Nineteen Thirty-One Political Crisis

By R. Bassett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT AND THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

SEPTEMBER 8, 1931

The proceedings in the House of Commons on September 8 began with an episode which not only aroused immediate protests and much subsequent adverse comment but also indicated that the full power of the Labour party machine both outside and inside Parliament was to be exerted upon Labour M.P.s. The Speaker announced that he had received letters from Sir Robert Young and Mr (afterwards Sir) Herbert Dunnico resigning their offices as Chairman and Deputy-Chairman respectively of Ways and Means. He read the letters in turn. The essential part of Sir Robert Young's communication was as follows:

On 26th August, as a result of the changed political situation, I wrote a letter to my constituency and said:

'The Chairman of Ways and Means is appointed for the duration of Parliament. It is, however, a Party nomination but subject to the approval of the House of Commons. I was appointed by unanimous consent. Nevertheless should the Prime Minister on the one side, or the Labour Party on the other side, think I should resign I shall certainly do so.'

I sent a copy of the letter to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and to the executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. The Prime Minister did not ask me to resign. My trade union executive, however, expressed the opinion that I should tender my resignation and with that opinion, I understand, many Members of the party to which I belong, agree. That being so I feel, and I am sure the House will sympathize with my feeling, that were I to remain Chairman my position would be uncomfortable, invidious, and untenable. I therefore humbly tender my resignation to the House.

Dunnico wrote as follows:

Two years ago, with the approval of all parts of the House, I was elected Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means.

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