SF leader has not refused crown post

Fri, Jan 28, 2011, 00:00

SINN FÉIN leader Gerry Adams has the option of refusing to accept the centuries-old British post of crown steward and bailiff of the manor of Northstead, which he has been appointed to in order to clear the way for his resignation from his West Belfast Commons seat. However, he has not done so, the leader of the house, Sir George Young, has said.

Mr Adams, who tendered his letter of resignation as an MP to the speaker of the house on Friday, was appointed to the Northstead post by chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne on Wednesday, even though Mr Adams had not formally applied for it.

Under Westminster rules, a resigning MP can only quit during the lifetime of a parliament by accepting the Northstead post, or the post of crown steward and bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham.

Otherwise, according to rules that have never been broken, the only other exit routes are “death, disqualification or expulsion”.

In the Commons yesterday, MPs from both sides were unhappy with the chancellor’s actions, with Labour MP Hilary Benn demanding to know how Mr Adams’s resignation had been accepted, even though he had applied for neither of the sinecures.

“The chancellor’s power effectively to disqualify a member must be exercised correctly.

“It does not seem that in this case that longstanding precedent was followed,” he told Sir George.

Replying, Sir George said Mr Adams had made it “absolutely clear” that he wanted to resign, but as he “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 longstanding 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.”

Mr Adams, he said, is entitled to refuse the Northstead post under the disqualification act of 1975, but this, of course, would mean that he would remain as an MP.

Rejecting Labour’s demands that in future MPs should be able to follow Mr Adams’s example and reply by letter only, Sir George said: “This law on resignation from the house has served us well for 260 years and the government have no plans to change it.”