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Oral Answers to Questions — Earl Marshal and Chief Butler of England

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th May 1957.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West 12:00 am, 9th May 1957

asked the Prime Minister whether he will introduce legislation to abolish the hereditary nature of the office of Earl Marshal and Chief Butler of England.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the wording of the Question means no discourtesy to himself? Does he not think that in this country, which pretends to be a democracy, it is high time that we got rid of this kind of futile stupidity? If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to adopt the course asked for in the. Question, would he be prepared to give a guarantee that when the impertinent Bill now on record comes before the House he will reject it?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Member has no right to use that language about a Bill which is coming to us, I understand, from another place.

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I will not withdraw. On a point of order. It surely is not out of order to refer to a Bill as an impertinent Bill.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I think it is. I think that the hon. Member ought to withdraw that expression. When the Bill comes before us he can criticise it.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

If I have said anything out of order, of course I withdraw.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Will the Lord Privy Seal be good enough to inform the House what are the domestic duties of the Chief Butler?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The holder of this office had the duty to hand a cup of wine to the King at the Coronation banquet and receives the cup as his right after the banquet was over. The reason why this office is not continued is that the last Coronation banquet was that of George IV in 1821, and when certain persons desired to be Chief Butler of England they asked in the time of Edward VII but, as there was no Coronation banquet, the Court of Claims disallowed their appeal.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Is this not remarkable and intelligent anticipation on the part of the right hon. Gentleman? How did he know that I was going to ask that supplementary question?

Mr. H. Wilson:

While we are all deeply impressed by the onerous character of the duties attaching to this office, is that any reason why, on a permanent and hereditary basis, the holder of this office should continue to hold all the amenities in connection with Arundel Castle tax-free and in perpetuity?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

We must differentiate in our minds between the Earl Marshal and the Chief Butler.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

As one who is not averse to quite a number of quaint British practices, may I put a practical point to the right hon. Gentleman? Is it not the case that the duties of the Earl Marshal involve considerable administrative and organising qualities upon particular occasions? In these circumstances, since it would be possible, under the hereditary system, that a Duke of Norfolk might turn up who was not fitted on any grounds to conduct those duties, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it better on practical grounds to end the hereditary principle and to let the appointment be made by the Government of the day on the basis of merit and ability to do the work?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Judging by the skill with which the present Earl Marshal conducts his duties I should hesitate to reverse the decision taken in 1672, but in the spirit which the right hon. Gentleman has brought to this matter, I will certainly convey his sentiments to my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Order, order. We have passed the time. Mr. Gaitskell. Business.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that there is a Question down on the Order Paper, No. 46, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean), in which the whole House is interested, and in view of the fact that according to my timepiece, which is the best I can afford, the House of Commons clocks are slightly fast, would it be possible to allow that Question to be dealt with?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It certainly would not. I think that the hon. Member should believe the clock which is provided free of expense for him, and should go by that. At least I must go by it. Mr. Gaitskell.