New Clause. — (Amendment of form of Certificate.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Ministers of the Crown and House of Commons Disquali Fication Bill. – in the House of Commons on 18th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

I am profoundly dissatisfied with the way in which the Government are dealing with this Amendment. I think those who have taken the view that the Prime Minister should make the double certification had by far the best of the very close discussion that took place in the Committee, and the Attorney-General's answers to-day do not seem to me to dissipate in any way the opinion that I have formed that the Prime Minister should not do this sort of thing carelessly at all. He should not be sending Members of the House haphazard all over the place and saying: "Yes, it is all right, go to Panama or Venezuela or Singapore, as long as it is quiet there, and keep your seat in the House." The hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Attorney-General both made the point that, if the suggestion is accepted, that is equivalent to the Prime Minister saying who is to be a Member of the House and who is not. He is doing it now, and he is doing it in a casual and irresponsible way, as far as that aspect of the position is concerned. No doubt he is making the appointments having regard to the qualifications of a particular man for the particular post to which he is appointing him. He is doing that seriously because that is what he is asked to certify. On the Attorney-General's own showing, as far as membership of the House is concerned, he says: "Yes, it is all right. If you feel like it, you can remain a Member of the House. If you do not, you can resign your seat." He has said to the very first appointee to a job, "You can go out of the country for four years; it will be all right by me." That is taking a responsibility on his own shoulders towards the person concerned, but it is not taking a responsibility to the House.

If I remember rightly, every single Member of the Committee, composed of very different types of individuals, ranging from the Chairman of Ways and Means to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), with myself as a moderating influence between the two extremes, felt that when the Prime Minister was making one of these appointments to an Office of Profit under the Crown which would normally have unseated the Member, he ought to certify that not only was it in the public interest that the particular Member should go to the particular job, but that he should also retain his seat in the House of Commons, and that the Prime Minister, when he sat down solemnly to decide whether he would issue a certificate or not, should go over the whole range of these two conceptions, first, "This man is the appropriate man for the particular post and an office of profit, and, secondly, it is essential for the best performance of the lob to which I am putting him that he should retain his membership in the House of Commons." When he does that, he does not, in my view, remove from the individual Member the onus that still remains with him, and it certainly does not take away from the constituency the right to get up on its hind legs and say, "We are not having our Member in that position" and to take every step open to it. [Interruption]. I have seen Members made so uncomfortable by their constituencies that they have found it desirable to re sign. I admit that it is difficult, particularly in war-time, but if I were an elector in Ross and Cromarty, I should start seeing if there was not a certain amount of objection to the position which could be made vocal and effective, and I think it could be done.