HC Deb 28 April 1887 vol 314 cc232-4
MR. HENRY H. EOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether the Secretaries to the Treasury and the Admiralty, the Under Secretaries of State, and the Parliamentary Secretaries of the Board of Trade and of the Local Government Board, have not been qualified to sit in Parliament by special legislation declaring them "capable of being elected and sitting and voting in the House of Commons;" and, whether there is any instance, since the Statute of 6 Anne, of the creation of an Office tenable by a Member of Parliament, except under the authority of an Act of Parliament passed on the creation of such Office?


To answer the Question fully would require a treatise. The Offices mentioned in the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's Question are all Offices of profit, and the Statutes referred to were passed to enable the holders to sit in Parliament, notwithstanding that they held Offices of profit. The Secretaries to the Treasury and the Admiralty and two of the Under Secretaries of State did not receive their qualification to sit in Parliament by special legislation; but were by express proviso excluded from the general words of the Statute 15 Geo. II., c. 22, which might otherwise have disqualified them; while the Secretaries of the Board of Trade and of the Local Government Board, being holders of new Offices of profit, were by the Statutes creating those Offices enabled to sit in Parliament. The right of the Crown to create now Ministerial Offices—not being Offices of profit—is undoubted, and is stated in books of the highest authority, to which I shall be pleased to refer the right hon. Gentleman; and the only limitation on such right is that such new Offices shall be without fee or reward, and not inconsistent with the Constitution or prejudicial to the subject. The instances of the creation of an Office tenable by Members of Parliament without Statute are not common; because, as a rule, profit is attached to Offices. But there are cases recorded, and I may call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the case of Lard Middleton, in the year 1717.


What was the Office held by Lord Middleton?


It was that of Lord Justice in Ireland.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman have any objection to making a public reference to one or two of the works of authority which he mentioned?


Chitty's Prerogatives of the Crown, which is a book of the highest authority, 40 or 50 years old; and Comyn's Digest, which the House will recognize as being of high authority. Indeed, I may say that this opinion is in accordance with all the recognized traditions of the last 100 years, and is also in accordance with the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown for a very long time.

MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)

asked, was the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the additional Under Secretaries appointed during the past 20 years were appointed under a special Statute?


said, he was quite aware of it, and he thought he had so stated.

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

the question being one of great interest, will the hon. and learned Gentleman, in a supplemental answer, give us now, or at a convenient time, a Return of the instances in which this power has been exorcised since the case of Lord Middleton—Lord Middle-ton of the House of Commons?


said, he was sorry he could not oblige the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment. He was willing to give all the information possible; but he could not answer that offhand. [Mr. GLADSTONE: At a future day?] Yes. There certainly was an instance either of a Queen's Counsel or a Queen's Serjeant who, being appointed to that Office, which was newly created for him, did not vacate his seat, on the ground that he had in his patent the fact that he should have neither fee nor reward. he wished to make himself quite clear. There was no distinction between an Office of profit and a place of profit. It had been throughout recognized that in order to create disqualification it must be an Office of profit or a place of profit; and the view that there was no distinction between a place of profit and an Office of profit had been, as far as he knew, invariably recognized by the Law Officers of successive Governments.