Budget leaks and a Guardian libel case

Details of a budget were once kept secret until the chancellor addressed parliament (Speaker Lindsay Hoyle berates Rishi Sunak for briefing on budget details, 25 October).

My great-uncle Walter Scott worked for the Guardian as a subeditor. In his diary, he noted in 1936 that the paper, after discussing investigations into budget leaks that year, went on to refer to a leak about a change in tea tax by Gladstone; the article claimed that this leak had come from Gladstone’s “secretary and friend Leveson-Gower” and that it was said to have resulted in someone making a large fortune.

That morning Walter took a call from the Athenaeum Club, and a voice barked: “I was amazed to read in my Manchester Guardian this morning a grave reflection on my honour!” It was Sir George Leveson-Gower, who had been Gladstone’s secretary in the 1880s; it had been assumed that a person from that era would not be alive.

An apology was issued, and it was hoped this would satisfy Sir George. Walter phoned him and asked if he had seen the withdrawal. “Yes,” he said, “that was handsome,” but, “I must again consult my solicitors.” The case went to court. It was reported on 15 July 1936. Sir George received undisclosed damages.
Anita Scott
Farnham, Surrey

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