Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Chancellor's "Red Box"

Mrs Rigby remembers Mr Brown leaving Downing Street carrying a brand new 'red box' , which is the traditional 'briefcase' of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and indeed the traditional briefcase of all ministers of the crown since 1860. They're meant to be bomb proof and acid proof, with a nifty design feature that makes the user lock the box before picking it up by the handle.

Mrs R thought she'd imagined seeing the new one because she's seen loads of pictures showing Mr Darling using an old, very battered red box, but it seems not.

Wikipedia sometimes get things wrong, so it was wise to check directgov which says
In July 1997, Gordon Brown became the second Chancellor [the other was Mr Callaghan] to use a new box for the Budget. Made by industrial trainees at Babcock Rosyth Defence Ltd ship and submarine dockyard in Fife, the new box is made of yellow pine, with a brass handle and lock, covered in scarlet leather and embossed with the Royal initials and crest and the Chancellor's title.
Here he is with his lovely new box. (Picture from BBC)

Wikipedia points out that
In March 2008, Alistair Darling reverted to using the original budget briefcase.
But it's a Wikipedia error, there are pictures showing Mr Darling with the lovely new red box - here's one from the Guardian, dated 12th March 2008.

A year later here he is with the battered old one. Picture from the Telegraph, 12th February 2009.

According to an old article in the BBC, the one linked to the picture of Mr Brown, these boxes are quite expensive, and this government has managed to get through quite a few, the information (from only some departments) being made public as a result of an FOI request, way back in 2007.
The total amount spent on the boxes between May 2002 and May 2007 was £57,260.05, according to a collection of answers to questions and Freedom of Information requests submitted by Mr Hemming. **
This is the breakdown
Transport - £8,853
DWP - £6,588
Defra - £1,500
DCLG - £7,420
Scotland - £1,620
DCMS - £1,598
DTI - £13,337.50
Innovation - none
Foreign Office - £6,990
Wales - none
Treasury - £1,899
Defence - £6,108
International Dev - £1,346.55
So it looks as if the Treasury spent £1,899 on Mr Brown's nice new red box - which has now vanished.

Does he get to keep it as a souvenier?

** John Hemming who made the FOI request is, incidentally, MP for Birmingham, Yardley. He has a blog too, but Mrs R hasn't drilled back through it to see if he wrote anything about these red boxes.


Old Holborn said...


Witterings From Witney said...

"Does he get to keep it as a souvenier?"

Doubt it Mrs. R, he probably buggered it throwing it at Blair!

Mrs Rigby said...

@ OH - yep, it is, sort of.

@ WfW - You reckon? Surely something so expensive would be treated with great care, be coveted perhaps?

Witterings From Witney said...

You are of course being satirical I trust? Like he took care of the country?

Mrs Rigby said...

Satire? You mean the sort of stuff Oscar Wilde wrote?

He apparently said, of GBS, "An excellent man: he has no enemies, and none of his friends like him."

Not really relevant to the red boxes, but it shows the man had wit!