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Weird and Wonderful Budget Facts

This year’s Autumn Budget will be delivered on Monday 29 October. For up to date tax information, subscribe to our email newsletter here or to receive a paper copy of our Autumn Budget Summary drop us an email.

Every year the red leather briefcase is held aloft outside Number 11 Downing Street and the public braces itself for a long speech from the Chancellor.

But it doesn’t have to be a taxing experience. Here are a few facts to make the Budget more interesting…

French origins

The word ‘Budget’ comes from the old French word ‘bougette’ meaning ‘little bag’. The financial papers were carried in a bag until 1860, when Gladstone commissioned the now-famous red briefcase.

I left the Budget in my other coat…

We’ve all had the dream about starting an exam and realising we’ve forgotten the vital information. It’s hard to imagine that a Chancellor might forget the Budget papers, but this is exactly what happened to Conservative Chancellor George Ward-Hunt in 1868. Upon opening his box, Ward-Hunt realised he had left his speech at home. Perhaps it is unsurprising that he lasted only 6 months in the job!

Since Ward-Hunt’s gaffe, it has become tradition for the Chancellor to wave the briefcase when leaving Number 11 Downing Street to show that he has remembered to pick it up.

What’s in the box?

William Gladstone commissioned the scarlet leather briefcase, lined with black satin in 1860. It was used until Labour’s James Callaghan abandoned it in the 1960s. The original Gladstone briefcase was used on and off since, although Gordon Brown commissioned a new box in 1997 and the original is now in a museum. The red box does not always carry the papers though: during Norman Lamont’s time as Chancellor, the box contained just a bottle of whisky, while the Budget papers themselves were carried by his aide, William Hague.

Breaking the rules

Alcohol is not permitted in the Chamber except when brought in by a Chancellor delivering a Budget speech, though it is not likely that Philip Hammond will partake as his three predecessors (Osborne, Darling and Brown) did not.

Chancellors in years gone by did take advantage of the rule, though: Winston Churchill was a brandy man, Geoffrey Howe drank gin and tonic and William Gladstone favoured sherry and beaten egg.

The most long-winded budget

The longest-serving Chancellor, William Gladstone delivered 12 budgets, more than any other Chancellor. He also delivered the longest one on 18 April 1853, lasting 4 hours and 45 minutes (presumably fuelled and fortified by his sherry and egg).

The Speaker has some time off

The Speaker of the House of Commons leaves the chair for the Budget. This tradition dates back to the late 17th century when the Speaker was believed to be the King’s spy.

Soundbites

Robert Lowe, Chancellor under Gladstone, said in 1870: “The chancellor of the exchequer is a man whose duties make him more or less of a taxing machine. He is entrusted with a certain amount of misery which it is his duty to distribute as fairly as he can.”

Whether Philip Hammond is as “Tiggerish” as he suggested in his Spring Statement, or as Eeyore-ish as Robert Lowe remains to be seen next week. Check www.bvllp.com/news on Budget day for our take on Mr Hammond’s Autumn Budget.

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