Dear House of Commons,
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I would like to request any information held by the House of Commons relating to the change in wording, between 16 October 2009 and 9 February 2011, of resolutions instructing Mr Speaker to issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown for the making out of a new writ for the electing of a Member to serve in the present Parliament, in the case of resigning Members.
The background is that up to and including 16 October 2009, the resolutions agreed by the House took the form:
That the Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the [Borough/Burgh/County] Constituency of Glasgow North East in the room of A. B., who since his election to the said [Borough/Burgh/County] Constituency has accepted the Office of Steward or Bailiff of [Her Majesty’s Manor of Northstead, in the county of York/Her Majesty's Three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham, in the county of Buckingham].
The last such resolution in this form was agreed on 16 October 2009: Commons Journal vol 265 [2008-09] 631. However, on 9 February 2011, the next occasion of a resolution to issue the writ for a byelection caused by resignation, the wording had changed. See Votes and Proceedings: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...
The new wording is the same as the previous save that "has accepted the Office" has changed to "has been appointed to the Office". Subsequent resolutions have been in the same form. I would like to know what information held by the House of Commons relating to this change in wording.
Dear Mr Boothroyd,
Thank you for your request for information dated 20 June 2013, received by us on the same date.
We will endeavour to respond to your request promptly but in any case within 20 working days i.e. on or before 18 July 2013.
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Dear Mr Boothroyd,
Freedom of Information Request F13-311
Thank you for your request for information as copied below.
You asked us what information is held by the House of Commons relating to
the change in wording of motions relating to by-election writs "has
accepted the Office" to "has been appointed to the Office".
We have not found any written information, electronically or in hard copy,
recording the decision to change the wording of these motions. In the
terms of section 1 (1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
therefore, our response is that we do not hold the information requested.
I hope that you will find it helpful if we explain the background to the
change in the wording of these motions.
In January 2011 Gerry Adams MP (now Gerry Adams TD) wished to resign his
membership of the House of Commons, to which he had been elected as the
Member for West Belfast, most recently at the general election of 2010.
As the Leader of the House (Rt Hon Sir George Young MP) explained at
Business Questions on Thursday 27 January 2011 column 449:
Sir George Young: [...] On the substantive issue the right hon. Gentleman
raises about Gerry Adams, as the right hon. Gentleman said, Gerry Adams
wrote on 20 January making it absolutely clear that he wanted to
relinquish his seat and stand in the Irish general election. As Gerry
Adams should have known, a Member of Parliament may not resign; there are
no means by which a Member may vacate his or her seat during the lifetime
of a Parliament, other than by death, disqualification or expulsion. The
Chancellor of the Exchequer, therefore, in line with long-standing
precedent granted Mr Adams the office of profit under the Crown of steward
and bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, so we delivered Mr Gerry Adams to
the required destination, although he may have used a vehicle and a route
that was not of his choosing.
Yesterday, Mr Speaker, you informed the House that, owing to that
appointment, Gerry Adams was thereby disqualified from membership of the
House by virtue of section 1 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act
1975. You also stated:
"The Chancellor of the Exchequer has exercised his responsibilities";
"He has done so in an entirely orderly way."[Official Report, 26
January 2011; Vol. 522, c. 405.]
During the subsequent exchanges, Members raised the hypothetical
possibility of a future Chancellor appointing a Member without a firm
application for a relevant post from that Member. I find it inconceivable
that such a situation would occur; it is a matter of constitutional
principle that a Chancellor does not act without an unambiguous request
from a Member to relinquish his or her seat. In this case, that request
was a letter of resignation. In addition, there is a protection in the
form of provision in the 1975 Act for a Member not to accept any office
that would lead to his or her disqualification. I have to say in response
to the right hon. Gentleman's final point on the matter that this law on
resignation from the House has served us well for 260 years-and the
Government have no plans to change it.”
As you point out, the by-election motion for Barnsley East was moved on 9
February 2011, following Eric Illsley’s appointment to the Chiltern
Hundreds. It seemed by then more appropriate to modify the traditional
wording of the writ motion to reflect more strictly the statutory
position: the disqualification which led to the vacancy in Barnsley East
was the same as the disqualification leading to the vacancy in West
Belfast. Both vacancies resulted from the appointments, under what is now
section 4 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, rather
than from the Members’ acceptance of those positions. The Leader of the
House’s reply of 27 January 2011 alluded to section 8 of that Act, which
provides a safeguard against a Member’s being disqualified without his or
The House of Commons Journal Office, which is responsible for compiling
and publishing the formal decisions of the House in the daily Votes and
Proceedings and the sessional Journals of the House of Commons, alters and
updates its minuting style from time to time. If you have any further
inquiries about changes in the style of minuting these by-election motions
or of any other proceedings of the House of Commons, please contact the
Clerk of the Journals, Mr Liam Laurence Smyth, at
For more information about the Chiltern Hundreds, you may wish to look at
the House of Commons Library Research Division’s list of Appointments to
the Chiltern Hundreds since 1850 (updated to April 2011):
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