Friday, March 31, 2006



Last week’s Budget was an odd affair. Chancellors of the Exchequer usually use their budget speech to showcase their tax changes. Gordon said very little about tax. He concentrated on patting himself on the back for how well he think he has done as Chancellor since his appointment, and set out his plans for reforming British society, concentrating on education.

Sadly those who listened to the speech and thought there would be few tax changes this year were brought back to earth when they discovered that HMRC had issued 156 pages of Budget Notes together with a large number of consultation documents. Our views on those detailed proposals can be found on our website , so I will not repeat them here.

Instead I will take the opportunity to give the answer to last week’s quiz on Chancellors of the Exchequer.

1. Spencer Perceval was the only Chancellor to be assassinated in office. He was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons in 1812. To be fair he combined the roles of Chancellor and Prime Minister and was shot in the latter capacity, not because of his budget measures.
2. Henry Addington abolished income tax on 1802 – but he reintroduced it in a modified form as property tax the following year. Nicholas Vansittart is credited with abolishing it in 1816, That is not strictly correct though. In 1815 he promised that he would abolish it the following year and when in 1816 he explained to parliament that he had changed his mind parliament revolted and voted to abolish the tax.
3. Addington re-introduced income tax in 1803 and Sir Robert Peel in 1842. Peel reintroduced it as a “temporary” tax but it is Peel’s tax that has survived to this day. Parliament votes income tax for one year only to stress its “temporary” nature but, sadly, is unlikely ever to overlook the need to extend it.
4. William Gladstone proposed to abolish the tax over a period, but the demands of the Crimean War prevented him carrying through his plan.
5. Henry Addington when increasing tax on alcohol in 1802, asserted that “he was sorry that the price of malt liquor, now a necessity of life, should be raised on the public”.
6. William Pitt the Younger, was Chancellor when he fought an illegal duel with the then Foreign Secretary (Tierney) on Putney Heath.
7. William Pitt the Younger also, sadly, died bankrupt.
8. Even the friends of Nicholas Vansittart are said to have greeted his resignation with relief.
9. Benjamin Disraeli was the hothead who was expelled from school for fighting.
10. Benjamin Disraeli wrote a number of novels the most famous being, Coningsby, Sybil, Tancred, Endymion and Vivian Gray.
11. William Gladstone was the first Chancellor to put all of his proposed tax changes into a single bill (Customs and Inland Revenue Bill 1861).
12. Lord Randolph Churchill was fined 10/- (50p in today’s money but worth a great deal more in 1870 when the fine was imposed then in 2006) for assaulting a police officer. He knocked off his hat
13. Lord Randolph Churchill once told his sister-in-law that he only liked rough women who dance and sing and drink – the rougher the better.
14. Iain Macleod was Chancellor from 20 June 1970 to 20 July 1970. He was rushed to hospital with appendicitis on 7 July and although he was discharged on 15 July, suffered a fatal heart attack on 20th. His successor Anthony Barber largely adopted Macleod’s budget as his own first budget.
15. William Gladstone once proudly proclaimed that he “had not a drop of blood in his veins which was not Scottish”.

Robert W Maas


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