HC Deb 01 April 1901 vol 92 cc382-423


Order for Second Reading, read.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

Upon a point of order, Sir. I observe that this Bill seriously affects the interest of certain Members of this House, and under those circumstances I would ask you whether you would not ask them to withdraw while this Bill is under discussion.


I think the hon. Gentleman is in error. It is only customary to ask hon. Members to withdraw when there is a motion under discussion affecting their conduct.


I would point out that the introduction of this Bill does seriously affect their conduct, because so far as I can see it is an act of grace to relieve them of certain penalties which they have incurred owing to their condnct.


I have it in command from His Majesty the King, to state that he has placed his interests as affected by this Bill at the disposal of Parliament.


I have not very much to add to what I said when I asked leave to introduce this Bill, but as the matter is somewhat technical and many hon. Gentlemen were not present when I introduced it, it might perhaps be convenient if I stated the nature of this Bill again. The nature of this Bill is to render the reappointment to offices under the Crown unnecessary in consequence of the demise of the Crown of this country. The contract of service is always put an end to by the death of the master, and it has been held that this, of course, does not in the slightest degree touch the prerogative of the Crown to dismiss the servants of the Crown at pleasure. According to the doctrine of the common law, if a servant were engaged for a year and the master happened to die in the middle of the year, the servant could get no wages at all, because he had contracted to serve for a year and the master had died before the year was completed. That principle, whatever its merits might be, has been applied by the common law to the case of the servants of the Crown. It has been applied in the case of those who are appointed more or less directly by the Crown, and it would apply in the case of those who were appointed by such a great officer as the Viceroy of Ireland, who is the representative of the Crown. It has, of course, never been applied to the great mass of the civil servants in this country, because, although they hold office under the Crown, they are not appointed directly by the Crown, and it has never been suggested that they should vacate their offices on the death of the Sovereign. It has never been suggested that commissions in the Navy were affected by the demise of the Crown, because they have always been made out by the Lords of the Admiralty, and therefore officers in the Navy continue to hold their appointments despite the demise of the Crown. But commissions in the Army, which are made out by the Sovereign, have to be renewed, and an Act was passed in 1837 to provide that it should not be necessary that within six months after the demise of the Crown every commission held by an officer in the Army should be vacated. A rule of this kind is one which is obviously one that is calculated to produce a very great deal of inconvenience, and if the successor happened to be abroad at the time of the demise of the Crown the inconvenience would be very much aggravated. The whole body politic would be in a sort of suspended animation until appointments were made and it was revived. In 1707 the Legislature, having regard to the inconvenience in which the provisions of the common law would result, knowing that the successor of Anne would be the Elector of Hanover, and that in all probability he would be out of England at the time of the demise of the Crown, provided by statute that all offices under the Crown should continue to be held for six months after the demise of the Crown, so that they might be continued on until the King came and terminated them, either by dismissing the officers, or continuing them in office; and in 1830 in the case of the colonies the period was extended to eighteen months. These two statutes are still in force. To give an illustration familiar to most hon. Members of the House, the justices of the peace hold office from the Crown. They hold a commission from the Sovereign for the purposes of keeping the peace and administering justice, to a certain extent. That commission would have lapsed by the demise of the Crown, but the effect of the Act is to continue them in office for six months, during which time they may or may not take the oath of allegiance to the new Sovereign, but at the end of the six months it would be necessary for the justices of the peace to be reappointed, or their commissions would lapse. They might be reappointed either by special or general commission, whichever His Majesty thought fit to have recourse to, and upon the reappointment the justice of the peace would have to take the oath of allegiance before he could perform the duties of his new commission. In the same way, on the, demise of the Crown Ministers remain in office for six months under the statute of Anne, and may properly take the oath of allegiance to the existing Sovereign. Before or on the expiration of the six months it is necessary that Ministers should be reappointed, and the mode of reappointment varies according to the nature of the offices—sometimes by patent, sometimes by handing over the seals of office and receiving them back from the new Sovereign.

All this necessity for reappointment on the demise of the Crown is really a relic of bygone days, when constitutional government, as we now understand it, had not been evolved in this country. The modern conception, of course, is that the Ministers of the Crown hold office as the servants of the Sovereign and of the State, and it would be somewhat remarkable if the old doctrine of law were to operate to the general inconvenience. In the days when this rule was established Parliament itself was at once dissolved by the demise of the Crown, the functions of all Ministers ceased, because they were regarded as being the personal servants of the Sovereign who had died, and the very judges were regarded as holding office at the will of the Crown, and ceased to be judges. This rule, inconvenient as it was, still exists both in regard to appointments at home, appointments in India and the colonies, and appointments under the Crown of this country abroad. In the case of appointments in the United Kingdom it applied not only to Ministers but to justices of the peace, lords lieutenant, sheriffs, and other officers. The many questions which have been asked in this House upon this subject during the last two weeks are quite enough to show the inconvenience of the rule as applied to lords lieutenant, sheriffs, and other officers. In India and the colonies it would apply, not to mention other officials, to governors general and governors; but in the case of the colonies the inconvenience of the rule is to a considerable extent mitigated by the prolongation of the tenure of office for six or eighteen months respectively. But the rule applies to offices held out of the British dominions as well, and the case of our great protectorates deserves particular consideration. Technically, the protectorates, for this purpose, are not regarded as being part of the British dominions. They are ours, but for this purpose they are not so regarded; and the result is that the common law rule applies without any qualification at all, and consequently every officer would go out of office, and it was felt that if that rule were acted on it was calculated to lead to the most absurd and monstrous results—the entire paralysis of all government in the places which really wanted steady and continuous government. But of course, it is not observed in practice; the officers go on and take the risk of what they do not being ratified. The object of this Bill is to bring the law into harmony with commonsense. Seeing that neither at home nor abroad are any reappointments necessary in consequence of the demise of the Crown, there is no reason at all for keeping up an obsolete rule of this kind. The measure we propose, will not in the slightest degree trench on the prerogatives of the Crown. I do not know whether there are any objections to the measure upon its merits.


Will the right hon. Gentleman explain Paragraph 1 in Clause 1?


What is it? I regret that I have not the Bill before me at the moment.


"The Act shall take effect as from the demise of the Crown."


That means that the Bill is to apply and will apply as from the death of Her late Majesty, and will have the effect of obviating the necessity for reappointments in the case of any offices, whether in the United Kingdom, the colonies, India, or foreign parts, including protectorates. I hope I have now made it clear to the hon. Gentleman, who, I think, had he considered the matter, would have been able to satisfy himself. I have observed that the explanation which I gave when moving for leave to introduce the Bill as to its effect in removing the liability of Ministers who hold offices in this House has caused quite a flutter of excitement in some bosoms. A suggestion has been made as to the possibility of Ministers being made liable to penalties. That very estimable class of people, at present among the unemployed, "common informers," would in that case have a splendid career before them. They would find in some scores of divisions I do not know how many Ministers, and if every Minister were liable for a penalty of £500 for every division, there would for them, if I may make use of a phrase of Dr. Johnson's, "potentialities of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice."


Hear, hear!


That is a picture which seems to commend itself particularly to the imagination of the hon. Member for Northampton.


Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to remind him that the Treasury would get half, and I was looking at it from the point of view of the taxpayer.


