On the parliament.uk site's information about the annual budget, it describes the tradition of "Despatch box drinks", where the Chancellor is afforded the privilege to drink alcohol at the despatch box while delivering his budget speech.

What is the reasoning behind this? Is it formally codified in parliamentary rules, or is this just a case of tradition? Is there any record of how long this tradition has been taking place?

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    +1. This series of questions about european most (or am I mistaken?) pairlament rules, barely changed from the old times is anyway good. It is interesting to read and reveal impressive things. Like that, mentioned in the question. Mar 4, 2020 at 8:13
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    Tradition. Budget speeches can be long and controversial; a little liquid fortification may provide some support in the face of a hostile Opposition. Mar 4, 2020 at 9:47

1 Answer 1


The Chancellor is allowed to do this as a matter of tradition, as the OP's link says. There's also a practical reason: the Budget speech is often long and complex, and a boost to their morale during the process is reasonable.

Many of the details of operation of the UK parliament are traditions, rather than written rules. The tradition goes back to at least 1882, that being the last year in which Gladstone presented a budget, and is probably older.

It should be noted that there are several bars in the Houses of Parliament that are always open while Parliament is sitting. Drinking alcohol, without getting drunk, is considered quite acceptable. The UK temperance movement never had remotely the power of the American one, and is now fairly insignificant.

  • The legendary Dennis Skinner, who worked as a coal miner for many years before becoming an MP noted that he would have been sent home without pay if he'd been caught drinking at lunchtime and never drank during sittings. Although I agree, he is something of an exception.
    – richardb
    Mar 4, 2020 at 11:36

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