Byrne to Laws: There's no money left

A letter from Liam Byrne to David Laws said the UK's coffers were empty
A letter from Liam Byrne to David Laws said the UK's coffers were empty

By staff

Liam Byrne, the outgoing first secretary to the Treasury, left a short note to his successor David Laws that said the coffers were empty, it has emerged.

Notes from an outgoing minister to the new man or woman are not uncommon, but Lib Dem minister Mr Laws said he was somewhat taken aback by its brevity.
He said: "When I arrived at my desk on the very first day as chief secretary, I found a letter from the previous chief secretary to give me some advice, I assumed, on how I conduct myself over the months ahead.

"Unfortunately, when I opened it, it was a one-sentence letter which simply said: 'Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left,' which was honest but slightly less helpful advice than I had been expecting."

The Treasury said the full text of the note, dated April 6th, more than a month before the new government was agreed, read: "Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid there is no money. Kind regards - and good luck! Liam."

Mr Byrne said the message was light -hearted: "My letter was a joke, from one chief secretary to another. I do hope David Laws' sense of humour wasn't another casualty of the coalition deal."

Mr Byrne's notes have caused bemusement before; when he took over the Treasury job he issued an 11-page memo to his civil servants telling them when he wanted coffee and soup and insisting briefing notes were on one side of paper in 16 point type.

In 1964 outgoing chancellor Reginald Maudling left a note for Labour's James Callaghan, which said "Good luck, old cock ... Sorry to leave it in such a mess."


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.