HL Deb 12 June 1854 vol 133 cc1358-9

I wish to call the attention of the noble Earl at the head of the Government to a question which arises out of the appointment of the new Secretary of State. Your Lordships are, of course, aware that, according to the Act of Anne, not more than two Secretaries of State can sit in the House of Commons. Now that a fourth Secretary of State has been created, there will be two in the Commons, and two in this House. At present no practical inconvenience will arise from this arrangement; but great practical inconvenience might arise, in the event of another considerable change taking place in the present Government—and still more on the constitution of a new Government—from the law which prevents three Secretaries of State from sitting in the House of Commons. The existing limitation might materially interfere with the formation of a new Government. I am of opinion, therefore, that a Bill should be introduced to enable three Secretaries of State to sit in the House of Commons—for it would be most inconvenient to wait for the passing of such a measure if a new Administration should succeed to office requiring such a change. I therefore beg to ask the noble Earl whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill to enable three Secretaries of State to sit in the House of Commons?


My Lords, I have to state there is no intention at present to bring in a Bill on the subject. The question was duly considered, and was attended with some doubt; but we took the proper advice, and consulted the best authorities. It appears to us that there is no reason for proceeding by Bill to effect that which has already taken place, inasmuch as only two Secretaries of State now sit in the House of Commons; and the Queen, in the exercise of her prerogative, can, if she think proper, place a fourth Secretary of State in your Lordships' House. I admit with my noble Friend, that I can conceive a case in which inconvenience might arise from the absence of a power enabling a third Secretary of State to sit in the House of Commons; but no such inconvenience has yet arisen, and there is no necessity to remedy a grievance which has no existence. At the same time I concur with my noble Friend that the subject is one worthy of consideration.