Budget 2013: 9 things you didn't know



Gladstone box

The Budget has been a British tradition for almost 300 years, and as a result, it has built up its fair share of odd traditions, peculiar quirks, and strange facts.

We reveal 10 odd things you never knew about the budget.

1. The word 'Budget' isn't intended to indicate that the government is trying to make ends meet. In fact it comes from the French word bougette - which is a wallet in which either documents or money could be kept. It's essentially named after the box it came in.

2. The first annual budgets date from the 1720s and Sir Robert Walpole - Britain's first Prime Minister.

3. Chancellors are allowed to drink alcoholic drinks during their Budget speech - something no other Member of Parliament can do in the chamber - although tales from the members' bar would indicate they are no strangers to the hard stuff. Ken Clarke chose neat whisky for his refreshment, while Gordon Brown opted for Scottish mineral water.

4. The longest Budget speech is thought to have been by William Gladstone on 18 April 1853, lasting four hours and forty five minutes. It is said that in order to keep going during his epic speech he drank a mixture of sherry and beaten egg.

5. The Budget box or 'Gladstone box' was used to carry the Chancellors speech from Number 11 to the House for over 100 consecutive years. The wooden box was made for Gladstone. It had been replaced briefly in the 1970s, but was soon brought back. In 1997 Gordon Brown changed all that, and had his own made.

6. Traditionally the Budget has been delivered on Tuesdays, although it can take place on any day.

7. Benjamin Disraeli is thought to have made the shortest budget speech. Gladstone's arch-rival spoke for just forty five minutes on 4 April 1867.

8. Income Tax is one of the key parts of the Budget. It was introduced in 1799, intended as a way to pay for the Napoleonic wars. It was always meant to be a short-term measure, and remains temporary. On April 5 each year it expires and has to be renewed in the Finance Bill.

9. VAT came to Britain in 1973, as part of the requirements of joining the European Economic Community. This French idea replaced the complex purchase tax in place in the UK at the time. It started at a rate of 10%.

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