HC Deb 24 November 1884 vol 294 cc276-7

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, with reference to his Minute of the 12th instant declaring that a Civil Servant seeking a seat in the House of Commons shall resign his office so soon as he announces himself as a candidate, and to his intention to submit an Order to the Queen in Council binding upon the entire Permanent Civil Service, he will also submit or support an Address to Her Majesty praying that the Writ of Summons to the House of Lords of any Peer accepting Office in that Service may be cancelled?


The subject of my hon. Friend's Question is an important one, and it is not to be dealt with in the summary manner as the Question rather appears to suggest. The incompatibility of a position in the Civil Service with candidature for a seat in the House of Commons has relation to a statutory provision which prevents a Civil servant from sitting in the House of Commons. There is no such statutory provision against the holding of an Office by a Peer. Consequently, the positions of the two are quite different; and it would require a good deal of consideration and investigation, I think, before any full view could be given of the case. I do not mean to say that there ought or ought not to be any restraints whatever upon the holding of Civil Offices by Peers, because there are such restraints imposed from time to time by the Executive Government in making particular arrangements, as, for example, in the case of a very distinguished Civil servant, the late Lord Tenterden, who was Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, and who abstained altogether from action in the House of Lords. Indeed, I am not quite certain that he ever took his seat. [Sir H. DRUMMOND WOLFF: He did.] Again, in another case where the action of a Civil servant would lead him into immediate contact with the Executive Government, Lord Arran, Commissioner of Customs, upon being made a Peer of the United Kingdom, and contemplating the taking of a share in the Business of the House of Lords, will shortly resign the Office of Commissioner of Customs. The question, however, is a large one, and I am unable to do more at present than point out that the cases are by no means parallel.