Fees imposed for services rendered by departments

36.20Payments which are intended to do no more than cover the expenses of a government department in performing services for the public or sections of the public, and are retained by the department, are not regarded as charges.1 Such payments may take the form of fees or licences. This rule is not allowed to legitimise payments so disproportionate to the cost of the services rendered or so broadly based as to amount to taxation (see para 36.12 ).2 If the power to impose payments is not constrained by the bill, a statement as to the level at which the payments are to be set is included in the explanatory notes.

The following are examples of fees and licence payments which have been regarded as falling within this exemption and have therefore been enacted without Ways and Means authorisation:

  • fees for import and export licences and certificates under the Plant Health Acts;3
  • fees levied on members of a profession under a statutory registration scheme;4
  • fees in respect of the assessment and collection of child support maintenance, and payment of interest on arrears;5
  • payments by registered social landlords in respect of registration fees and subscriptions to cover costs of housing complaint schemes,6 and fees paid by registered social landlords to the Audit Commission for inspections of their services;7
  • charges paid by police authorities or by fire and rescue authorities for the use of equipment, facilities or services provided by the Secretary of State;8
  • charges paid by local authorities to NHS bodies to reimburse the National Health Service for its costs in accommodating a patient who is ready to be discharged but for whom the local authority has not arranged the necessary community care services.9


  1. 1. For the authority for this procedure, see para 34.11. Cf also SO No 79(2).
  2. 2. The payment for the issue of a licence granted by a government department does not require a Ways and Means resolution if it is a small fee of an administrative character, HC Deb (1917–18) 100, c 164; ibid (1920) 136, c 1000.
  3. 3. Agriculture Act 1986, s 3.
  4. 4. For example, Osteopaths Act 1993, s 6; Chiropractors Act 1994, s 6.
  5. 5. Child Support Act 1991, ss 41, 47.
  6. 6. Housing Act 1996, s 3, sch 2, para 11.
  7. 7. Local Government Act 2003, s 109 (which inserted s 41B of the Audit Commission Act 1998).
  8. 8. Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994, s 23; Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, s 29.
  9. 9. Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc) Act 2003, s 6.