Introduction of new Members
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19.20Under Standing Order No 6, Members may take and subscribe the oath or make the affirmation at any time during the sitting before the orders of the day and notices of motion have been entered on or after they have been disposed of, so long as no debate or business is interrupted.1 In practice, a Member who has been returned at a by-election is now normally introduced immediately after prayers and before questions,2 in order to be in a position to take part in public business as early as possible.
It is usual for Members who have not yet taken the oath to sit below the Bar;3 and care must be taken that they do not, inadvertently, take a seat within the Bar, by which they would render themselves liable to the penalties and disqualifications imposed by statute.4 If a Member is elected at a by-election, the Clerk of the Crown sends to the Clerk of the House a certificate of the return received in the Crown Office; and the Member must obtain a certificate from the Public Bill Office of the receipt of that certificate for production at the Table, before the Clerk of the House will administer the oath.5
Members returned upon new writs issued after the general election take the oath or make their affirmation in the same manner as those returned at a general election (see para 8.26 ). Under the resolution of 23 February 1688/9, ‘in compliance with an ancient order and custom, they are introduced to the Table between two Members, making their obeisances as they go up, that they may be the better known to the House’.6 The swearing takes place with the Clerk standing at the Despatch box next to the Treasury bench. The Select Committee on Procedure in 1972–73 considered the question of the introduction of new Members after by-elections, and recommended that there should be no change in the order and custom laid down by the resolution of 1688/9.7
- 1. Parl Deb (1907) 169, cc 159, 315.
- 2. This practice was initially adopted during the 2019–21 Session due to social distancing considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous practice had been for a Member returned after a by-election to be introduced immediately after questions and before any urgent questions or statements. A Member has taken their seat on a Friday, there being no oral questions, at the commencement of public business, CJ (1943–44) 24. Members have also taken their seats immediately after prayers on a Friday when the House was recalled, HC Deb (2001–02) 372, c 603.
- 3. When on 18 May 1849 notice was taken that strangers were present, Baron Rothschild retained his seat below the Bar, although he had not taken the oath; and Mr Bradlaugh was present below the Bar during many divisions, while forbidden to take the oath.
- 4. See para 8.28 and McGuinness v United Kingdom (1999) ECHR No 39511/98.
- 5. When a Member was sworn at the Table before their return was received by the Clerk of the Crown, it was questioned whether the oath which the Member had taken before the receipt of the return had been duly taken. A committee appointed to inquire into the matter reported that the non-return of the indenture to the Crown Office cannot affect the validity of the election or the right of a person duly elected to be held a Member of the House, but recommended a strict adherence to the practice of requiring the production of the usual certificate, or, in cases in which that may be from accidental circumstances impossible, of requiring satisfactory proof of the person's title to be admitted as a Member, HC 256 (1847–48). For a delay in delivery of a return to the Crown Office, see Parl Deb (1889) 334, cc 52–53; HC Deb (1955–56) 542, cc 36–38, 1039–42.
- 6. CJ (1688–93) 34. This practice is not observed in regard to Members who have established their claim to a seat by an election petition after having been chosen at a General Election, because they are supposed to have been returned at the beginning of the Parliament when no such introduction is customary, Hatsell 85 n. On 18 February 1875, Dr Kenealy, a new Member, came to the Table to be sworn without the introduction of two Members. The Speaker acquainted him with the order of the House, and, refusing to hear any comments from him, directed him to withdraw; whereupon the House resolved that the order be dispensed with, on that occasion, CJ (1875) 52; Parl Deb (1875) 222, c 486. On a similar occasion, however, in the case of Mr McIntyre on 17 April 1945, the House, on a division, refused to dispense with the order, and on the following day he was introduced in the customary way, HC Deb (1944–45) 410, cc 34–35 and 222.
- 7. HC 336 (1972–73).