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Ministerial directions are a potential part of the process of approving expenditure of public money.  If a UK Governmenet Minister decides to instruct a Departmental Accounting Officer (a senior civil servant) to proceed with spending, contrary to the advice which has been given by the Accounting Officer, the written instruction is called a ministerial direction.

Use of ministerial directions is rare, but preparations for Brexit have included an instruction to Accounting Officers to include them in planning for approval of spending in advance of Royal Assent to relevant legislation. This has raised the profile of ministerial directions.

This short guide to ministerial directions sets out the steps to be followed by a Minister, the Civil Servants and the Comptroller and Auditor General. Signposts are provided to analysis of instances of ministerial directions since 1990 and the instructions for their use issued in October 2017, as part of Brexit planning.  


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  • As of March 2019, 295 public bodies were in operation across the UK government. Most public bodies within the United Kingdom are established and operated by the government, with varying levels of autonomy and ministerial responsibility according to their classification. Brexit means that many functions previously carried out by EU agencies will become the responsibility of existing UK bodies. A number of new public bodies are also being created to manage additional responsibilities after EU exit.