The Difference Between Supply Bills and Legislation
In the current Westminster system, a finance bill or supply bill is basically a bill that solely deals with changes in general public policy, instead of direct tax increases or expenditure reductions. As such, it is not a bill that can be voted on by the Commons. Instead, it has to go through an appropriate process in the House of Commons, the upper house of the UK parliament. There, the Speaker will first try to introduce a motion into the chamber, which requests that the House consider and pass a certain piece of legislation.
A motion for debate
which the Speaker will then bring to the attention of the Houses, can either be a simple motion or a longer one, which is used to try and get a consensus for the final draft of the bill. If the motion wins, it is then brought into the House of Commons for second reading. If it passes with a majority of votes, it will then be read immediately and debated. Once it has been passed, it is now a law, and the government may decide to implement it immediately or call a vote on it.
In cases where a motion for debate
is not successful, however, there is no other way to introduce a bill into the parliament. When a no-confidence motion against the government is tabled in the Commons, the governing party will have to face a leadership contest. If the motion is not passed, the governorship will be handed over to another party before a new Speaker is put in place. Such a situation can only happen if there are enough votes against the government in the Commons for another party to have a realistic chance of forming a majority government.
If the House of Commons
is not in session due to being in recess, it is usual for the governorship to be temporarily handed over to the leader of the opposition. This may be due to illness or the death of an important MP. Once the House of Commons reconvenes, all members will be able to cast a vote on all supply bills as well as other legislation that has already been passed. Supply bills are normally introduced through debates in the Commons. These debates may be divided into sub-assemblies depending on their topic and length.
If there is already a majority in the House of Commons against the government
the Speaker will not allow a motion for a reading of the supply bills. However, if the House of Commons is still divided between the two parties, there is no guarantee that a reading of the supply bills will be allowed. The only option that remains open to the government is to reintroduce the bills through a procedure called clause one. This means that the legislation will be introduced as part of the regular session of parliament.
There is one more way that the government
can get around the lack of debate around supply bills. If the Queen’s representative in the chamber is not satisfied with the way that a bill has been introduced, she can table a motion to refer the bill to a select committee, which is usually composed of peers. Once the motion has been passed, the selected committee will undertake an inquiry into the bill. The committee report is then tabled for further discussion before the full house for debate. Once again, the House of Commons has the final say before the statute book comes into force. The lack of a majority in the Commons for introducing new bills means that the governments have to rely on the votes of the minor parties.