The Chancellor, Put Simply

The Chancellor and Under-Treasurer of the Her Majesty’s Exchequer and Second Lord Commissioner of the Treasury is commonly known as The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is the head of the Treasury with full responsibility for all Economic and Financial policy matters in the United Kingdom. The current Chancellor is Philip Hammond.

The main duty of the Chancellor is to create the yearly governmental budget which details how the yearly revenues will be collected and distributed to the many governmental departments of Whitehall. This departmental distribution is the expenditure of the public sector throughout the year which is in line with government policy.

Until the 20th Century, it was not uncommon for a Prime Minister to be his own Chancellor of the Exchequer and/or other cabinet positions. Many examples of this can be given including Sir Robert Walpole the first Prime Minister who served as both PM and Chancellor for his entire 21-year term. Other examples include Lord North, William Pitt the Younger and William Ewart Gladstone. Gladstone was also the last person to be both PM and Chancellor concurrently at times during his first and second Premierships. Stanley Baldwin was acting Chancellor while PM when he took over leadership following the sudden resignation of his predecessor Bonnar Law due to ill health before he could make a replacement.

Tradition dictates that before the budget is delivered in the House of Commons, the Chancellor presents his ministerial red box containing the budget to the gathered public and press as he stands in Downing Street before travelling to Westminster. The original budget box was used continuously between 1860-1965 when it entered semi-retirement until George Osbourne’s first budget in 2010 when he announced it would enter full retirement due to its age and condition.

Another tradition is known as the budget tipple. This is when the chancellor is able to drink whatever they like while the deliver the budget, including alcohol which is otherwise banned in the chamber. Past examples are Whiskey drank by Ken Clarke Gin and Tonic by Geoffrey Howe and Brandy and Water by Benjamin Disraeli. Modern Chancellors since 1997 have chosen water instead.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer also has a robe of office which used to be worn during the delivery of the budget. These days this robe is normally only worn during the coronation of a new monarch. The robe worn is a black silk damask robe of state with a long train trimmed with gold lace and frogging. The modern robe as worn by previous Chancellors like Lloyd-George and Churchill is said to have ‘gone missing’ during the Gordon Browns time in the treasury.

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