Paterson resigns – but how?

Last week we reported on a dispute in the House of Commons over standards. The Standards Committee took the decision that Owen Paterson had breached the rules on lobbying. Paterson was the Environment Secretary during the Somerset floods and MP for North Shropshire. Conservative MPs including three Somerset MPs backed a motion to protect Paterson. That motion overturned the sanctions that were due to be imposed on the MP. Instead they voted to “reform” the Standards Committee.

The backlash was so intense, the Prime Minister ordered MPs to back down. Without support from his PM, Paterson resigned. However, did you know an MP cannot resign?

Resignations explained

MPs can only leave their post as an MP by dying or being expelled. And even the Standards Committee only intended to disqualify Paterson for 30 days.

So to actually effect a resignation, an MP has to apply for a post which disqualifies them from being an MP. There are not many of those. In fact their are two titles that an MP can be appointed to that achieve just that. They are the Steward and Bailiffs of the Chiltern Hundreds and of the Manor of Northstead. Historically these were paid positions in the gift of the Crown. And at a time when Parliament was asserting independence from the Crown, anyone appointed to either post was automatically disqualified from acting as an MP.

Today the post are unpaid. But even so once an MP is appointed to either post, they are still disqualified from being an MP. Today HM Treasury announced that: “the Rt Hon Owen William Paterson to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.” That move formalises the MP’s resignation.

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