The hon. Member for Northampton is always in the field first if anything of a sporting character comes before the House, and though the hon. Gentleman's motives were of a sporting character, I am almost sorry to hear that there is a greater motive. I am afraid that when the other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer held out no hope of any increase to the revenue from this source it was like a douche of cold water to some hon. Gentlemen. It is always painful to have to throw cold water upon dreamers of that sort, and to awaken to the facts those who have been indulging in those golden dreams. I am afraid that anything I have to say will not prove at all encouraging to any gentlemen who may have thought of acting on the hints thrown out. The first consideration I have to suggest for the attention of any enterprising gentleman who may have thought of bringing such actions as have been suggested is whether the clause with regard to penalties has any application whatever to the clause which requires re-election. I think that anyone who reads these sections with attention will see good reason to suppose that the clause as to penalties will only apply to the case of those totally disabled and disqualified by the Statute of Anne. The words are not applicable to the present case. If the hon. and learned Gentleman who may be interested in this matter will look at the statute passed with reference to the same matter as it affects appointments held in Ireland, he will find that it is perfectly clear on the reading of that section that the penalty section has no application whatever to the present case. The Act relating to Ireland is as clear as can be on the subject—that the penalties do not apply in the case of those who are eligible for appointments. A question might come up in the House itself as to whether a particular Member had ceased to hold his seat by reason of being reappointed in consequence of the demise of the Crown. Reappointment would become necessary at the end of six months, and the question might then emerge when the reappointment had taken place.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I explain very concisely what the precise nature of this matter is. In 1867, in the Representation of the People Act, it was provided that with regard to a large number of Ministerial appointments the exchange of one of those appointments for another should not necessitate any vacation of the seat. That is to say, in the case of the law officers, for instance, if an hon. and learned Member were promoted from the post of one law officer to that of the other, that was to fall within the schedule, and no re-election was to be required. The suggestion has been made that a reappointment to the same office comes within the meaning and intention of the statute, and that re-election would be necessary, and as the suggestion has been, seriously entertained I will deal with it Such a suggestion amounts to this, that if all the Ministers chose to engage in a game of "general post." and took each other's offices, then no re-election need take place, but if Ministers were reappointed direct to others they had held up to the moment of the demise of the Crown then they would require to be re-elected. If that were the law it would be absolutely preposterous, and no words would be too strong to describe its absurdity.

In the course of the many questions asked last week we were told that this was a great constitutional question. I have the greatest respect for the ingenuity of hon. Gentlemen who take that view, but I venture to say that to talk of this as a great constitutional question shows an absence of sense of proportion, and I submit with "bated breath," in presence of a good many of my fellow countrymen, that it shows a little lack of humour. If this is a great constitutional question, in the name of common sense where would a small constitutional question be found? There is absolutely nothing in the point of law unless the reappointment to the same office was acceptance of office within the 26th section of the statute of Anne, and if not the whole point crumbles away. Authority is not altogether wanting on this question, for in 1809 there arose the question in reference to the appointment of Mr. Perceval as First Lord of the Treasury. He had been before Chancellor of the Exchequer, being as such a Commissioner of the Treasury. He was made First Lord of the Treasury, with, of course, an increase of salary. The question arose whether he had vacated his seat by the acceptance of that appointment. Both the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Speaker Abbot—one of the most distinguished occupants of the Speaker's Chair—agreed that the seat was not vacated, and Mr. Abbot, in his letter, declared "that to accept the same office under a new commission has never in practice been held to vacate a seat." I have verified the reference given in "May's Parliamentary Practice" from Walpole's "Life of Perceval," and the letter may be read there by any hon. and learned Gentleman. It seems perfectly clear that reappointment does not come within the meaning of the statute and the mischief at which the Act was levelled. I suppose the intention of the section was that if a Member took office under the Crown after his election, then his constituents should have the opportunity of expressing their opinion upon his action. But there was no application of the statute to the case of a Member who held office when he was elected and who before six months elapsed was reappointed to the office he held when elected as a Member. I do not think that any Member of the House will contend that such a case is within the mischief at which the Act of Anne was directed. If the matter came before the House for decision in any form I do not doubt that a large proportion of the House would vote, in accordance with the dictum of Speaker Abbot, and with sense and reason, that re-election was not necessary. That certainly is the view I take. I do not wish to dogmatise on the point, because I know it is one on which opinions may differ, but for what my opinion is worth I give it to the House. I think that that would represent not only the spirit but the letter of the statute. I have tried to explain the nature of this measure. I submit to the House that the Bill is useful and will obviate a great many troublesome questions which might arise in the United Kingdom and in the colonies, while it will do a great deal more than prevent inconveniencies in the case of protectorates, where indeed it is almost a necessity. The Bill will dissipate possible doubts of a technical character, to solve which would involve considerations and subtleties which may appeal to the minds of some, but which I believe the House will regard as having little weight. I move that the Bill be read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now road a second time."

MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)

I, rise to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. I regret that the Attorney General in asking leave to introduce this Bill did not make a statement similar to that to which we have now listened.


The hon. Gentleman will see from the report that I made a similar statement.


I had to look at the report in The Times, as I could not get the official report. The report there is quite different from the statement he has made to-day in asking the House to pass the Second Reading of the measure. If the constitutional law of this country is as laid down by the hon. Gentleman, what is the object of the Government in introducing this Bill? There is absolutely no necessity whatever for the Bill if the hon. Gentleman, as a lawyer, believes what he has stated in the House just now. I have looked into the question, and as one who has studied a little law some years ago, I, myself, am indebted to the hon. Gentleman for the opportunity he has given me of reading up and refreshing my memory upon this question of constitutional law. The hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill laid particular stress upon Sub-section 1 of Section I. of the Bill, and although attention was called to the fact by the junior Member for Northampton that there was such a thing as Sub-section 2 in the Bill as introduced, he passed that over and hardly referred to it at all. I think hon. Members will agree with me that the first section of the Bill revolutionises the constitutional government of this House and of the country. Thinking, as I do, that the will of the people should be supreme even above the will or wish of the Sovereign, I am satisfied that if the Bill contained only that sub-section, we would take no exception whatever to it. That sub-section is a step in the right direction, and I trust the hon. and learned Gentleman will ultimately carry it much further. The majority of this House, as representing the majority of the nation, no matter how the majority may have been obtained, should have an absolute right to name its own Ministers of the Crown, without the veto of His Majesty.

The sub-section to which I take exception is Sub-section 2, which provides that this Act shall take effect from the last demise of the Crown. Before considering the full effect and meaning of that sub-section, I wish to state the law as I read it on this vexed question. The first statute dealing with the matter is 6 Anne, c. 41, Section 8 of which enacts that— if the office or place of Lord Chancellor or any other office of the Crown becomes void by reason of the demise or death of her present Majesty, her heirs or successors, queens or kings, of this realm, the office shall not become void for six months next after such death or demise. and then come some remarkable words, which to my mind have a great bearing on the question under discussion— Unless the Minister is sooner removed or discharged by the next in succession as aforesaid. Section 25 of the same Act enacts that if— any person being chosen a Member of the House of Commons, shall accept of any office of profit from the Crown during such time as he shall continue a Member, his election shall be and is hereby declared to be void, and a new writ shall issue for a new election as if such person so accepting was naturally dead. Therefore, if we apply that Act to the right hon. Gentlemen opposite—I submit this in all sincerity—the occupants of the front Treasury Bench are not duly there, and this Chamber has been turned into a cemetery. If on the question of privilege you had been asked to remove those men as legally and politically dead, you should at once have called in the constabulary and ordered the carcases to be removed. Section 28 of the same Act declares that the penalty shall be £500 for each time such a Member sits or votes in this House. That Act is still in force, and it is the law of the land to-day so far as it relates to Ministers holding office on the demise of the Crown.

Let us consider the position which the present Ministers occupy. By Section 8 of the Statute of Anne the right hon. Gentlemen were, on the death of Her late Majesty, to remain in office for six months "unless sooner removed or dicharged" by His Majesty King Edward VII. The only meaning to be placed upon those words is that His Majesty might have continued the Ministers of the late Sovereign for a space of six months without appointing any new Ministers to replace them, and at the end of six months reappointed those Ministers to their respective offices. According to 41 Geo. III., cap, 52, the moment a Member of this House was appointed to any office under the Crown he was bound to seek re-election, and the Act also provided that if any Member accepted an office subject to the approbation of the Lord Lieutenant or the Lords Justices of Ireland his seat became vacant. But this was not the course of procedure adopted by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The moment Her late Majesty died the present Sovereign reappointed all the old Ministers, and the appointments were duly gazetted. I submit that by the reappointment of those gentlemen His Majesty, to quote the words of the Statute of Anne, "removed and discharged" the old Ministers from the offices held by them under Her late Majesty. If the law had been properly administered the Speaker, immediately the appointments appeared in the London Gazette, should have issued his writs for new elections. That not having been done, the right hon. Gentlemen have, to my mind, incurred the penalty of £500 every time they have walked through the division lobby, or taken their seats in the House. It is a pity that those penalties are not levied, because they would amount to enormous sums, and would, perhaps, prevent the Chancellor of the Exchequer imposing the rumoured tax on sugar.

