Reports and Publications
Most of the Scrutiny Unit's work involves producing analysis and briefing for committees and is not separately published.
The Unit does however from time to time produce briefing notes on specialist subject areas which, although intended primarily for the benefit of Committees and MPs, may also be of wider interest.
The Government publishes proposed spending plans for the new financial year each spring in Main Estimates. Proposed budget revisions are published towards the end of the financial year (February) in Supplementary Estimates.
All Estimates need the approval of the House of Commons. Each Estimate must be accompanied by a memorandum explaining the sums being sought and the purpose of the spending.
Before considering Main or Supplementary Estimates, the House will, on the recommendation of the Backbench Business committee, select which government departments’ Estimates it wishes to debate.
Once debated, the funding will become available to Government departments only after a Supply and Appropriation Act has been passed by the House. In the meantime, government departments are funded through advances - either through a Vote on Account, previously agreed by the House; or from the Treasury’s Contingencies fund.
After the end of the financial year Government Departments are required to publish audited Annual Reports and Accounts, setting out the money actually spent and other financial and performance information.
Guidance for departments on producing Estimates memoranda is here.
- Briefing on Estimates and estimates debates, prepared jointly by the House Library and Scrutiny Unit
- Data visualisations, prepared by the House’s Scrutiny Unit
- Estimates memoranda, prepared by government departments
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|2018-19||Main Estimates||Supplementary Estimates|
A glossary of financial terms, with particular reference to Government.
What is Financial Scrutiny?
This guide shows how Members of Select Committees can engage in financial scrutiny. It gives some ideas of the types of questions that Members can ask and what a good or poor response on the part of Government might look like. It also explains how the Scrutiny Unit can help Members with financial scrutiny..
This booklet provides a guide to financial scrutiny, why it matters, what it involves and how it links to performance. It sets out the key stages in the spending cycle and the role committees and others play in holding government to account. (3rd Edition, last revised November 2017).
Relevant Committee reports
- Authorising Government expenditure: steps to more effective scrutiny (PDF 500KB). This report (2017)made recommendations for improvements to Estimates and their scrutiny.
- Accounting for democracy: making sure Parliament, the people and Ministers know how and why public money is spent (PDF 1.1MB). This report (2017) made recommendations for improving government annual reports and accounts
- Accounting for democracy revisited This report (2018) followed up the previous report on improvements to government accounts
- Should there be a Commons Budget Committee? This report (2019) considered the case for establishing a Budget Committee
An archive of older material prepared by the Scrutiny Unit is available on our Archives page.