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Eric Illsley joins an elite for all the wrong reasons

Len Tingle | 19:22 UK time, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Eric Illsley

Two weeks after his Crown Court appearance Eric Illsley is still technically the Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central even though he is on bail awaiting sentencing after admitting fiddling his expenses.

Twenty four hours after his appearance in court he issued an abject apology to the constituency that had re-elected him for the sixth time at last year's General Election.

In the same statement he said he would resign "soon".

A couple of hours later his agent said that meant within two weeks.

There has been no word since then and until he officially goes the disgraced MP is blocking the process of calling of a by-election to replace him.

Even though Eric Illsley is guilty of the 21st Century crime of fiddling his expenses he has to get round a bit of 17th Century legislation to quit.

In 1624 parliament decided that it was so important for MPs to keep on serving their constituents that they were legally barred for resigning between elections.

By the 19th Century it soon became apparent that in some circumstances, usually through illness or moving on to another job, an MP had to stand down.

So instead of resigning MPs have to apply to be appointed to a number of "offices of profit under the crown".

Legally anybody holding a crown office cannot sit in the House of Commons. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appoints these positions.

There is no pay involved but the holder of the title cannot be an MP.

There used to be many of these posts but now four are used and appointments are made in turn.

There are three positions as Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham.

The other is the Crown Stewardship and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

The Manor of Northstead is the next in line for an appointment.

So Eric Illsley will join a long list appointments to the Manor of Northstead.

Amongst them are:

- Dick Tavern the Lincoln Labour MP temporarily left parliament in October 1972 to fight and win back his seat as the first of the Social Democrats;

- Former Labour cabinet member and Chesterfield MP Eric Varley became become Chairman of Coalite in January 1984;

- Ian Paisley and Enoch Powell both left the House of Commons in protest over the Anglo Irish agreement of 1985;

- Robert Kilroy Silk became a TV star in 1986;

- Leon Brittan the Conservative MP for Richmond and Cabinet Member was appointed a European Commissioner in 1988;

- Boris Johnson became Mayor of London in 2008.

But Eric Illsley will join the very select few on that long list who are leaving because of breaking the law.

Until he does the process of calling a by-election cannot begin.


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