Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead
|Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead|
The Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead is one of two sinecure posts currently used in the British political system to effect resignation from the British House of Commons by sitting Members of Parliament (MPs). The post has no responsibilities or functions, but as a nominal paid office of The Crown, being appointed to the post means an MP is automatically disqualified from sitting in the Commons. This then allows a by-election to be called to elect their replacement (if the post is not left vacant until the next general election). The post is an ancient one, with the Manor of Northstead itself being in North Yorkshire. Having fallen into disrepair by 1600, the office was first used for MP resignations from either 1842 or 1844.
Under the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, MPs who accept a paid office under the Crown (i.e. the Government) are disqualified from Parliament, on the principle of the separation of powers. Currently, the Northstead appointment is one of two sinecure posts which are used to effectively allow resignation from the House of Commons by appointment to these posts, which otherwise have no role or responsibilities. The other post is the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham. A number of other such offices have been used in the past. Appointments to the posts are made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Using two posts allows more than one MP to resign simultaneously, although more commonly, single resignations are effected by alternating appointments to the Northstead and Chiltern Hundreds offices. The last MP to be appointed to the Northstead office was David Miliband on 15 April 2013 in order to vacate his seat of South Shields.
By 1600, the manor house of the Manor of Northstead in Scalby, North Yorkshire had fallen into disrepair and was occupied only by a shepherd. The sinecure roles date back to the Act of Settlement 1701, under which a Member of Parliament who accepts an office of profit under the Crown must give up his or her seat.
Most references say that the Northstead post was first used in this way on 20 March 1844 to allow Sir George Henry Rose, Member for Christchurch, to resign his seat. But the official book recording appointments to the various Stewardships (lodged in the National Archives under catalogue reference E 197/1) indicates that Patrick Chalmers, MP for Montrose Burghs, was appointed to Steward of the Manor of Northstead on 6 April 1842. The writ of election for a replacement was moved as if Chalmers had been appointed to the Chiltern Hundreds.
After announcing his intention to resign from the United Kingdom Parliament in order to stand in the 2011 Irish general election, Sinn Féin MP Gerry Adams was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. Adams later stated the reports that he had accepted the appointment were untrue. Officially however, Adams held the title between January and April 2011. This made him a UK Government employee for a period of time and he shared the title with Dr Ian Paisley who was appointed to the role in 1985.
- "The Chiltern Hundreds". Factsheet P11 Procedure Series. House of Commons Information Office. August 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
- "Piece details E 197/1". The Catalogue. The National Archives. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
- "Preamble (Hansard, 6 April 1842)". UK Parliament. 6 April 1842. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
- "Manor of Northstead". HM Treasury. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
- "Manor of Northstead". HM Treasury. 9 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- "Adams comments on Cameron claims". Sinn Féin. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
- "McGuinness to inherit Adams’ old British title under SF reorganisation". The Journal. 11 June 2012.