Bills founded on Ways and Means resolutions: the main object rule

36.29By virtue of the established practice (which has not been modified in respect of taxing bills in the same way as Standing Order No 50 has modified it in respect of expenditure bills—see para 35.24 ), any bill the main object of which is to impose a charge upon the people must be founded upon resolutions.

The tests applied to determine whether or not the main object of a bill is to impose a charge upon the people are similar to those applied in the case of bills which create a charge upon the public revenue (see para 35.25 ). There is, however, less room here for doubtful cases, as taxation for the revenue of the year is concentrated in a single bill, and even when taxation is not primarily for this purpose, it is normally the main purpose of the bill which authorises it. Occasionally, however, general taxing provisions in a bill have been treated as subsidiary. In the Land Commission Bill 1966–67, for example, the imposition of betterment levy was regarded as subsidiary to the establishment of the Land Commission, and accordingly the Ways and Means resolution was agreed to after the second reading of the bill.1

The requirement for a founding Ways and Means resolution does not apply only to the imposition of new taxation. For example, a bill providing for the advance payment, on account, of an existing tax was required to be founded on a Ways and Means resolution.2

An important consequence of the traditional practice described above, taken in conjunction with the rule that a Ways and Means resolution can be moved only by a Minister, is that a private Member may not seek to introduce a bill the main object of which is to impose a charge upon the people.

A bill the entire object of which was to grant a temporary relief from taxation was nonetheless founded upon Ways and Means resolutions, because it was desired that the resolutions should have immediate statutory effect under the provisions of the Finance Act 1973, s 50.3


  1. 1. CJ (1966–67) 62. See also the Speaker's ruling on the Imports and Exports Regulation Bill 1919, HC Deb (1919) 122, c 211.
  2. 2. Petroleum Revenue Tax Bill, CJ (1979–80) 272.
  3. 3. Stamp Duty (Temporary Provisions) Bill, CJ (1991–92) 131–32.