Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Labour’s call over Sinn Fein Gerry Adams saga

Gerry Adams

Labour has demanded a change in Parliamentary procedures to allow an MP to resign by letter following the disqualification of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams from Westminster.

The “ancient ways” that had seen Mr Adams appointed as Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead to allow him to resign had to be reformed, said shadow Commons leader Hilary Benn.

But Commons leader Sir George Young insisted: “This law on resignation from the House has served us well for 260 years and the Government has no plans to change it.”

The exchanges followed a period of confusion prior to Wednesday's ruling by Commons speaker John Bercow about the status of Mr Adams' resignation from Westminster, described as a “shambles” by Labour MP Thomas Docherty.

The speaker ruled that Mr Adams, who is standing in the Irish general election, was now disqualified from the House of Commons.

An MP can only resign by accepting one of the symbolic offices of profit of Steward or Bailiff of Her Majesty's three Chiltern Hundreds, or of the Manor of Northstead. Mr Adams refused and wrote a resignation letter to Mr Bercow.

In the Commons yesterday, Mr Benn said: “The Chancellor's power to in effect disqualify a member of this House must be exercised correctly and it does not seem that in this case long-standing precedent has been followed.”