Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Monday, 11 April 2011 17:11 UK
Budget

The Budget is the UK's annual financial statement on the state of public finances, the state of the economy and generally includes reviews and changes to tax rates as well as making announcements on how taxpayers' money will be spent in the coming years.

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

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

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.

A to Z: The Budget

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, his successor Alistair Darling returned to using the Gladstone bag. But current Chancellor George Osborne has plumped for a new one.

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 Healey 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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