There is one other Act which throws a great deal of light upon this question, namely, 54 Geo. III., cap. 16. That Act recited in detail the section I have already referred to, and also that— grave doubts have arisen as to whether Ministers in Ireland who are Members of the House of Commons should not have to seek re-election on a succeeding Lord Lieutenant coming over to Ireland. To remove those doubts that Act was passed and did away with the necessity of any officer of the Crown holding office under the Lord Lieutenant or Lords Justices of Ireland seeking re-election on their reappointment to such office.

What was the position in which the present Ministers found themselves on the demise of the Crown? A general election had just been fought—and fought on as false an issue as was ever placed before the electorate of Great Britain. The party opposite found themselves once more in office, with an enormous majority. A short time afterwards the Queen died. The electorate discovered that the statement that the war was over was false, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not care to adopt the procedure laid down in the Statute of Anne, to continue in office for six months, and then, on their reappointment by the King, seek re-election, knowing that they could not again treat the electorate as before, and that they probably would not retain thier seats. They therefore got His Majesty to reappoint them immediately, trusting to their large majority to carry such an Act of Indemnity—as the present Bill really is—relating back to the demise of the late Sovereign. I trust I have put clearly before the House my view of the present state of the law on this matter. With all due respect to Mr. Deputy Speaker, I submit that the provisions of 31 and 32 Vict., cap. 110, should have been put in force the moment the present appointments of the Ministers appeared in the London Gazette. That not having been done, we find ourselves with the Treasury Bench filled—in the language of the statute—with "naturally dead" men, who, to save themselves from the enormous penalties incurred by their unconstitutional action, produce this Bill as an Act of Indemnity for their past offences. We take exception to the fact that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not call a spade a spade, and frankly state to the House that he and his colleagues had broken the lawin this respect, and that it was necessary for them to get a Bill passed as an Act of Indemnity. Notwithstanding what fell from the lips of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, I consider that this is one of the most unconstitutional acts ever submitted by a Minister of the Crown to the British House of Commons. I appeal to hon. Members of this House to cast all questions of party to the wind, and stand up for the constitutional traditions of this House and of this kingdom by voting against this Act, and thereby teach Ministers that when they dare to tamper with the constitution of the British Empire the House of Commons will not tolerate it. I have great pleasure in moving that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. O'Doherty.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


The Attorney General in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, deprecated the notion that it had any constitutional importance. I should have thought that the elaborate speech he himself made—and it was a very lucid speech—dissipated any notion that this Bill was not of any constitutional importance. This Bill affects the relation of the King to all persons holding office under the Crown. I wish we had had before us more clearly the Message from the King which was read by the Home Secretary to the effect that he renounced his interest in the patronage affected by this Bill. I imagine that "patronage" was used by a slip instead of "prerogative," and that alone gives the Bill some constitutional importance. It also affects the relations between this House and a most important section of the House—namely, the Ministers of the day, and it touches many important statutes, the difficulty of the interpretation of which is admitted. These facts justify us in holding that this is a Bill of some considerable constitutional importance. The Attorney General's speech is perfectly clear, and, to a large extent, convincing, and it is much to be regretted that through some inexplicable accident the similar speech which he made on the introduction of the Bill did not appear in any newspaper in the country, and, so far as I know, will not appear in the official reports. This Bill is intended to deal with two separate and distinct difficulties. The Attorney General has told us that the common law still prevails as to all offices under the Crown held outside the dominions of the Kingdom, including the Protectorates, but he does not tell us whether that included the Ambassadors.


It does.


That is again of portentous constitutional importance. On the merits of that proposal or against it I have nothing to say, but the hon. Member who has just sat down has put his finger on the main blot of this Bill—namely, its retrospective character. Treating it now in connection with the offices of the Crown held abroad, I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman why it has been necessary to make this Bill retrospective? He has told us that the common law prevails as to these great and important officers, and that the effect of the common law is to paralyse all these offices. Before this Bill can even go into Committee, three months will have elapsed since the demise of the Crown, and am I to be told that these offices have not been filled up and will not be filled up? Has His Majesty's Government on account of this paralysis refrained from reappointing all this time, all these important officers, including Ambassadors? This is a most astounding story if it is true. I did not think that the "new diplomacy" had gone so far.

The second difficulty which this Bill is intended to meet is that connected with the vacation of seats by Ministers of the Crown. The first thing the House has got to ascertain about that is what is the law, and about that opinions may no doubt be divided. What are the facts? It is on questions of fact that we must concentrate our attention. It appears to me pretty clear that under the provisions of the 6th of Anne, Ministers reappointed either within or after the expiration of six months must seek re-election, but I admit that that is an arguable point. The Attorney General has referred to 41 George III., chapter 52, as if it related to offices in Ireland only.


It refers to Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but it was passed with special reference to offices in Ireland.


I contend that it was passed exactly as the 6th of Anne was passed, and numerous clauses in the Act dealt with seats in Great Britain as well as in Ireland, Section 9 declares— That if any Member of the House of Commons shall accept any office of profit whatever immediately and directly from the Crown of the United Kingdom, or from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, then his seat shall become vacant and a writ shall issue that he may be re-elected. I believe that that is the law which governs this case. A later Act, which recites this section, declares that the rule of the vacation of seats is no longer to apply to an appointment made by successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland, but it contains no similar provision in regard to appointments by the Sovereign. The inference I draw is that it was the intention of Parliament not to give that relief to successive appointments by the Sovereign. If there is a casus omissus, it is a case of deliberate omission in order to retain the vacation of seats on the reappointment of Ministers at the demise of the Crown. The hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted for the first time a dictum of Mr. Speaker Abbot that, where a Chancellor of the Exchequer adds to that office the office of First Lord of the Treasury, a new writ need not issue. That is not a conclusive and authoritative decision. When Mr. Gladstone added the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer to that of First Lord of the Treasury the gravest doubts were known to be entertained by the law officers, but before the matter could be decided Mr. Gladstone dissolved Parliament, and the question has remained undecided ever since.

Coming to the facts, my complaint about this Bill is that we have been kept in the dark about it. This House ought to be possessed of all information, not only in regard to law but with regard to the facts. This innocent looking Bill really contains a great deal of matter which the House must discuss. What are the facts as to the present Ministers of the Crown? I hold that the House has a right to be informed what is the status of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They may either be holding over under the statute of Anne or they may be acting as Ministers by direct appointment from the Crown. "Under which king, Bezonian?" Are Ministers now holding office by direct commission from King Edward VII., or are they the Ministers appointed by the late Queen Victoria, holding office by statutory title? Surely we have a right to know that before this Bill is given a Second Reading. There was one expression which fell from the Attorney General upon which I should like to have some explanation. He left it in doubt whether he considers what took place in regard to the First Lord of the Treasury as an acceptance of office or not. The case of the First Lord of the Treasury has been referred to, but that is the case with nearly all his colleagues. We were told by the Attorney General that on the 24th of January the First Lord of the Treasury took the oath of allegiance and the official oath.


I never said that.


