What is the red Budget Box and what is in the Chancellor’s despatch box?

THE longest continuous Budget speech was by William Gladstone back in April 1853, lasting an impressive four hours and 45 minutes.

It’s traditional to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer clutching a red box briefcase which transports the all-important financial plan.

 The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers the Budget statement to Members of Parliament in the House of Commons
The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers the Budget statement to Members of Parliament in the House of CommonsCredit: Reuters

What is the red Budget box?

The red box, which carries the Budget speech from No.11 to the House of Commons, is often held up outside 11 Downing Street by the Chancellor.

The briefcase has been used for more than 150 years with the first box being made for William Gladstone in 1860.

Gladstone’s box was lined with black satin and covered with scarlet leather.

Parliament explains: “The word Budget comes from an old French word ‘bougette’ meaning little bag.

“It was customary to bring the statement on financial policy to the House of Commons in a leather bag.

“The modern equivalent of the bag is the red despatch box or Budget box.”

 The battered old briefcase has been handed down over the years
The battered old briefcase has been handed down over the yearsCredit: PA:Press Association

Is Gladstone’s 1860 Budget box still used today?

Gladstone’s original red Budget box was used by every UK Chancellor until 2011 with the exception of James Callaghan (Chancellor from 1964 until 67) and Gordon Brown (Chancellor from 1997 until 2007) who both had new cases commissioned.

It has been suggested that Callaghan said Gladstone’s was too small and had a bigger one made from brown leather.

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Gladstone’s original box was brought out of retirement in 2007 when is was used by Alistair Darling until 2010.

George Osborne also used it in June 2010.

It has now been officially retired for good due to its fragility and is due to be displayed in the Cabinet War Rooms in London.

Since March 2011, a new box commissioned by The National Archives has been used.

What is in the Chancellor’s despatch box?

The box is used to deliver the new UK Budget which tells us Brits how the government will be spending money.

It usually contains the Chancellor’s Budget speech which is why it is seen as important.

But there have been a few mishaps over the years.

In 1868, Chancellor George Ward-Hunt reportedly suffered an embarrassing moment when he turned up at Parliament and opened the briefcase, only to discover he had left his speech at home.

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The mishap is believed to have inspired the tradition in which the Chancellor holds up the box to the crowd when he leaves No.11.

Norman Lamont, who was chancellor from 1990-93, allegedly carried a bottle of whisky in his briefcase while his speech was carried in a plastic bag by his then-aide William Hague.

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