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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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.