HC Deb 25 July 1927 vol 209 cc850-2
76. Colonel WOODCOCK

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give the reasons why he has called into question the right of the Lord Mayors of Liverpool, Bristol, and some other cities to be styled with the prefix of right honourable; is he aware that this designation has been used for 34 years without previous interference or question; and will he take steps to see that this time-honoured privilege is not in future interfered with?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

My hon. and gallant Friend is under a misapprehension. No such right or privilege attaches to the office of Lord Mayor as such. The style "Right Honourable" like other titular distinctions can only be conferred by grant from the Sovereign as the fountain of honour. The only Lord Mayors and Provosts in the United Kingdom who are entitled to be styled "Right Honourable" are the Lord Mayors of London and York and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh who have had the privilege from time immemorial, and the Lord Provost of Glasgow and the Lord Mayor of Belfast on whom it has been conferred by grant in modern times. If it has been used in other cases, this has been done through a misunderstanding and without authority; and whenever the attention of myself or of my predecessors has been called to such unauthorised use, or inquiries on the subject have been made, it has always been pointed out that the style could not be used without His Majesty's permission. The then Lord Mayor of Liverpool was so informed in November, 1921. My duty is to see that the prerogative is not infringed by the assumption of titular distinctions of this kind without the permssion of the Sovereign.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when legislation was granted creating the dignity of Lord Mayor, the opinion of the then Garter King at Arms was asked, and it was his opinion that the chief magistrates of those cities on which the dignity was conferred should be able to use the prefix of "right honourable" in the same way as London had done from time immemorial? Can the right hon. Gentleman also state why, at the present time, after 34 years, this matter should be gone into and what is merely a courtesy title taken away from cities which value it very much?


In regard to the first part of the question it is quite true that Garter was asked his opinion in 1893 and also in 1903. He gave it incorrectly in 1893 and correctly in 1903. So far as the last part of the question is concerned, I only act when my attention is called to the matter. It was, unfortunately, called quite definitely to it at the time of His Majesty's visit to Liverpool, and I was bound to inform Liverpool as to the use of the title without authority.


In view of the fact that for a period of 35 years—constituting a privilege by use—the term "right honourable" has been applied to the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and in view of the fact that it is applied to the Lord Mayor of Belfast, will he see that the usage is regularised by the grant of permission from the Crown?


I cannot admit for a moment that improper and unauthorised usage is such as to insure a grant from the Crown. I must preserve the Prerogative in this case.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the authority under which the term is used by the Lord Mayors of London and York?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the great mass of the people of England remain entirely unmoved by the controversy?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many Peers of the Realm misappropriate this title of Privy Councillor, and will he take similar action in their case to the action he has thought it necessary to take in the case of the Lord Mayors?


That does not arise on this question.