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Departmental Votes (Transfers)

Volume 131: debated on Thursday 14 April 1988

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements his Department has to vire money between one Department and another.

The Treasury has no power to vire money between Votes. That can be done only by the presentation of Supplementary Estimates.

Will the Minister concede that the Treasury's monthly returns show an increase in spending in the last three or four months of the financial year which is due to Departments trying to spend up to their limits, and that if there were an effective viring system, transferring money from one Department to another, greater spending could take place on housing and social security?

There has for a long time been bunching in public expenditure, and not only at the end of the year. It is precisely to deal with unexpected demands that we have a contingency reserve that is unallocated at the beginning of the year. This year, that was substantially used.

Will my right hon. Friend move more towards three-year funding arrangements for more Government Departments?

We agree a public expenditure settlement that spreads far further than one year.