asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the statement by the Lord High Chancellor that he would be surprised if the recent appointment of the hon. and learned Member for Upton (Sir E. Wild) had not been accompanied by a condition that he should resign his seat in this House either immediately or in the near future; and whether such condition was in fact made when the appointment was sanctioned?
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House):
I am informed by the Lord Chancellor that the position is as follows:
The Lord Chancellor makes appointments where vacancies occur in the minor judicial offices in the City of London. The appointment of Recorder is in the hands of the Court of Aldermen, subject to the assent of His Majesty. It has been the practice for successive Lord Chancellors to impose upon those whom they appoint the condition that they should neither continue to be nor become Members of Parliament. The late Recorder never stood for or sat in Parliament after his appointment to that office 22 years ago.
A Recorder appointed under the Municipal Corporations Acts has, ever since 1835, been precluded from serving in Parliament for the borough for which he is Recorder. The Recorder of the City of London holds by far the most important judicial office in the City. The Central Criminal Court is in almost continuous session, and the Recorder tries in any year more criminal cases than any one High Court Judge, while, when sitting in the Mayor's Court he exercises civil jurisdiction which is unlimited in amount. The constituency for which the present Recorder sits is within the area of the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court in which he sits.
The Lord Chancellor would feel great surprise if the Corporation, in filling this high office, contemplated that the Judge so appointed would remain for any considerable length of time in the House of Commons.
The Lord Chancellor thinks it right to add that the matter was not present to his mind when he advised His Majesty to approve the exercise by the present Recorder of judicial functions, or he would have thought it proper to raise the matter then. He is placing himself in communication with the Corporation and the Recorder, and does not anticipate that any serious disagreement upon the matter of policy involved is likely to arise.
I do not see my hon. and learned Friend the Recorder at present in the House, and I regret that this material has come into my hands too late to advise him beforehand that I was going to give an answer of that character, so that he could be present.
Is my right hon. Friend not aware that on two occasions in the latter part of last century— one, I think, from 1880 to 1890—the Recorder for the City of London was, and continued to be for many years, a Member of this House; and is it not also the case that those in the City who recommended his appointment were pleased and glad that he should continue to be a Member of this House? Sir Charles Hall was one.
Yes, I believe I had the pleasure of sitting in this House with Sir Charles Hall. The usual practice and the propriety are better stated in the language of the Lord Chancellor than in my own. I think there has been a general tightening of the practice in this respect within my lifetime.