Budget breakthroughs

March 18, 2004 ,

IN June, if he is still in the job, Gordon Brown will overtake Welshman David Lloyd George’s record for long service as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

This was the eighth budget that Mr Brown has delivered, and as always he played his cards cleverly.
With the economy strong and unemployment low, he still has enough money from taxation for public services like health and education.

But even Gordon Brown’s budgets don’t have the same impact as Lloyd George’s did. In 1908 he introduced old age pensions, and in 1909 he introduced his “People’s Budget” which taxed rich landowners.

It was so radical at the time that it created a constitutional crisis.
The House of Lords tried to block it, breaking a centuries old tradition that only the Commons dealt with money.

When the Lords refused to back down the Liberal Government called a General Election, which they won with a reduced majority.

Lloyd George mocked the House of Lords calling it “Mr Balfour’s poodle” after the Conservative leader.
Eventually, after the Government threatened to create 1000 new peers, the Lords gave way.

The Parliament Act was passed which made it clear that the Lords could only delay legislation, not block it completely.

Nearly 100 years later the House of Lords would not dare to interfere with Gordon Brown’s budget.
But the unelected Lords still block measures from the Commons.

Since 1997 the Commons has voted on several occasions to ban fox hunting, but the Lords have blocked it. Just last week the Lords delayed plans to create a Supreme Court.

Perhaps it is time that the Government took a leaf out of Lloyd George’s book, and used the Parliament Act to force its measures through.

And perhaps like Lloyd George, Gordon Brown will eventually make the short move from No 11 to No 10 Downing Street.