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qualification was imposed, but it was constantly evaded, and was finally repealed in 1858.
One of the chief bars to membership was found in the oath which members had to take before they could sit in the House. The form in which this was framed prevented persons with certain religious beliefs from taking it. Various changes were made, and as a consequence it became possible for Roman Catholics in 1829, Quakers, Moravians, and Separatists in 1834, and Jews in 1858 to become members. In 1888 an affirmation was made sufficient for those who dislike to take an oath. This prevents the recurrence of such disputes as those which arose with regard to Mr. Bradlaugh, an atheist, between 1880 and 1886.
The following persons are, however, disqualified from becoming members:
(1) Women, minors, aliens, idiots, and lunatics.
(2) Peers, except that an Irish non-representative peer may sit for a British constituency.
(3) Clergy of the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, and the Roman Catholic Church. Ministers of the Church of England may free themselves from this disqualification and re-enter secular life under an Act of 1870. Nonconformist ministers may become members. (4) Government contractors.
(5) Persons convicted of treason or felony, unless they have served their sentence or been pardoned: bankrupts. Persons found guilty of corrupt practices may not be elected for seven years for any constituency, and never for the one where the offence was committed; but if the offence is the unauthorised act of an agent, the only penalty is an incapacity for being elected for the constituency in question during the next seven years.
(6) Pensioners of the Crown; but exceptions are made for holders of civil service and diplomatic pensions.
(7) Certain office holders. Judges: Government clerks and officials: returning officers for their own constituencies : all persons holding offices of profit under the Crown created since October 25th, 1705 (with certain exceptions). Further, any member who accepts an office of profit under the Crown created before that date other than a commission in the army or navy thereby vacates his seat, although he may be re-elected. It is in accordance with this rule that the head of a Government office, such as the Home Secretary, requires re-election after appointment. This provision is also used to enable members to retire if they wish. A seat cannot be resigned, but the member accepts some nominal office such as the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds. By this means the seat is vacated and a day or two later the office is resigned.
(8) It may be noted that from 1372 to 1871 no lawyer could legally sit for a county constituency.
Besides the disqualifications set out above, a member may vacate his seat for various reasons:
(1) By the acceptance of office, as noticed above.
(2) By succeeding to a peerage or being made a peer; but this does not apply to non-representative Irish peers, provided they sit for a constituency in Great Britain. Thus Lord Curzon of Kedleston could have been elected to a seat in the House of Commons before he became one of the representative Irish peers.
(3) By death.
(4) By lunacy continuing for six months.
(5) By bankruptcy, unless it is annulled or a discharge granted within six months, with a certificate that it was not caused by misconduct.
(6) By becoming naturalised in a foreign country.
(7) The House has an inherent right to expel a member for conduct rendering him unfit to take part in its
deliberations. This vacates the seat, but does not prevent re-election of the member. Thus John Wilkes, who was expelled for seditious libel, was three times re-elected, and the action of the House in finally giving his seat to his opponent was subsequently declared unconstitutional.
§ 24. The Duration of Parliament.-One of the Ordinances of the Lords Ordainers in 1311 directed that Parliament should meet annually, and this was reaffirmed by legislation in 1330 and 1362. The rule was observed during the reign of Edward III., and sometimes two, three, or even four Parliaments met in one year. In the fifteeenth century there were long intermissions, and in the reign of Henry VII., which extended over a period of twenty-four years, seven Parliaments only were summoned of which only one occurred in the last thirteen years. Again, there was only one Parliament between 1515 and 1528, but in the reign of Elizabeth a summons was issued on the average once in three and a half years.
James I. summoned only one Parliament between 1610 and 1621, and none was called from 1629 to 1640. quently the Triennial Act, 1641, was passed, which provided that Parliament should be summoned every third year. In 1664 this was repealed, but it was provided that three years should not go by without a Parliament, while the Bill of Rights, 1689, contained the statement that “Parliament ought to be held frequently." Since the Revolution Parliament has met practically every year, but this rule is merely a Convention of the Constitution," as there is no statutory provision to that effect. If Parliament were not to meet for a year, those taxes which are granted annually would cease and the Government would find it difficult to carry on their work. But a greater difficulty still would arise. Power to control the members of the army is given by the annual Army Act, and if this were not passed it would be
impossible to maintain the army.
Hence the Crown is
practically forced to summon Parliament to vote supplies and to pass the annual Army Act.
The duration of Parliament was first affected by the Triennial Act of 1694, which provided that no Parliament should continue longer than three years, a period which was extended to seven years in 1716 by the Septennial Act. The Parliament Act of 1911 limited the duration of Parliament to five years, but Parliament may, as in 1915, extend its own existence by an Act passed through both Houses and assented to by the Sovereign.
Formerly the death of the Sovereign at once dissolved Parliament, but by an Act of 1696 Parliament was to continue for six months unless previously dissolved. Since 1867 the death of the monarch does not affect the duration of Parliament.
Originally a fresh Parliament was summoned each year,
but later more than one session was sometimes held. The ten Parliaments of Elizabeth's reign held thirteen sessions and the four of James I. eight sessions. The Long Parliament (1640-1660) and the Pensionary Parliament (16611679) are well-known examples of long-lived Parliaments.
§ 25. How Parliament is summoned.-A Proclamation is issued that the King desires to have the advice of his people in Parliament. Then an Order in Council is made directing the Chancellors of Great Britain and Ireland to issue the necessary writs. The peers are summoned by separate writs. The writs for members of the House of Commons are directed to the various returning officers, who conduct the necessary elections and subsequently make a return stating who has been elected.
§ 26. The Conduct of an Election.—The returning officer gives public notice of the receipt of the writ and appoints a day for receiving nominations, which must be in a
particular form and accompanied by a deposit to cover the expenses of the election. If only one candidate is nominated he is declared to be elected, but if two or more are nominated a poll is necessary. A day is named, and the election is made by ballot, so that no one may know how any elector has voted. The votes are then counted, and the candidate with the greatest number is declared elected. In the case of a tie the returning officer has a casting vote. Very stringent rules are laid down to prevent anything in the shape of bribery or corruption. The candidates are only allowed to spend a certain amount of money in advocating their claims; this varies in accordance with the population of the constituency. They can also employ only a certain number of people for payment in the work of the election. An election agent who manages the details of the election is usually employed on each side. After the election a strict account has to be made of all expenses incurred during the election.
The House of Commons itself formerly decided all disputes as to elections, but in 1868 this function was transferred to two judges of the High Court of Justice.
§ 27. The Meeting of Parliament.-Parliament meets on the day appointed, and the first duty of the Commons is to appoint a Speaker. He acts as chairman of the House and also as its representative in communicating with the Crown. After his appointment has been approved, the newly elected members take the oath of allegiance. The Speech from the Throne, which is a statement of the objects of summons, is then read in the House of Lords, where the Commons are summoned to hear it. After some formal business has been transacted in the House of Commons to show its independence of the Crown, the Speech is then re-read there by the Speaker, and the real business of the session begins.