Here are ten quick and easy facts that will make you sound like a veteran political expert.
1. The Government outlines its tax and economic predictions for the coming year in its annual Budget.
2. The Treasury is legally bound to announce two economic forecasts a year. Since 1997, the Chancellor has presented a Budget in the spring and a pre-Budget report in the autumn. The pre-Budget report provides a progress report on what has been achieved so far, an update on the state of the economy and sets out the direction of government policy in the run up to the spring Budget.
3. The origins of the Exchequer go back to the Norman period. The word "exchequer" comes from the Latin "scaccarium" meaning a chessboard.
4. The distinctive red budget box which chancellors used to carry their speech from Downing Street to the House of Commons was in use for over one hundred consecutive years. The wooden box was hand-crafted for Gladstone around 1860. It was lined with black satin and covered with scarlet leather. Lord Callaghan was the first Chancellor to break with tradition in 1965 when he used a new box. In July 1997 Gordon Brown became the second chancellor to use a new box for the budget. George Osborne used the Gladstone Box for his first budget in 2010 but used a new box in 2011.
5. By tradition, Chancellors "refresh" themselves with alcoholic drink during Budget speeches. This privilege does not extend to other MPs or to any other occasion. While George Osborne and his predecessor Alistair Darling have chosen to drink mineral water, many previous chancellors took advantage of this particular quirk. Kenneth Clarke drank whisky, Geoffrey Howe was a gin and tonic man, and Benjamin Disraeli drank brandy and water. Gladstone, who delivered 12 budgets, more than any other chancellor, was known to favour sherry and beaten egg.
6. The Chancellor traditionally makes a broadcast to the nation during the evening of Budget day. The broadcast lets him outline his intentions and ideas to the public. Opposition parties have an opportunity to respond on their own broadcasts during that week.
7. Budget speeches have lasted anything from 45 minutes to over four hours. The longest continuous budget speech was by William Gladstone on 18 April 1853, lasting 4 hours and 45 minutes. Benjamin Disraeli's speech in 1852 lasted 5 hours but included a break. Benjamin Disraeli's 1867 Budget Speech lasted only 45 minutes. Gordon Brown's 51 minute budget speech in 2000 is the shortest of modern times. With twelve budget speeches, William Ewart Gladstone holds the record for delivering more budget speeches than any other chancellor of the exchequer.
8. Most taxes, including all indirect taxes, petrol tax and taxes on capital are permanent. On the other hand, income tax, corporation tax and advanced corporation tax are annual taxes and must be renewed in each year's Budget. This annual review gives the House of Commons the opportunity to review the imposition of these taxes and, if necessary, increase them.
9. Annual taxes and most other tax changes announced in the Budget are legislated in the annual Finance Bill.
10. Budget resolutions are tabled at the end of the Chancellor's statement and they are voted on at the end of the Budget debate. If passed they can then take effect. In recent years the Budget debate has lasted for five days.
Source: Incisive Media Research, Moore Smalley
This week's edition of Professional Pensions is out now.
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