Friday, May 14, 2010

Us and the Brits--Transition and Budgets

There's been a little comment in the blogosphere on the transition in Britain. Took a day or two to come up with a coalition government, but now the Brits have all their cabinet in place and beavering away--no long drawn out confirmation hearings and the occasional embarrassing disclosures for the British. That's just a piece with the other ways in which their government differs from ours. I found this in a writeup on the British budget approval process:

The British Parliament has no ways and means committees, no budget committees, no appropriations committees. The committees that do scrutinize government departments lack the power to authorize new government programs and spending. Britain has one dominant figure who controls most of these functions: the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Roughly speaking, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Treasury/Finance Minister for the British Government, yet he has unparalleled power compared to the US Treasury Secretary.

The Chancellor has sole responsibility for setting tax rates. He does not preside over a tax committee. Rather he makes all of his tax decisions in an annual statement to Parliament, which is referred to as the annual Budget Statement. In essence, the Chancellor is a one-man Ways & Means Committee. The Budget Statement he presents (discussed below in greater detail) outlines not only tax rates, but also the total amount of money that will be spent on all government activities (both mandatory and discretionary).

Thus, the Chancellor is also a one-man Budget Committee.
If I understand, the finances and spending bills get considered and there's the possibility for change, except if the government doesn't agree to the change, they can make it a vote of confidence and win that way. 

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