HL Deb 17 June 1901 vol 95 cc526-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a Bill to remedy a misunderstanding in the law, or, at all events, a casus omissus. By the old common law of the country it happened that all appointments under the Crown were vacated on the demise of the Sovereign. This naturally led to great inconvenience, and an alteration was made, applying to various professions in various degrees, which may be said to have extended the tenure of office for six months after the demise of the Crown, leaving the vacancies to take place when that period had elapsed. Under the old law—that is the law as it was before the reign of Queen Victoria—there was always a dissolution of Parliament on the demise of the Crown. This was altered in 1867, when an end was put to the necessity of a dissolution. The sad event of the present year has made the bearing of the old doctrine on the tenure of office under the Crown a real inconvenience, and there has been some disagreement as to what the law is. I will not attempt to decide where learned doctors differ, but obviously it is convenient that the demise of the Crown should not involve the vacation of all offices under the Crown. This is not merely a matter affecting the politician. It would be inconvenient and hard enough for him, but it extends to the Army, to the diplomatic service, and, I believe, also to the colonial service. This is obviously a state of things which should not be allowed to continue. This Bill will simply bring the law to the point at which it is necessary to fix it, in consequence of the abandonment of the practice of dissolving on the demise of the Crown, and will make no other alteration in the constitutional law of the country.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


On the part of those with whom I have the honour of acting I may say that we entirely concur in the proposal of the noble Marquess, which is clearly a sequitur to the change which was made in 1867. Not being a lawyer, I will not go into the question whether the supposed difficulties really arise, but it seems to me most desirable to put an end to any doubt on the subject.

On Question, agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House to-morrow.