Bizarre law puts Adams’s Westminster seat in limbo
Bizarre law puts Adams’s Westminster seat in limbo

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams remains as a member of the Westminster parliament for West Belfast even though he has lodged a letter of resignation, the Speaker of the House of Commons insisted last night.

The Speaker John Bercow said Mr Adams had not followed a 400-year-old rule that requires him to accept a British crown-paid post before he could quit.

Mr Adams’s resignation letter, which was expected since he announced his decision last November to run for the Dail in Louth, was submitted to the office of the speaker last Friday.

MPs are oddly barred from unilaterally resigning from the Commons under a resolution dating from the year 1624.

MPs wanting to leave must apply for one of two posts: Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham; or Steward of the Manor of Northstead.

Sinn Fein said Mr Adams had written “to the Speaker’s office on Friday and informed him of his resignation. It’s a non-issue from our perspective... He certainly didn’t apply for the Stewardship of the Manor of Northstead.”

A party spokesman in Belfast said they taken legal advice before sending in the letter, though he declined to detail the advices given: “That’s it. We’re doing this anyway. We do not have to follow House of Commons rules. As far as we are concerned, Gerry Adams is no longer an MP.”

Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice is emphatic in its ruling: “It is a settled principle of parliamentary law that a Member, after he is duly chosen, cannot relinquish his seat; and, in order to evade this restriction, a Member who wishes to retire accepts office under the Crown, which legally vacates his seat and obliges the House to order a new writ.”

The issue now is whether Commons authorities can insist Mr Adams follows its arcane rules, or whether he has managed to change British constitutional history.

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