HC Deb 23 May 1856 vol 142 cc620-1

MR. MURROUGH moved for a Select Committee to inquire into the mode in which the persons now holding the offices of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State have been appointed, and into the operation of the Stamp Act 55 Geo. III., c. 104, so far as it affects appointments to offices and employments under the Crown. He said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had on a former occasion stated that the delivery of the seals of office constituted the appointment to the office of Secretary of State; but he (Mr. Murrough) maintained that the appointment must be consequent on the issue of letters patent and the payment of the necessary stamp duties thereon. As there had been some recent evasion of the payment of these duties on the part of some Secretaries of State, it behoved the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as guardian of the public revenues, to support his Motion for inquiry.


said, he must oppose the Motion, and repeat what he had stated formerly, that the office of Secretary of State was conferred by the delivery of the seals; and about a year ago a decision of the Queen's Bench, delivered by Lord Campbell, distinctly laid that down. No point of constitutional practice was better established. Not only was the office conferred by delivery of the seals, but what was more to the purpose, the office of Secretary of State was withdrawn by the recall of the seals. When the Coalition Ministry of Lord North and Fox were turned out, the King, to whom it was disagreeable to give them a personal reception, desired that their seals of office should be sent to him by their under-secretaries, thus showing that the recall of the seals vacated the offices. The general practice, he would admit, had been to issue a patent after the delivery of the seals; but, a short time back, when the noble Lord the Member for London became Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he was advised that there was no necessity for taking out a patent, and therefore he did not do so. The general case had been submitted to the law officers of the Crown, with the view of ascertaining their opinion as to whether it was desirable and proper that Secretaries of State should take out a patent, and as yet no official answer had been received. He believed, however, that the view of those learned Gentlemen was, that it would be more regular to take out a patent. If their opinion, when officially expressed, should be to that effect the Government would be prepared to act upon it. Under those circumstances he hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion.


said, that, as the right hon. Gentleman had conceded the whole question, and as it appeared that the opinion of the law officers of the Crown coincided with his own, he would withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The House adjourned at half-after One o'clock till Monday next.