HL Deb 10 December 1941 vol 121 cc239-40

Brought from the Commons; and read 1a.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended, in pursuance of the Resolution of yesterday:


My Lords, I now move that the Bill be read a second time. Your Lordships will desire a very short explanation of the contents and purpose of this Bill. This is an Indemnity Bill to protect a single individual from the severe consequences which might otherwise following to an innocent mistake. Mr. Jenkins was elected member of the House of Commons for the constituency of Ponty-pool, and he was invited to become the Chairman of an Arbitration Board, being nominated for that purpose both by the employers and the work people in connection with a particular ordnance factory. He accepted that position as a matter of public duty. There is no salary attached to the post, but there is provision that on each occasion upon which the Chairman sits he is entitled to receive a small fee from public funds, though in fact Mr. Jenkins has declined to take a penny piece.

Our law dealing with offices of profit, and with the circumstances in which a Member of Parliament loses his seat if he accepts an office of profit, is exceedingly complicated, and in some parts technical and obscure. Quite recently there has been a Committee of the House of Commons presided over by Sir Dennis Herbert which has been investigating this whole question, and recently it has made a most valuable Report. To give one example of how strange the present law is, it may surprise some people to learn that an unpaid Lord of the Treasury holds an office of profit, because the nature of the post is such that payment might be attached to it. Similarly, Mr. Jenkins had not the slightest intention of disregarding the law, nor had those who were concerned in his appointment, but in fact, by accepting this position, although he is paid nothing for his services, he has accepted an office of profit and he has forfeited his seat in the House of Commons, and it may be, if he has since sat and voted—as to which I know nothing—he runs the risk of very heavy penalties. In such a case, which only rarely occurs, it is the practice of Parliament to grant relief in the only way in which it can be granted, and that is by the passing of an Indemnity Act. That is the purpose of this Bill. It was passed through all its stages in the other House yesterday, and I feel that it will be the desire of all your Lordships that it shall pass into law in a minimum period of time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a, and passed.