The question was put by myself on this Bill across the Table, and he alluded to the oath taken on the demise of the late Queen. I asked what the oath was, and he said it was the oath of allegiance and the oath of office. Why were the First Lord of the Treasury and his colleagues sworn in their respective offices on 24th January? I submit that that was done in compliance with the Act 31 and 32 Vict., c. 72, which defines the oath of allegiance, and specifies the manner in which it is to be taken and the persons who are to take it. That Act provides that the Oath of Allegiance and the Official Oath should be tendered to and taken by each officer as soon as might be after the acceptance of office under the Crown. Is it conceivable that right hon. Gentlemen opposite went through a ceremony which they knew to be perfectly futile? Were they playing a merely useless and unnecessary part, or were they fulfilling a statutory duty? In a later section of the Act of 1868 it is declared that no person shall be compelled in respect of the same appointment to the same office to make oath more than once. I contend that the facts constitute a proved case of acceptance of office. What we want to get at is whether the Ministers who took the oath on 24th January did so in compliance with the section which had been referred to. If that is so, it is an acceptance of office since their election, and therefore the Ministers have vacated their seats in this House. Whether they have accumulated penalties or not is a matter to which I have given no attention. We are dealing now with Ministers of the Crown, and is this the reason why this Bill is made retrospective? If, on the other hand, Ministers are holding over on statutory terms, they are asking the House to relieve them of the necessity of seeking re-election. The law requiring the re-election of Ministers I hold to be absurd, but why do not the Government bring in a comprehensive Bill repealing the old law? That would have been statesmanlike.


That would be a very good Bill.


Then why not do it now?


Hear, hear!


Instead of that they have brought in a privilegium for themselves. I understand the rule to be, whenever any question of law or fact arises in connection with the vacating of seats, that a Committee should be appointed to deal with it. I do not know why that should not be done now. I am certain that before the Bill passes through Committee important Amendments will be necessary. I will not indicate them now, but they are many. I will only say this one word more in conclusion. I agree with what the hon. Member who has just spoken has said in regard to the manner in which this Bill has been introduced to the House. I think the House has not been treated with the respect and confidence to which it is entitled, and I am not sure that a very respectful attitude has been maintained towards the Crown. While not opposing the Bill. I content myself by declaring that its further passage will require the most anxious consideration, and that many Amendments will be necessary before it takes its place upon the Statute-book.

* SIR WILLIAM ANSON (Oxford University)

I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Dundee in his desire to see the law altered generally in regard to the vacation of seats, but I would remind him that this Bill deals merely incidentally with the vacating of seats, and is mainly concerned with the effect of the demise of the Crown upon the holding of offices under the Crown. Therefore it could hardly have been possible to introduce a general provision of that kind into this Bill. There is, however, a point on which I differ from the hon. Member, and that is as to the effect of the Act of 41 Geo. III., c. 52. I understand that it is the Act of Anne which is the law under which the Ministers of the Crown are holding office now, and under this Act holders of office are continued for six months; at the end of this period they need reappointment. The Act of Geo. III. was passed after the Union with Ireland, and provides that no person who was incapable of sitting in the Parliament of Great Britain or in the Parliament of Ireland should be capable of sitting in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Then the Act proceeded to distinguish offices of profit, which became necessary, when you came to take over the Irish Government under the Act of Union, for there were offices held under the Crown directly, and there were offices held indirectly under the Crown under the Lord Lieutenant, acting as Viceroy or agent of the Crown. The Act provided that whether held directly under the Crown, or indirectly from the Lord Lieutenant, those offices when accepted should be followed by the vacating of seats in this House. That is the explanation of the Act 54 Geo. III., c. 16, to which the hon. Member for Dundee attaches so much importance. Ministers who held office under the Lord Lieutenant were under some disadvantage as compared with those who held office under the Crown. In the first place, when the Lord Lieutenant changed, they were not the servants of the new Lord Lieutenant. They did not enjoy the six months grace which the holders of office under the Crown enjoyed; and as, happily for the kingdom, the Lord Lieutenant changed more frequently than the Sovereign, they were frequently liable to vacate their seats, and it was necessary to do something to remedy this condition of things. That, I think, is the history of the distinction, to which so much weight has been given, between offices held under the Lord Lieutenant and offices held under the Crown. It was, as the preamble of the Act 54 Geo. III., c. 16, said, to "remove doubts," and not to make the distinction suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. But it did not affect the law as to offices held directly of the Crown; for the Act 41 Geo. III., c. 52 left the Act of Anne wholly untouched.

Then we come back to what constitutes acceptance of office. I am quite prepared to grant to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite that, where a Member of the House of Commons has no office, was out of office, and was appointed to an office under the Crown, a mere notification of willingness to accept amounts to acceptance, and involves the necessity for re-election. But, in the case of Ministers who are holding office, they are in office, are continued in office by the Act of Anne, and how can they accept what they have already got? The hon. and learned Gentleman said the House ought to be told whether, in the case of the First Lord of the Treasury, the patent had been made out, and whether the seals had been handed back and restored to the Secretaries of State. I think that if these things had taken place the London Gazette would certainly have informed him of the matters as to which he had inquired, and, as it has not informed him, I think the hon. Member should assume that they have not taken place. I do not think it can be seriously contended that the taking of the oath of office means the acceptance of office. I should say that the taking of the official oath is a necessary incident to the appointment, but does not in itself constitute the acceptance of office, because the office has been accepted a long time before. Members of this House took the oath of allegiance to King Edward on the demise of the Crown, but it is not pretended that they received a fresh mandate from their constituents, or that their relations with their constituencies were in any way affected by this formality. I cannot help thinking that these great constitutional matters which have been laid before the House are somewhat illusory. The hon. and learned Gentleman has, I think, attached too much importance to the retrospective clause, on the assumption that it is meant to protect Ministers from some direful penalties that they have incurred, and has overlooked the fact that the clauses relate to cases of office held outside the King's dominions, and so not covered by the Act of Anne. I cannot think that the small boon which will be conferred upon the present Ministers of the Crown by saving them from the need of re-election next June is a substantial reason for rejecting the measure.


In looking at this Bill, I am reminded that twenty years ago it was said of my hon. colleague the late Mr. Bradlaugh that Northampton was deprived of a share of its representation in this House because hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House who were then in Parliament held that Mr. Bradlaugh could not. fas aut nefas, sit in the House. I object to the Bill being made retrospective. There are two points on which the hon. and learned Attorney General admits that it is retrospective, the first being that in respect to fines. No doubt, in the present disturbed condition of the finances of the country, it would be a good thing if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could pick up some unconsidered trifles of revenue, and I see no particular reason why, if these haphazard Ministerialists have rendered themselves liable to pay the Treasury considerable sums of money, they should be relieved from that re- sponsibility. As a matter of fact, the Ministers of the Crown during the great war with France subscribed the greater part of their salaries to the public, exchequer. I have not heard that the present Ministers are doing the same thing. Possibly this may be a convenient way of doing so. I do not wish to push this question of fines too far. If Ministers had come frankly forward and said: "We made a mistake, and are exceedingly sorry; we have rendered ourselves liable to heavy fines, and we ask the House to forgive us," we on this side of the House would have taken a favourable view of their demand, and would have been ready to forgive them. But they do not do so; and the Attorney General comes forward and says he does not consider they are liable to any fines. Now, I believe the Attorney General to be a highly honourable and upright man, and not willingly biassed either for or against himself; but I would point out that upon this matter of fines the men on the front bench are the men in the dock and not on the bench. After all, the Attorney General is human, and it is only the natural thing—although I do not intend for a moment to say that he would—that, when he is asked whether he and his friends should pay a sum of £100,000 to the Treasury, he should be a little biassed in his view of the law. I confess that I should myself, in similar circumstances, be equally biassed. But Ministers, instead of coming, forward in this humble and contrite spirit before the House, come with a Bill by which they indirectly and insidiously try to get rid of their liability, implying at the same time that there is no such liability. Why on earth is this proviso inserted in the Bill, that "it shall have effect from the last demise of the Crown," if it is not to cover Ministers? Are they ready to agree to the Bill being passed without it? I do not believe they are; but I should have another objection to it if they were. Let them frankly come forward and ask for a remission of the fines, and, so far as I am concerned, I shall be ready to remit them. I am not a lawyer. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is not only an eminent lawyer but an eminent professor. In both capacities he spoke to the House. He professed the law, and what does the right hon. Gentleman say? He said: "How can anybody"—in connection with this question of liability and fines—"accept an office which he has already got?" I can reply to that: "How can anybody be reappointed who is already appointed?" We on this side of the House, and even some on the other side, do not understand that doctrine. If you are appointed to a place you do not require to be reappointed. The Attorney General told us that you became appointed to a place by a seal or by an official oath, and the hon. and learned Member for the University of Oxford told us that it was by a sort of oath of allegiance; but the right hon. Gentleman forgets that Ministers had already taken the oath of allegiance in this House. Would that oath not have been taken if they had not been reappointed to their offices? Nobody can doubt that when a man is reappointed to an office he is appointed to that office, and if there is any liability in connection with that appointment he incurs that liability.

