The Gerry Adams “resignation” is probably one of the most pointless but nerdishly interesting things I’ve ever seen. Pete has already brought us the BBC’s report of the exchange between Sir George Young and Hiliary Benn earlier today, but it is worth exploring a little. Sir George said:
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.
This is the point that Pete had been raising, but interpreting, if I have understood him, incorrectly. Young does seem to have it right that the Chancellor can appoint whoever he likes, but MPs retain the statutory right not to accept such a disqualifying office under section 8 of the HoC Disqualification Act 1975. Therefore it seems logical that the position is that Adams has an office of profit under the Crown unless he exercises his right not to be appointed and keep his seat. I suspect that means that the Speaker should probably have either waited a while, or written to Adams seeking clarification of his intention, but there we have it. Destination resignation arrived at, and David Cameron was right at PMQs yesterday after all.
Just to finish it all off, it is still interesting to me that Adams is happy enough with the bit of the British Constitution that lets him stand for a seat, get elected and then not fulfil any of the duties other than to claim expenses, yet “has no truck” with the bit that requires him to jump through a simple hoop to quit. Do you reckon holding an office of profit under the Crown is also a disqualification from the IRA or it’s Army Council? Not that it matters anymore. Or ever did of course.