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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 15:36 GMT

What was in Norman Lamont's Budget box?

When William Hague turned up to receive his award as The Spectator and Highland Park Parliamentarian of the Year, he revealed a well-kept secret about what was really in Gladstone's famous battered Budget Box for one of former Chancellor Norman Lamont's budgets.

The following is an excerpt of Mr Hague's speech:

"Highland Park means quite a lot to mean because in my work as PPS [Parliamentary Private Secretary] to Norman Lamont when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer....

"It means a lot to me because he always drank Highland Park on Budget Day. And every time, all the three or four budgets I helped him with, he always had to have Highland Park on the table of the House of Commons.

William Hague's speech in full
"One Budget Day he said about 12 o'clock, when we were sitting in Number Eleven getting ready for the Budget: 'I think I'm going to have to have a drink of whisky early today. Go and get the Highland Park.'

"So I went down Downing Street, across Parliament Square, got the Highland Park. Then I thought I can't go into Number Eleven in front of all those cameras with a bottle of whisky, so I I'll put it in a plastic bag.

"So I put it in a plastic bag, walked into Number 11, with the plastic bag. We had a nice lunch with whisky - it's nice to see that the tradition of having whisky at lunch is continued here today. We had a few glasses to make the Budget go well.

"Then we went downstairs, the massed ranks of the press outside, all the cameras ready to record Budget Day, Norman and his wife, and me the PPS standing behind them.

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"And he said: 'Have you got the whisky?' I said I'd have to go back upstairs to get the whisky. But I said: 'I can't take it out in a plastic bag again, all those cameras, [and people asking] what is the PPS doing carrying a plastic bag?'

"So he said: 'Wait a minute.' He opened the Budget box and said: 'Why don't we stick it in the Budget box?' So we're about to go out of the door and I say I'd try to get it in the Budget box, and then I said: 'I can't get it in the Budget box because the Budget takes up too much room.'

"So he said: 'Take the Budget out of the Budget box' - this is true, this is absolutely true - so we took the Budget out of the Budget box, and put the bottle of Highland Park into the Budget box. We just managed to get the box closed and locked, and I carried the Budget under my arm.

"And we went out in front of the cameras, and Norman held up the Budget box, and I'm standing behind him thinking if that isn't locked properly this could be the most embarrassing occasion in the history of politics.

"And he's holding up a box containing a bottle of whisky, and everybody looking at the PPS behind, carrying this anonymous folder, and that's the Budget.

"And that's how we got the Budget and the Highland Park to parliament on time."

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