But there is something far more important than the fines. Even the Attorney General is inclined to agree with us that Ministers have vacated their seats owing to their having accepted these appointments. But this House has always been an elective body. Assuming that our contention is right, these gentlemen would remain in this House without being elected by anyone. Let me ask what it is that they demand? Is it that they claim for a majority of this House to co-opt a certain number of Members of their own party—men whom they please—to be Members of this House? It may be that they co-opt the Ministers; but they may co-opt the man in the street, or any one else! I stand to the doctrine that the only entrance to this House is the elective entrance. If Members have vacated their seats by some act of their own, or by the operation of the law, you cannot give them a seat in this House by any act of the House itself. They have to go back to their constituents, and have to be re-elected. That has been the law from time immemorial up till now. I do not think that a single case can be cited in which this system of insinuation or co-option of Members has been adopted by this House in regard to any Member. I do consider this a very serious question. I am not going into the whole question of the late General Election; but as a matter of fact that election was taken under most disadvantageous circumstances in regard to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. But if you add co-option—as you have got it in this Bill—I ask where is the franchise and where are the electors? They all disappear. It is one thing if the Attorney General or the First Lord of the Treasury fairly tell us that they have incurred these fines, and ask to be forgiven them; but if the Bill is to retain this proviso which gives the House the right to pass over the electors, and to choose Members by co-option, I cannot vote for it. As far as the future is concerned I rather agree that the Bill is a good one; but I strongly urge on this House that it should not take upon itself this right of co-option, which it has no power to do as an elected House.


I do not rise to take any part in the general discussion of the Bill, but I want to ask my hon. and learned friend the Attorney General one question. So far as the general object of the Bill is concerned the whole House is practically agreed. I am quite sure we all think that in regard to future appointments of Ministers it is most advisable that there should not be the necessity of re-election; but what I want to ask my hon. and learned friend is: Does he think that the Bill carries out the very object he seeks for? We are told this Bill is intended to indemnify certain Ministers of the Crown, if it be the fact that they have been reappointed and have incurred penalties. I do not say myself that that is the intention, but the result of the passing of the Bill will be to relieve them of the penalties they are said to have incurred. I ask my hon. and learned friend to look at his own Bill, and try to find anything in it to relieve Ministers who have been re-appointed, and who have incurred penalties, or to prevent those penalties being exacted from them. The only Clause which could affect that is Clause 2, which says, "This Act shall take effect as from the last demise of the Crown." That is to say, that by the passing of the Act those Ministers who have already been appointed shall not find it necessary to be re-appointed. But, if Ministers have been re-appointed, if they have incurred penalties for illegally sitting and voting in this House, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent an informer from suing these Ministers and obtaining the penalties. I know that my hon. and learned friend says that they have not incurred penalties, that they have not been re-appointed; but if they have not been re-appointed, and have not incurred penalties, the retrospective clause is absolutely unnecessary. My hon. friend and a very large number of those associated with him are of opinion that, in fact, these Ministers have been re-appointed, and that they have incurred penalties. Supposing that opinion is sound, what is there in the Bill to take away the penalties?


The question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed the House really more concerns us than himself.


My interest is for the honour of the whole House.


Certainly. It is pleasant to find an hon. Member on the other side of the House, unlike some of those who preceded him, extremely anxious that, if Ministers have incurred these penalties, they should not have to pay them. The hon. Gentleman asked if we had considered the Bill. Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have considered the Bill. No doubt an argument may be made—it has been made by several hon. Members—that Ministers were reappointed, and had incurred penalties by sitting and voting in the House. All I can say is that we are perfectly satisfied with the Bill, in the first place, and that no fines have been incurred at all. In the second place, we are satisfied that if fines or penalties have been incurred, this Bill relieves Ministers from those fines and penalties. If it be so, if we are satisfied of that, I think my hon. and learned friend may also be perfectly satisfied. The way the Bill would operate would be this. On the death of the Sovereign no re-election would be necessary, whether the appointment then made was a new appointment or a reappointment. As regards some of the observations made by hon. Members, I would like to remind the House that no evidence has been brought forward to show that any Minister has incurred any penalty. The argument that because a Minister has taken the oath of allegiance or the oath of office to the King, on the demise of the late Sovereign, that is a new appointment, is an absolutely absurd one. As regards the second proviso, which is most objected to, it has already been pointed out that that has been put into the Bill mainly with reference to protectorates and other portions of His Majesty's dominions which existing legislation does not provide for. No one who has spoken has pointed out any inconvenience that would result from the Bill. In fact, everyone, except an hon. Member from Ireland, has been in favour of the principle of the Bill. The Bill is one of very great convenience when you come to consider the large number of questions that may arise as to officers under the Crown who would require new commissions and new patents according to existing law. On the other hand, the House is almost unanimous on the absurdity of the present law in regard to re-election. I would remind hon. Members that the Bill, in that respect, affects not merely Ministers of the Crown, but many other Members of this House. Take the case of recorders. Is it to be said that a recorder, holding an office from the Crown—and an office very poorly paid—must within six months of the demise of the Crown go back to his constituents for re-election? I have no doubt many other questions might arise as to what really is an office under the Crown. The truth is that the Bill will be a very great relief, and will put an end to much inconvenience in regard to difficulties which have arisen on the demise of the Crown—difficulties which did not exist formerly under an entirely different state of facts. That being so, I appeal to the House without further delay to allow the Second Beading of the Bill. No doubt small questions of details may arise, but those can be settled in Committee.


I had not intended to intervene in this debate until the speech of the right hon. and learned Solicitor General, but he has so entirely closed his eyes to the views which have been generally indicated that I think the House should have an opportunity of considering the real position in which this Bill stands before asking us to give it a Second Reading. No question has been raised in regard to the operation of those provisions of the Bill having reference to the future; but a very serious question has been raised by several hon. Members with reference to the retrospective character of some of these provisions. My right hon. and learned friend says that the position in which Ministers are placed was never contemplated when this Bill was drafted, because it was perfectly clear to them that no penalties had been incurred. But he is also prepared to argue that the Bill is so fortunately drawn that, if penalties have been incurred, it is quite sufficient to give these right hon. Gentlemen a complete answer to any claim to exact a penalty. I congratulate my right hon. friend and his colleagues upon having accidentally framed a Bill to deal with an emergency which they never contemplated.

