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    10 UK Budgets From History

    A selection of interesting Budgets from the past 300 years.

    1. 1700s - the first Budget?

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    Like many events in the parliamentary calendar, Budget Day is something that "came to be", rather than being initiated in its present form. A formalised yearly budget emerged in the 1700s.

    • Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister, used the term "budget" in a financial statement in 1733, this is widely considered to be the origin of today's Budget.

    • In 1784, William Pitt the Younger created a tax on hats.

    • The UK first began collecting income tax in 1798 to pay for the Napoleonic Wars.

    2. 1853 – the 4 and ¾ hour Budget speech

    William Gladstone was four times Prime Minister and four times Chancellor of the Exchequer. His combined tenure as Chancellor stretched over 12 years, making him the longest serving Chancellor we have had.

    In 1953 Gladstone outlined the phasing out of income tax, which was prevented at the onset of the Crimean War.

    He was famous for making exceptionally long budget speeches and the 1853 Budget was the longest Budget speech ever, reaching over four hours before he finally ended with the following remarks:

    Burden if we must; benefit if we may - with equal and impartial hand; and we have the consolation of believing that by proposals such as these we contribute, as far as in us lies, not only to develop the material resources of the country, but to knit the hearts of the various classes of this great nation yet more closely than heretofore to that throne and to those institutions under which it is their happiness to live.

    3. 1869 – Chancellor leaves the Budget at home.

    George Ward Hunt was the largest Chancellor we have had, weighing 21 stone in 1869. It was only on reaching the Commons and opening the Budget Box that he realised he had left the Budget at home.

    The Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli told Queen Victoria: "he has the sagacity of the elephant as well as its form".

    4. 1909 – The People’s Budget


    One of the most controversial Budgets in British history, the People's Budget was a radical attempt to redistribute wealth across the country. It proposed to:

    • Dramatically, by the standards of the time, increase income tax on the highest earners.

    • Legislate for a land tax that would take 20% of the increase in value of a property at the point of purchase. This was later dropped.

    • Increase naval rearmament to counter naval expansion by Wilhelmine Germany.

    The Budget met with considerable opposition in the Conservative dominated House of Lords and it took a year for the budget to be implemented.

    5. 1925 – Churchill’s disastrous Budget

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    Winston Churchill served as Chancellor from 1924 to 1929. Unfortunately his time in the job is remembered for one of the least successful economic decisions of the interwar period.

    His Budget put Britain back on the gold standard, with the aim of restoring the country as the centre of the world financial system. Instead it is thought to have prolonged the slump and Britain left the gold standard in 1931.

    6. 1935 – Neville Chamberlain presents the Budget via cinema newsreel

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    Neville Chamberlain recorded a Budget speech as a cinema newsreel, a considerable innovation at the time. During the speech he asks the British people to understand that Britain must spend more on defence to match the spending of the other global empires.

    Another surplus? How on earth do you manage it? That's the question that I am told has been very often asked of Englishmen by foreigners ever since the news was published that we finished up last year with over seven and a half million to spare.

    7. 1947 – Budget leaked to the press


    Chancellor Hugh Dalton leaked information on the Budget to The Star, a London paper. Details of the Budget came out before his speech and he resigned the following day with Clement Attlee (then Prime Minister), calling him "a perfect ass".

    8. 1950 – Another austerity budget

    Sir Stafford Cripps continued Britain's austerity conditions but did find capacity in the nation's finances to build 200,000 new homes. A degree of rationing was relaxed. Motorists had been allowed to drive up to 90 miles per month, this was to be doubled from June.

    9. 1956 – Harold Macmillan introduces premium bonds


    Known as the Saver's Budget, Harold Wilson called the new premium bonds a "squalid raffle".

    10. 1960 – Derick Heathcoat-Amory’s Budget speech

    Derick brought the House down by saying "there are three things not worth running for - a bus, a woman or a new economic panacea. If you wait a bit, another one will come along".

    He later collapsed during his speech.

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