Votes on Account

34.16Parliament does not authorise expenditure for which authority is sought by the Main Estimates until after the start of the financial year to which the Main Estimates relate. It is therefore the established practice, during one financial year (usually in February), to seek authority for some provisional allocation of amounts for the financing of the public service during the next financial year, pending parliamentary approval of the corresponding Main Estimates. Accordingly, special Estimates are presented seeking ‘Votes on Account’, which comprise total amounts for resources and cash to cover the needs of the Government and the independent services, for the first three or four months of the financial year, until final authority can be given by the passage into law of the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimate) Act.

The Votes on Account for the coming year normally contain a standard provision to advance amounts equivalent to 45 per cent of the resources and cash which were previously voted for each Estimate for the current year. Greater or lesser amounts may be sought where there has been a transfer of responsibility between departments, where allocation of resources and cash is expected to be significantly different in the early months of the coming financial year, or where expenditure will be incurred for a new service.1

Although requests for Votes on Account are generally restricted to such services as have received the sanction of Parliament, provision may also be sought for a new service in respect of which specific legislation is currently before Parliament and where expenditure may be incurred in connection with that service before the passage of the Appropriation Act.2


  1. 1. See First and Second Reports of the Select Committee on Procedure, HC 410 and 411 (1968–69); and Special Report from the Committee of Public Accounts, HC 27 (1968–69).
  2. 2. HC Deb (1999–2000) 346, cc 177–78. See Erskine May (24th edn, 2011), p 731 for a description of the previous arrangements for the authorisation through appropriation of Votes on Account before a dissolution which no longer apply due to changes to the rules regarding sessionality: see para 34.38.