Now, I beg to call attention to an argument which I submit refutes entirely the contention of my right hon. and learned friend the Solicitor General. It is not really open to serious controversy that there has been by every Minister of the Grown who has been sworn into his present office a taking of place within the meaning of the statute of Anne. It is conceded that the Ministers of the Crown are the servants of the Sovereign. They are appointed by the Sovereign and dismissed by the Sovereign, and the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that in common law the demise of the Crown puts an end to their office. That being so, every Minister of the Crown ceased to occupy the position of servant of the Crown on the death of Her late Majesty, and, quite apart from the statute, it would have been necessary for new appointments to be made by His Majesty upon succeeding to the Throne. Now, how far does this statute come into play? There is one section in the statute of Anne which extends for a period of six months from the death of the Sovereign all appointments which the Sovereign made, and, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, it was to meet the probable absence of George III. from the kingdom on the demise of the Crown that the statute was passed. By reason of that statute, some time during six months after the demise of the Crown reappoint- ments must take place. The Ministers must derive their authority to act by means of a new appointment from the new Sovereign who at present rules the realm. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman the Solicitor General, is it seriously contended that when Her Majesty's Ministers were sworn into their present offices two days after the death of Her late Majesty they went through a ceremony which was of no importance? Is it seriously contended that the oaths were taken and gazetted and the filling of the offices gazetted without its being in any way necessary under the statute? It was a step they were bound to take, and they took it at the earliest possible moment. Either they elected to enter into the service of the present Sovereign when their oaths were taken or they intended at the end of six months to repeat the ceremony over again, and, therefore, it was either an acceptance of office under the statute of Anne or it was an idle ceremony which has to be repeated. It is not open to doubt what the object was with which these oaths were taken. There was no obligation to gazette the mere subscription of the oath of allegiance, but there was an obligation to gazette the oath of allegiance and office, and it was intended to be formally recorded, and it was intended to show that they derived the same appointment from the Sovereign which they had held under his predecessor. In the Gazette of January 25th there is this entry— This day the Right Hon. Arthur James Balfour was by His Majesty's commands sworn First Lord of the Treasury. If that is not taking office from His Majesty with His Majesty's consent, I am at a loss to understand how office can be taken. If that is so, what is the position of the Ministers of the Crown who are also Members of this House? They are clearly within the exact language of the section. If any of them are actually Members of this House, and have accepted an office of profit under the Crown, and their acceptance operates, their seats are vacated as if they had died. They are under the obligation to consider themselves dead. It is open to their constituents to re-elect them, and their duty undoubtedly is to seek re-election.


Not if they are dead.


Constructively dead—politically dead—and they can be politically resuscitated by re-election. That is our point. I quite agree that the matter is by no means perfectly clear, and if the Solicitor General had not been so confident about it I should not have thought it worth while to discuss the subject. The Attorney General admitted that the matter was involved and obscure, and that it was doubtful what the obligation is. But there is a later statute—21st and 22nd of Victoria—which contemplates the case of an appointment being made during the recess, when the House is not sitting. If the House was sitting the House would be the proper authority to decide, but during the recess, and these appointments were made when the House was not sitting, there is a provision that the person who accepts the appointment is to give notice to the Speaker, who can, if he thinks the matter clear, at once issue a writ; but if he thinks it doubtful he can refuse to issue the writ, and leave Parliament to deal with the difficulty. I submit that the duty of His Majesty's Ministers was to notify the Speaker, and then when the House met we should have had to consider, not whether we should grant an indemnity in this matter, because that we should have been quite prepared to do, but the far more important question of whether these Ministers should or should not take the views of their constituencies upon their taking office. I think that is a most important point, and involves a most important popular right. I think their constituencies are entitled to say whether or not in their opinion those representing them should accept office, and I should be very sorry to see that popular right abolished. It is important in regard to the particular case to consider whether Ministers should not undergo re-election, and there are strong grounds why we regard the re-election as politically desirable. The only method by which a constituency may express its opinion directly on the issue involved in a particular appointment is by the re-election or the non-re-election of the Minister appointed, and when we recollect how the conduct of Ministers has been criticised by their own supporters upon the reconstruction of the Cabinet, it would be most instructive to have the opinion of the constituencies upon the matter. So far the retroactive action of this Bill is concerned, it was obviously introduced to save the Ministers from a difficulty into which they involved themselves owing to their own want of foresight. I think the result of the Bill will be that Ministers will be saved the obvious duty of submitting themselves for re-election, and before the House is asked to assent to a measure of that kind they ought fully to understand what is the nature of the concession which they are invited to grant.

* MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

I must express my surprise at the line adopted by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that an illegal act has been committed by Ministers, and if that is so, the question is obviously one for a court of law. As I understand what he just said, the hon. and learned Gentleman says the Ministers in question ought to have come down to the House at the beginning of the session and asked the House whether they should submit themselves for re-election or not. A more unconstitutional course I never heard suggested in this House.


You will find it in the special Act I quoted.


I remember a case of this kind—the case of Mr. Gladstone in 1873. I was one of the Members who took it upon themselves—I took it upon myself to acquaint the Speaker with the fact that the right hon. William Ewart Gladstone had since his election as the Member for Greenwich accepted two patent offices, which I named. The view held by Lord Cairns, given to me privately, was that the best thing would be to allow matters to work out for themselves, and to let the Government as best they could get out of the mess in which they were placed; but I, on the contrary, though I own it was presumptuous in a young Member, as I then was, to set up my own opinion against such high authority, said that as soon as the House assembled it was my intention to call the Speaker's attention to the presence of a distinguished stranger on the floor of the House, and to ask him to direct him to withdraw while the matter was being discussed. The reason I took that course was that I strongly objected to this obsolete system of re-election. It seems not only to fetter the choice of the Crown, but it is extremely inconvenient to the course of public business. But that is not before the House now. I wished to draw attention to the inconvenience of the practice, and I thought perhaps a Prime Minister being fined £500 for every division which he had taken part in, or, at any rate, being obliged to leave the House to avoid penalties, would be the best way to afford an object lesson which might lead to the whole system in question being reconsidered. Although this Bill does not go far enough in my opinion, it might be subjected to alteration in Committee. Why does not this Bill deal with the anomalous situation which will be created if a demise of the Crown takes place when a General Election is in full swing? Legal minds are greatly exercised as to what would happen if a demise of the Crown took place while the country was waiting for the latest of the elections to be concluded in Orkney and Shetland, for instance, or in fact at any moment before the date fixed in the Proclamation of Dissolution for the meeting of the new Parliament. There is not a word about that. Any Bill entitled the Demise of the Crown Bill ought to comprehend all these questions. Do I understand the Attorney General to give the opinion that I am right in saying that if the demise of the Crown occurred while a General Election was in progress all the elections would have to take place again?




That is the thing which the House thought to get rid of by the Reform Bill of 1867. That is a very serious thing, and I think this Bill does not go far enough if it perpetuates such a condition of affairs, and will therefore require to be amended.

MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)

asked, if no illegality had been committed and no penalty incurred, why should the time of the House be occupied in passing a Bill which was not necessary? Both the law officers of the Crown had said there was nothing in the Bill, and if that were so there could be no object in introducing it. To his mind the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentlemen conclusively showed that there had been illegalities committed. The Government for the last two or three years had been carried on in a slipshod, haphazard manner, which constituted a real danger to the State. Only the other day, when introducing a most revolutionary measure to alter the proceedings of the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had forgotten that there was an Opposition. He had previously, when taking office on the demise of the Crown, forgotten the law, and now the Government in the middle of the session came down with a Bill to give relief to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Ministry for the fines which they had incurred. Much might be said as to the necessity of abolishing re-election upon taking office under the Crown, but such a matter ought not to be raised in this way. This was an indemnification Bill, and the House ought therefore to hesitate before passing it. The absent-mindedness of the Government had become proverbial, and he should vote against the Bill.

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)

thought that the true criticism of the Bill had been uttered by the right hon. Member for Thanet. The Bill did not go far enough. Other matters more nearly concerning the House than those which were embodied in the Bill had been left out of it. If the demise of the Crown took place after Parliament had been elected, but before it was constituted, hon. Members would be in a precarious condition. It was a great pity that the Government in this Bill had not provided for all the contingencies which might arise in the future.

* MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)

said the hon. Member must recollect that the promoters of the Bill looked at the matter from the point of view of their own interests; those who opposed it looked at it from the point of view of the public interest. He was old enough to believe that there was much virtue in the old doctrine of the vacation of seats on appointments to office. It was a great safeguard, and he believed that a constituency ought to have a right of judgment when a man chosen as an independent member so far altered his position as to take paid office. It was a deterrent in cases of Members elected professing one political faith afterwards accepting office under the Crown at the hands of Ministers belonging to the opposite party. But the circumstance that a new Monarch had succeeded to the throne was no reason for making a change in the general politics of the country or the relation of the constituency to its Member, nor was it on principle a reason why a Member holding office on accepting re-appointment should be required to go to the constituency for re-election. But the law was otherwise. He agreed with those who said that if in this case penalties had been incurred the House would have no difficulty in saying that they had been incurred by a slip on the part of Ministers, and that they ought to be indemnified. There had been a general misconception on this subject, and those who were vigilant on the Opposition side of the House did not raise the question. But as to the seats, it was a serious thing to say that a man should be elected to Parliament otherwise than by the voice of the constituency. It must be remembered that Ministers, if the Bill was necessary, had actually vacated their seats, and were not members of the House at all now. This was a Bill to turn them into members by legislation. Members of Parliament ought all to entertain great jealousy with reference to the methods by which a man might enter and remain in this House. He was sorry Ministers had brought forward the Bill in its present form. They were told this was to be mainly a financial session. This was the only Bill, apart from money Bills, which the Government were pressing to a Second Reading before Easter. Credit was taken for the circumstance that there was to be no Ministerial legislation. Yet there were pressing matters in which the people of this country were interested. There was the oath connected with the Accession, which had shocked the feelings of majorities and minorities alike. There was the Bill prohibiting the sale of drink to young children. There were other pressing questions. But these measures Ministers did not help forward. As the debate had proceeded he was reminder of the lines of a scion of a high Tory family, himself a Tory politician— Let laws and learning, art and commerce die But spare, oh spare our old nobility. So he might say to-night— Let Kings curse Catholics, children drink and die, But save, oh save our hybrid Ministry. Now the Attorney General was careful; he only said he did not think there were penalties, and that he did not think the seats were affected. He also thought that there was nothing in the taking of the oath of office again. What the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to tell them plainly was whether those who had been reappointed Ministers held their seats or not. Plain men, inside and outside the House, would believe after the speech of the Attorney General that it was not necessary to go over this farrago of statutes or to enter into an ingenious discussion of all these clauses to find out whether the seats were vacated or not. To him it seemed clear that Ministers had accepted office under the King, and so vacated their seats, and that they felt this to be the case. Hence this Bill. If not, let Ministers rely on the law as it is, so far as their own seats were concerned. He should be willing to waive penalties. But there was so much mischief in retrospective laws, especially retrospective laws by which they proposed to make men Members of this House otherwise than by election by free constituencies, that, except under pressure of obvious and inexorable necessity, the House ought not to agree to such a step. If Ministers wanted to make the House of Commons a machine for the creation of Members of Parliament, let them put it plain and straight on the Statute-book. If they were not affected, if they were members still, they did not want the Bill; if they were affected and had vacated their seats, let them say so, and take the consequences honestly.

MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)

I quite agree with the remarks that have fallen from my hon. and learned friend, and I I think we on these benches have reason to complain of the way in which this Bill has been put before Parliament. In the first instance, I think it is a Bill involving great constitutional changes, and ought never to have been introduced in a speech under the ten minutes limit. The Bill curtails some of the privileges of the House. I know that this ten minute rule was brought forward mainly in regard to Irish measures, and that it worked very injuriously as far as we are concerned. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford University alluded earlier in the afternoon to some remarks that fell from the hon. Member for North Donegal, and said the speech was more remarkable for the vigour of its language than its lucidity. I think we on these benches may return the compliment. At any rate, so far as his speech was concerned it did not leave us very much wiser than we were. With regard to the manner in which this Bill was introduced, the hon. and learned Attorney General spoke so that we could not hear what he said.


That is not my fault.


I imagined it was. I do not think there was much discussion going on at the time. I think if he inquires, the hon. and learned Gentleman will find that his remarks did not reach the press gallery, and they were not reported in any portion of the press I have had the advantage of seeing. It should not have been introduced under the ten minutes limit rule. We take exception to the Second Reading of the Bill being put down on a date just on the eve of the House adjourning for the holidays, for recollect this is a matter in which Ireland is very largely interested. It may not appear to be so, but so it is. I have heard remarks from both sides of the House that this system of re-election

should be abolished because it means nothing. We in Ireland would be very sorry to see that system abolished, and for very potent reasons. If you go back in the history of your own country you will find that in former times no person holding a position under the Crown could hold a seat in Parliament, so great was the corruption. That was altered later on, and a salutary rule was introduced that if a Member should take office it was necessary to seek re-election and have his conduct ratified by the electors who sent him there previously. The Government two or three years ago deviated from this course with respect to an Irish office, and I do not think their action in that matter reflected credit on them. I think their action then proved the wisdom of the rule that people who have been appointed to office should seek re-election. They appointed Mr. Plunkett to a certain office, and brought in a clause in the Bill by which it was unnecessary for that Gentleman to appeal to his constituents. He got his position without appealing to them, and the first time the constituency of South Dublin had an opportunity of airing their views on this and other matters they put him aside and sent another able representative to these benches. However it may work in English public life, certainly the system has not worked well in Dublin, and it would be objectionable if this safeguard were removed. For these reasons we are opposed to the Bill, and I know that if it had been put down earlier you would have had more Irish Members taking part in the debate.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 180; Noes, 82. [Division List No. 117.]

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Bignold, Arthur Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)
Anson, Sir William Reynell Bigwood, James Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Bill, Charles Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r
Arkwright, John Stanhope Blundell, Colonel Henry Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Bond, Edward Chapman, Edward
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex) Clare, Octavius Leigh
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.
Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitz Roy Brookfield, Col. Montagu Cohen, Benjamin Louis
Bailey, James (Walworth) Brown, Alex. H. (Shropshire) Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse
Baird, John George Alexander Bull, William James Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow
Baldwin, Alfred Bullard, Sir Harry Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Butcher, John George Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds Carson, Rt Hon. Sir Edw. H. Cranborne, Viscount
Bartley, George C. T. Cautley, Henry Strother Dalrymple, Sir Charles
Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham)
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire Dewar, T. R. (Tr'H'mlets, S Geo.
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fd. Dixon
Dorington, Sir John Edward Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm. Price, Robert John
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lawrence, William F. Purvis, Robert
Duke, Henry Edward Lawson, John Grant Pym, C. Guy
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Lee, A. H. (Hants, Fareham)
Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Quilter, Sir Cuthbert
Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S. Randles, John S.
Emmott, Alfred Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Ratcliffe, R. F.
Long, Rt Hn Walter (Bristol, S.) Remnant, James Farquharson
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Lowe, Francis William Richards, Henry Charles
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Lowther, Rt Hon. James (Kent) Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Loyd, Archie Kirkman Rigg, Richard
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Flannery, Sir Fortescue Lucas, R. J. (Portsmouth) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick
Gordon, Hn. J E (Elgin, & Nairn) Maconochie, A. W. Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Goschen, Hon. George Joachim Majendie, James A. H. Sharpe, Wm. Edw. T.
Goulding, Edward Alfred Malcolm, Ian Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Graham, Henry Robert Manners, Lord Cecil Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew
Grant, Corrie Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F. Smith, H C (North'mb, Tyneside
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H E (Wigt'n Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.
Greene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'nds Middlemore, John Throgm'rton Spear, John Ward
Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) Molesworth, Sir Lewis Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Greville, Hon. Ronald Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Groves, James Grimble Montagu, Hon. J. S. (Hants.) Strutt, Hn. Charles Hedley
More, R. Jasper (Shropshire) Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Hain, Edward Morgan, David J. (W'lth' mst'w Thornton, Percy M.
Hall, Edward Marshall Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F. Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th) Mount, William Arthur
Hay, Hon. Claude George Muntz, Philip A. Valentia, Viscount
Heath, James (Staffords, N.W.) Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute Wallace, Robert
Heaton, John Henniker Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath Warr, Augustus Frederick
Higginbottom, S. W. Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Taunt'n
Hoare, Ed. Brodie (Hampstead Newdigate, Francis Alexander Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Hobhouse, Henry (Somerset, E. Newnes, Sir George Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Hope, J F (Sheffield, Brightside) Nicol, Donald Ninian Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Hornby, Sir William Henry Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens Wodehouse, Rt. Hn E. R. (Bath)
Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Palmer, Walter (Salisbury) Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-
Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick Parker, Gilbert Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Parkes, Ebenezer
Kenyon, Hn. G. T. (Denbigh) Pemberton, John S. G. Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W (Salop) Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Keswick, William Plummer, Walter R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
King, Sir Henry Seymour Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Mr. Anstruther and Mr. Hayes Fisher.
Knowles, Lees Pretyman, Ernest George
Abraham, William (Cork, N.E. Cullinan, J. Horniman, Frederick John
Allen, Charles P (Glouc., Stroud Dalziel, James Henry Jacoby, James Alfred
Ambrose, Robert Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Delaney, William Joyce, Michael
Bell, Richard Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Layland-Barratt, Francis
Blake, Edward Doogan, P. C. Leamy, Edmund
Boland, John Dully, William J. Levy, Maurice
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Dunn, Sir William Lloyd-George, David
Broadhurst, Henry Ffrench, Peter Lundon, W.
Burke, E. Haviland- Flavin, Michael Joseph MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.
Caine, William Sproston Flynn, James Christopher Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Caldwell, James Gilhooly, James M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Goddard, Daniel Ford Mooney, John J.
Cawley, Frederick Griffith, Ellis J. Murphy, J.
Cogan, Denis J. Harmsworth, R. Leicester Nannetti, Joseph P.
Condon, Thomas Joseph Hayden, John Patrick Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Craig, Robert Hunter Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E. Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Cremer, William Randal Holland, William Henry O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork
O'Brien, Kendal (Tipp'rarr M'd Reckitt, Harold James Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Reddy, M. Weir, James Galloway
O'Connor, Jas. (Wicklow, W. Redmond, John E. (Waterford) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Redmond, William (Clare) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
O'Dowd, John Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid
O' Kelly, James (Roscommon N. Roe, Sir Thomas Yoxall, James Henry
O'Malley, William Schwann, Charles E.
Philipps, John Wynford Shipman, Dr. John G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Pickard, Benjamin Sullivan, Donal Mr. O'Doherty and Mr. Labouchere.
Power, Patrick Joseph Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)
Rea, Russell Ure, Alexander

