One of the sops offered to Sinn Féin as part of the ‘peace process’ by which they agreed to stop bombing innocent citizens as they went about their business was to agree that Gerry Adams could claim expenses for ‘representing the people of West Belfast’ whilst not actually taking up his seat in Parliament.
Adams has now written to Speaker Bercow telling him that he no longer wishes to do that.
Guido is of the opinion that Speaker Bercow has ‘altered the British constitution forever’ by accepting Adams’ resignation by letter and not through the usual route of taking up a paid Crown position. Michael Crick appears to agree with him.
I’m sure Bercow would be flattered to think that he had done so – but I disagree. The British Constitution was altered forever by the decision of Speaker Boothroyd, who barred the two MPs from taking their seat until they had sworn an Oath of allegiance to the Crown – leaving him in the position of only ‘technically’ being an MP.
Gerry Adams has never been paid as an MP – the £500,000 that he and his fellow MPs were famously exposed by the Telegraph as having received from British Taxpayers were wholly expenses. Adams has never sworn the allegiance to the Crown that would allow him to take his seat in parliament, and thus never been paid a salary as an Honourable Member of Parliament.
His position has always been that of a ‘representative’ of his West Belfast constituents, a position for which he received expenses.
Erskine May, the parliamentary bible is quite explicit:
“It is a settled principle of parliamentary law that a Member, after he is duly chosen, cannot relinquish his seat; and, in order to evade this restriction, a Member who wishes to retire accepts office under the Crown, which legally vacates his seat and obliges the House to order a new writ.”
Erskine May never envisaged the situation whereby a person might be chosen to take up the honour of a seat in the House of Commons, then declined to do so.
Adams, whilst ‘duly chosen’, never took up the seat in parliament that being ‘duly chosen’ entitled him to – all he has done with his letter of resignation is to forgo the expenses he was allowed to claim.
Had Speaker Bercow forced him to take the position of Manor of Northstead (not Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, dear Iris Robinson is still hanging onto to that revered position!) he would have been according him a status that he was not entitled to.
We should be cheering, not jeering; no longer is the British Taxpayer forced to subsidise Adams’ expensive London apartment – though he may be entitled to a final £41,000 to cover the cost of ‘winding down’ his Belfast constituency office.