HC Deb 14 February 1913 vol 48 cc1429-30

I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question which has been pressing on my mind during the developments of the last few days, when we have heard charges of Parliamentary corruption bandied about, and which is of some importance. The question I wish to ask arises out of the reply you, Sir, kindly gave to me on Tuesday in reference to the general doctrine of what effects are produced upon a vote by a Member who has a direct personal pecuniary interest, and what you said then was:— The general view is that a Member is not entitled to vote who has a direct personal pecuniary interest in the subject under discussion. There was a rule on the point decided by the House itself in 1906, but. an expression of opinion from you now, Sir, would, I think, be of great value in matters which may become actionable. I wish to know, Sir, whether the general view set forth by you, Sir, applies to Cabinet Ministers or Ministers of the Crown voting for their own salaries or any matter in which their personal conduct, as distinguished from the policy of the Government, is impugned. Then I wish to ask more particularly whether it applies to exceptional cases in which Ministers of the Crown not only voted for their own salaries but voted for fees in connection with their offices. I may say that neither of those events has happened since 1906, but I have a perfect recollection—I have the cases here—of a Minister of the Crown whose vote was impugned for voting for his salary. It arose out of the Pigott case. I personally have a strong recollection of the debate in Parliament when Votes on the salaries of the Law Officers of the Crown at that time were impugned. Not only were their salaries impugned, but their fees, but both Law Officers voted for their fees. I would be very glad to have an expression of opinion that as far as possible no Gentleman should vote in a manner in which he has even an indirect pecuniary interest.


It is a little inconvenient to ask a general question upon hypothetical possibilities. It is far better to treat each case as it comes up. The hon. and learned Gentleman will remember the Latin maxim, "Dolus latet in generalibus." Be a little careful how you commit yourself generally. I can only say what I said the other day, that a Member ought not to vote in any question in which he is directly and personally pecuniary interested. There are cases, of course, in which questions of general policy are also involved, and even though his pecuniary interest may also be involved in that case, I think every Member is entitled according to his own conscience to decide whether he shall vote or not, giving himself not the benefit of the doubt, but the reverse. However, so far as the Chair goes, its only function is to decide in each case whether there is a primâ facie case, but it must rest with the House or Committee itself to decide whether the vote should or should not be disallowed.


I thank you very much.