I notice that the right hon. Gentleman Mr. Arthur Balfour and other Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench voted in the late division, and I want to know what are my privileges with regard to the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into the legality of their votes or otherwise.


That matter cannot be raised now. It would not be possible at this stage for the hon. Member to move for a Committee of Inquiry.


Would it be in order for me to move that the votes so recorded be disallowed?


I do not think that motion would come within the rules of the House.

The question that the Bill be now read a second time was put from the Chair and declared carried by the Deputy Speaker, amid cries of "The Noes have it" from the Nationalist Members.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

Perhaps, Sir, you will allow me, on a point of order, to call your attention to the fact, which was manifest to everybody in the House, that a large number of Members challenged a division. I myself was not in my place, but I was standing just by your chair, and I distinctly heard plenty of Members challenge a division.


The House had just decided the question.


The challenge I heard was a challenge each time you put the question.


The House had just decided that the Bill should be now read a second time.


But a division was challenged.


The question "That the word 'now' stand part of the question was decided.


The House had just voted on the question "That the word 'now' stand part of the question." You proceeded then to put the question with the word "now" in it—that is, "That the Bill be now read a second time"; and that question was challenged.


I did not understand the hon. Members meant to challenge the question.




That question has generally been taken as a formal motion, but if hon. Members insist upon their right I will repeat the question.



Main Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 155; Noes, 72. (Division List No. 118.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn Nicol, Donald Ninian
Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc., Stroud) Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E. Norman, Henry
Anson, Sir William Reynell Goulding, Edward Alfred
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Graham, Henry Robert O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens
Arnold-Foster, Hugh O. Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Greene, Sir E W (Bry S Edm'nds Parker, Gilbert
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury) Parkes, Ebenezer
Greville, Hon. Ronald Pemberton, John S.
Bailey, James (Walworth) Groves, James Grimble Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Baird, John George Alexander Plummer, Walter R.
Baldwin, Alfred Hain, Edward Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Hall, Edward Marshall Pretyman, Ernest George
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Purvis, Robert
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Harris, F. L. (Tynemouth) Pym, C. Guy
Beach, Rt Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Hay, Hon. Claude George
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Heath, J. (Staffords, N.W.) Randles, John S.
Bigwood, James Henderson, Alexander Ratcliffe, R. F.
Blundell, Colonel Henry Higginbottom, S. W. Remnant, James Farquharson
Bond, Edward Hoare, Ed. Brodie (Hampstead) Richards, Henry Charles
Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex Hobhouse, H. (Somerset, E.) Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightsd. Rigg, Richard
Brookfield, Colonel Montagu Hornby, Sir William Henry Ritchie, Rt Hon Chas. Thomson
Bull, William James Houldsworth, Sir William H. Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Bullard, Sir Harry Roe, Sir Thomas
Butcher, John George Royds, Clement Molyneux
Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop) Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Cautley, Henry Strother Keswick, William Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) King, Sir Henry Seymour Sharpe, William Edward T.
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Knowles, Lees Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Cecil, Evelyn (A ton Manor) Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Smith, H C (Northumb, Tynesd.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm. Lawson, John Grant Spear, John Ward
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wore. Layland-Barratt, Francis Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Chapman, Edward Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham) Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Clare, Octavius Leigh Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S. Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Levy, Maurice
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Lowe, Francis William Thornton, Percy M.
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Lowther, Rt. Hon. J. (Kent) Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Cranborne, Viscount Loyd, Archie Kirkman Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Lucas, R. J. (Portsmouth)
Davies, Sir Horatio D. (Chath'm Lyttlelton, Hon Alfred Valentia, Viscount
Dewar, T. R. (T'rH'mlets, S Geo. Wallace, Robert
Dorington, Sir John Edward Maconochie, A. W. Warr, Augustus Frederick
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Duke, Henry Edward Malcolm, Ian Manners, Lord Cecil Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F. Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
Middlemore, J. Throgmorton Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
Emmott, Alfred Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. More, Robert J. (Shropshire) Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Morgan, David J (Walth'mstow Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford) Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. Mount, William Arthur
Flannery, Sir Fortescue Muntz, Philip A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Murray, Rt. Hon A. G. (Bute) Mr. Anstruther and Mr. Hayes Fisher.
Godson, Sir Augustus F. Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.) Burke, E. Haviland- Cremer, William Randal
Ambrose, Robert Cullinan, J.
Caine, William Sproston
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Caldwell, James Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)
Blake, Edward Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Delany, William
Boland, John Cawley, Frederick Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Cogan, Denis J. Doogan, P. C.
Broadhurst, Henry Condon, Thomas Joseph Duffy, William J.
Dunn, Sir William Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Reddy, M.
M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Ffrench, Peter Mooney, John J. Redmond, William (Clare)
Flavin, Michael Joseph Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Flynn, James Christopher Murphy, J.
Schwann, Charles E.
Gilhooly, James Nannetti, Joseph P. Shipman, Dr. John G.
Goddard, Daniel Ford Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Sullivan, Donal
Griffith, Ellis J. Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)
Harmsworth, R. Leicester
Hayden, John Patrick O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Ure, Alexander
Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.) O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)
Holland, William Henry O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. Weir, James Galloway
Horniman, Frederick John O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
O'Dowd, John Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Jones, William (Carnarvonsh. O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid).
Joyce, Michael O'Mall'ey, William
Yoxall, James Henry
Leamy, Edmund
Lloyd-George, David Philipps, John Wynford TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Lundon, W. Pickard, Benjamin Mr. Patrick O'Brien and Mr. O'Doherty
Power, Petrick Joseph
MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A. Reckitt, Harold James

Bill read a second time and committed for Thursday, 18th April.