11th edn, 2017), pp 65–66. Appropriation now also applies to the use of resources under Resource-based Supply, on which see para 34.5.