Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Gerry Adams “not allowed” to quit as MP

Gerry Adams remains MP for West Belfast despite dispatching a resignation letter to Westminster, according to the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

The Sinn Féin leader’s decision to give up his seat has set republican disregard for parliamentary procedures on a collision course with the requirements of constitutional formality... under parliamentary rules dating back to 1624, an MP who wishes to quit has to apply for one of a number of obscure, paid crown posts: Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham or Steward of the Manor of Northstead.

A Sinn Féin spokesman in Belfast said: “We couldn’t give a toss [about these rules]. He's not going to apply for these offices. He has sent in a resignation letter like any ordinary person. We want a by-election in West Belfast. There’s no written constitution; they just make it up anyway. It’s strange men who parade around in tights. Republicans are not losing any sleep over this.”

The parliamentary regulation is enshrined in 400 years of constitutional history and may be difficult to overturn without setting a political precedent. According to Erskine May, the bible of parliamentary procedure, it is “a settled principle of parliamentary law that a Member, after he is duly chosen, cannot relinquish his seat; and, in order to evade this restriction, a Member who wishes to retire accepts office under the Crown which legally vacates his seat and obliges the House to order a new writ”.

The Speaker’s office said there was one alternative route—or piece of political pantomime—open to Sinn Féin MPs, who have refused to take the oath of allegiance to the crown, as well as their seats in Westminster. If an elected MP who has not sworn the oath attempts to take his or her seat in the Commons during a debate, then that would also formally lead to their ejection from Westminster. Under the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1865, “if the MP sits in the house without having taken the oath” then he would lose his seat, the Speaker’s Office confirmed. Sinn Féin said Adams would not participate in such a political charade. [Guardian]
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has this day appointed Gerard Adams to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. [HM Treasury]


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC)
Didn't he take Northstead? Cameron claimed he was now a "Baron" of the Manor of Northstead in PMQs today - although I've not heard of Baron before, because surely the Queen is Baron of that manor if the Stewardship is a paid Crown role.
Jan. 26th, 2011 02:35 pm (UTC)
Why would it be Cameron's business? It's entirely a matter for the Speaker and the House, surely.

Has anyone ever provided a satisfactory explanation why the underlying theory - that the holder of an office of profit under the crown may not be an MP - does not apply to salaried ministers of the crown? From the MP for Witney and First Lord of the Treasury down.

Me I reckon the original principle should be strictly observed, short of serious illness or similar.
Jan. 26th, 2011 02:39 pm (UTC)
He mentioned it in PMQs, that's all I know.

I want to see Adams take the other route and be ejected from Parliament that way.
Jan. 26th, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
It's Cameron's business because the stewardships are appointed by the Treasury and the Exchequer, and he's First Lord. Personally, I think he should've been appointed Escheator of Ulster instead (that's what Irish MPs used to be appointed to when they resigned and it'd annoy him more I think).

Now, I'm hazy on your second question as it's been a decade, but until reasonably recently (20th Century, not sure which Act), if a Minister was appointed they then had to fight a by-election to hold their seat, as a ministry was a crown office but if you already held one then you could be elected, but not keep it when appointed.

But it was changed, using some obfuscation, and ministries aren't now considered offices of profit.

Theoretically, I know the Act and the reasoning behind it, but it was 2002 when I passed that course and I haven't needed details since.

The question I have is did Adams apply for the Stewardship? If not, they've set a precedent that the Govt can expell people without them actually asking, which in this case is a formality but...
Jan. 26th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
Apparently they "interpret" a letter of resignation as an application, according to http://www.politicshome.com/uk/article/21272/adams_rejects_his_stewardship.html
Jan. 26th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see. Not sure I agree but as the rules are both ancient and vague then it sorta makes sense.

Don't like that they've decided only two offices can possibly be used, the others still technically exist. Ah well.

Silly fun times. Hmm...

Who moves the writ for the byelection? Normally the party that held the seat moves the writ, and chooses the timing, but the other Sinn Fein MPs also haven't sworn in so can't.
Jan. 26th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
But yes, point taken: it's Cameron's business as to whether he's been appointed a Crown Officeholder, while it's Bercow's as to whether he's an MP.
Jan. 27th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
why the underlying theory - that the holder of an office of profit under the crown may not be an MP - does not apply to salaried ministers of the crown

Falconer just mentioned it in the Lords. House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 (c. 24) - Statute Law Database
Ministerial offices.
— (1) Not more than ninety-five persons being the holders of offices specified in Schedule 2 to this Act (in this section referred to as Ministerial offices) shall be entitled to sit and vote in the House of Commons at any one time.
That's a consolidation act, so at some point they amended the whole "though shalt not be paid by the crown" rule to "there won't be more than 95 of you".

Something I didn't actually know.
Jan. 26th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
Cameron says he has accepted the title, Sinn Fein are saying he hasn't. One of them must be correct.
Jan. 26th, 2011 02:39 pm (UTC)
Oooh, that's a tough call. *g*
Jan. 26th, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
I willing to make this be the time I believe Sinn Fein for this century. I figure I'm unlikely to wish I'd held it in reserve later.
Jan. 26th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
The Information Office has a fascinating factsheet about this.

Jan. 26th, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
Couldn't they have an actor apply in voice-over? Thus preserving two ancient parliamentary traditions in one.
Jan. 26th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
So long as they included the word "legitimate". That was always my favourite bit as a kid.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

December 2015
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner