Budget 2021: can the Chancellor drink alcohol during the Budget?

There are many unusual traditions in the Houses of Parliament, none more so than the one involving the drinking of alcohol on Budget day. But will Rishi Sunak follow in the footsteps of his predecessors?

Rishi Sunak is set to deliver the Autumn Budget 2021 tomorrow (27 Wednesday) but the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at liberty to take part in one unusual parliamentary tradition.

While making their Budget speech to Parliament, the Chancellor is permitted to drink alcohol during the duration of their address.

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This is despite the fact that serving MPs are normally banned from smoking or drinking alcohol while inside the House of Commons.

Nigel Lawson was one Chancellor who enjoyed a drink while delivering his Budget speech (Photo: Getty)

Why can the Chancellor drink alcohol during the Budget Speech?

Although it is difficult to pin down when the tradition started, it is believed that the Budget tipple dates back hundreds of years.

During the speech to the House, the Chancellor is permitted to have a drink of whatever they wish - alcohol or otherwise - while at the despatch box.

Although there is no specific reason for the rule, there is a belief that the length of the speech alongside the Chancellor’s seniority in Parliament gives them immunity from the alcohol ban during the length of the address.

The Budget is one of the most anticipated parliamentary speeches of the year and can often run for an extended period of time. The longest Budget speech was delivered by William Gladstone in 1853 and ran for four hours and 45 minutes.

Gordon Brown was one of the more recent Chancellors to drink water at the despatch box (Photo: Getty)

Which Chancellors have drunk at the despatch box?

Many Chancellors have chosen to keep up with tradition and taken a tipple to the despatch box.

This includes Benjamin Disraeli, who served as Chancellor between 1866 and 1868, choosing to drink a brandy and water while delivering his budget. This was also the drink of choice for John Major, who served as Chancellor for one year from 1989 before he became prime minister.

Kenneth Clarke chose to drink whisky during his speech, while Geoffrey Howe drank a gin and tonic and Nigel Lawson opted for a spritzer.

One of the more unusual concoctions includes William Gladstone’s choice of a sherry and beaten egg.

Despite the tradition being popular with many, 21st century Chancellors seem to have shunned the liberty of an alcoholic drink, with Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, George Osbourne and Phillip Hammond having a simple glass of water during the speech.

Rishi Sunak, who is teetotal, has chosen to join his 21st century counterparts in sipping on water during his Budget speeches.

What is expected to be announced at the Autumn Budget 2021?

Sunak will make his second speech of the year to deliver the Autumn Budget and the three-year spending review.

Many key points in the budget have already been revealed such as an increase from £8.91 to £9.50 per hour for the national minimum wage for those aged 23 and over.

A cash boost for the NHS and an announcement on the public sector pay freeze coming to an end has also been previewed by the Conservatives.

There is also mounting pressure on Sunak to tackle rising energy prices, with Labour MPs calling on the Chancellor to scrap VAT on bills throughout winter.

The Autumn Budget is due to take place at around 12.30pm tomorrow (27 Wednesday).

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