Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 17:57 UK

Budget

Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown
Chancellor Alistair Darling delivers his first Budget speech

The Budget is the UK's annual financial statement, including a review of taxation levels and announcement of spending plans.

It is the responsibility of the chancellor of the exchequer who works closely with his team of ministerial colleagues and senior civil servants.

Since 1993 the chancellor has presented a "unified Budget" containing both the government's tax proposals for the forthcoming financial year and its spending plans for the forthcoming three years.

The publication of the chancellor's "Red Book", covering expectations for the economy and spending plans, has been combined with the Budget.

The Budget Statement is delivered to the House of Commons, usually on a Tuesday.

The leader of the opposition - rather than the shadow chancellor - then opens the Commons debate with his observations and questions.

Briefcases

The name "Budget" comes from the French for "little bag" or bougette.

Traditionally the chancellor has carried the secret Budget speech to the House of Commons in a red briefcase first used by Gladstone in 1860.

Although former Chancellor Gordon Brown had a new case made in 1997, current Chancellor Alistair Darling has returned to using the Gladstone bag.

Record breakers

The longest continuous Budget speech was by William Gladstone in April 1853, lasting 4 hours and 45 minutes.

Gladstone's contemporary Benjamin Disraeli holds the record for the shortest Budget, of just 45 minutes, in 1867.

Gladstone not only holds the record for the longest Budget speech, but he was also the longest-serving chancellor - serving for 12 years and four months.

David Lloyd George holds the twentieth century record of seven years and two months. Nigel Lawson was the second longest serving chancellor of the century with six years and four months at Number 11.

Booze

Although discreet sips of table water are permitted 'to ease the voice' in everyday Commons business, the Chancellor is the only MP officially permitted to take "refreshment" during the delivery of a speech.

This is interpreted to include alcoholic drinks, and means that the Budget speech is the only time that alcohol is allowed in the Chamber - though not all chancellors have taken advantage.

Disraeli is said to have had a brandy with water, while Gladstone preferred sherry with a beaten egg.

Denis Healy also favoured brandy and water, Geoffrey Howe gin and tonic and Nigel Lawson a "spritzer".

Among those choosing to abstain were Sir Stafford Cripps and James Callaghan, who opted for water and tonic water respectively.

Gordon Brown chose to drink Highland spring water from his native Scotland.



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