Contingent liabilities

7.35Following a report of the Committee of Public Accounts asking for Parliament to be notified of substantial guarantees, when a government department wishes to give a guarantee for which there is no statutory authority, and the liability under the guarantee could exceed £250,000, it is the normal practice for a Minute to be laid before Parliament. Approval of the guarantee is usually withheld for 14 sitting days after the date of laying. If in that period a Member signifies objection by the tabling of a question or motion, or otherwise, such as by writing to the relevant Minister, final approval is not usually given until the government has considered the objection.1 A similar practice is followed in the case of gifts of public stores, or of property of an unusual nature or of a value exceeding £250,000.2


  1. 1. HC Deb (1989–90) 162, cc 581–82; ibid (1989–90) 164, c 251W. Departments attempt to ensure that the period falls when Parliament is in session; if this is not possible, the chairs of the Committee of Public Accounts and of the relevant departmental select committee should be notified (Managing Public Money 2013 (updated 2017) paras 5.5 1–4 and Box 5.1 and Annex 5.4 para A5.4, paras 29–33). The same procedure should be followed if the liability is confidential, see HC Deb (11 June 2018) 642, WS748.
  2. 2. Committee of Public Accounts, Tenth Report (HC 536 (1976–77)) paras 57–67.