A Conversation for The British Parliamentary System

Chiltern Hundreds

Post 1

Simon Trew

Footnote 2 is incorrect.

A resigning MP does not become "a member" of the Chiltern Hundreds. He or she applies for stewardship of them (they being the administrative districts of Stoke, Burnham and Desborough in Buckinghamshire). Being an office of profit under the Crown (though commanding only a nominal salary), it may not be held by an MP. The MP resigns the immediately it is effective. The officeholder is appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Stewardship of the Manor of Northstead has similar consequences; there were others, which are now not used, but one book I read (I think Mackintosh) indicated that Northstead and Chiltern Hundreds are used alternately.

Chiltern Hundreds

Post 2

Demon Drawer

Betty Boothroyd, the outgoing speaker before the end of the last parliament applied for stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds. It usually is bestowed on outgoing speakers as they have maintained a degree of neutrality in their time in the Speakers Chair.

The Chiltern Hundreds (and Iraqi Oil)

Post 3


Your post was absolutely spot on and you're right about the offices alternating.

If the Chiltern Hundreds were taken by the last MP to "resign", then the next member, who wants to go, will apply for Northstead. I'm not sure what the pay's like, although as the procedure is governed by legislation (and not merely by convention), there must still be a salary for these non-existent jobs. Perhaps it's £1 per annum.

However, this discussion raises a more important question.

If an MP cannot hold an "office of profit under the Crown", why is it acceptable for him/ her to be a Minister?

In other countries, where the sort of "separation of powers", which was envisaged by early Eighteenth Century reformers in Britain, exists, Ministers cannot also be representatives but members of the government can still appear before the legislature.

Even in France, a country where liberal or democratic traditions are not always strong, a Deputy's "second" (elected on the same ticket as his boss) takes over the work in the National Assembly and the constituency, if the first Deputy becomes a Minister.

MP's should be forced to resign, if they accept another job, particularly if that job happens to be a ministerial position.

There is a conflict of interest between being tied to government policy (and the necessity of obeying the Whips' voting instructions), on the one hand, and the needs and wishes of constituents, on the other.

Even if MP's could "wear two hats" and carry out the responsibilities of each job separately and impartially, the constituents of those MP's, who become ministers, are deprived of representation in Parliament because there simply isn't time to fit in both jobs.

Then, of course, there is the question of suitability. The two jobs are very different and someone, who is a very "good" minister [i.e. someone who is a slavish follower of the most powerful people in his party and will never question anything] is unlikely to be an effective MP.

It is also unfair that someone should hold two posts and receive two salaries [although there is a small reduction, where someone exceeds certain limits], even though he/ she is, in reality, only doing one job.

If MP's could not become ministers (and if a career in Parliament, working on behalf of one's constituents were made more rewarding and more attractive), then governments would not be able to behave like dictatorships (between elections) and the kind of extremism, which we have witnessed [e.g. Poll Tax, rail privatisation, destruction of coal mining in 1993, helping the Americans to get their hands on Iraqi oil (and failing to investigate- in any meaningful way- the dishonesty of the Blair government, in the aftermath of the action), the beginning of the end of state-funding in (and the privatisation of) higher education] over the last twenty years, during the Thatcher, Major and Blair regimes, would not have been possible.

Incidentally, if you don't accept what I have to say about Iraq, try reading "The Hydrogen Economy" by the American economist, J Rifkin. It was published in 2001 and highlighted the following facts.

1. The United States is rapidly running out of oil, having seriously underestimated, for the last forty-five years, the rate at which it would use its own reserves;

2. Of all the oil-producing countries, Iraq was the most attractive target for an oil-greedy power because Iraqi reserves are projected to last longer than those of any other country.

3. The oil lobby in the United States is too powerful [Just look at Bush's connections, for a start.] for any American administration to even consider abandoning fossil fuels and converting to a source of energy [namely Hydrogen] which:

(a) is clean, producing only water vapour;
(b) is safer than crude oil, in many ways [e.g. no more oil spills];
(c) can be produced almost anywhere, using either wind, hydro or solar power and;
(d) through its use (and the consequent elmination of petroleum as a source of conflict), would bring stability to the oil-fuelled instability of Middle East and, indeed, to many other troubled regions, where the United States currently feels a need to intervene.

In a hydrogen-fuelled World, oil-producing regions would cease to cause problems because they would cease to be useful to the industrialised World and, so, would- to a large extent- cease to be relevant.

The Chiltern Hundreds (and Iraqi Oil)

Post 4


Returning to the subject, until 1926 it was a constitutional requirement that MPs appointed to the cabinet then fight a by-election.

To be really nerdy, that's why prior to that date one can extrapolate useful data from by-election results and after that they're useless.

It has always been a tradition except in times of crisis to go to the polls one year before the end of the term. This was true thoughout the century to 1911 when the term was reduced from 7 to 5 years. The last 20 of those years cover a number of inept performances.

Several unnecessary dissolutions of Parliament have happened much earlier; some have gone full term. Much more on this if anyone is actually interested.

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