Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008
Ways and means

The phrase "ways and means" has been used in connection with government spending commitments since the 13th century.

A Commons committee, dating back to the 17th century, used to sit to consider the "ways and means", or revenue to be raised by taxation, needed for the government's spending plans.

Nowadays, MPs debate government spending when the chancellor delivers the Budget in Spring each year, and scrutinise the plans in detail as a committee of the whole House during debate on the finance bill.

Such debates are chaired by one of the Speaker's three deputies, the chairman of ways and means.

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