SINN Fein president Gerry Adams has received an apology from Downing Street after being appointed the steward and bailiff of the Manor of Northstead in Scarborough.
Mr Adams gave up his West Belfast parliamentary seat on Wednesday, but centuries-old rules state that MPs cannot resign their seats, so in order to leave the House of Commons they have to disqualify themselves from being a member.
They must apply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for an office of profit under the Crown, which makes them ineligible to sit in the Commons.
The two offices traditionally used are that of steward and bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham – or of the Manor of Northstead, which stood on the site of Peasholm Park.
Although they are billed as “offices of profit” they do not generate any income. However, if anyone applies for either position their membership of the House of Commons automatically lapses.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the 62-year-old had accepted the title of the steward and bailiff of the Manor of Northstead earlier this week but this was disputed by Mr Adams, who said he had not applied and had received an apology from the prime minister’s office.
Mr Adams, who wishes to stand for election in the Republic of Ireland, said: “When I was told of the British prime minister’s remarks this was the first I heard of this development.
“I understand Mr Cameron has claimed that ‘the Honourable Member for West Belfast has accepted an office for profit under the Crown.’ This is untrue. I simply resigned.
“I was not consulted nor was I asked to accept such an office. I am an Irish republican.
“I have had no truck whatsoever with these antiquated and quite bizarre aspects of the British parliamentary system.”
He added: “While I respect the right of British parliamentarians to have their own protocols and systems, no matter how odd these may appear to the rest of the world in general and Irish people in particular, the prime minister should not make claims which are untrue and inaccurate.”
Downing Street has confirmed that it had apologised to the Sinn Fein president for David Cameron’s comments.
In a statement the Treasury said: “Gerry Adams has said consistently and publicly that he is resigning from Parliament.
“As set out in Erskine May, the only means by which a member can vacate a seat is by accepting a paid office of the Crown.
“Consistent with longstanding precedent, the chancellor has taken Mr Adams’ resignation as a request to be appointed the Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead and granted the office.”
A long line of MPs have applied to become steward and bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.
They include Lord Mandelson, the Rev Ian Paisley, Enoch Powell, Matthew Parris, Robert Kilroy-Silk, Leon Brittan, Bryan Gould and Piers Merchant.
Throughout the 1700s and well into the 1800s the Crown had many posts such as stewardships of royal manors which served parliament’s purpose. Gradually the numbers declined so that after 1865 only two remained in use – those of the Chiltern Hundreds in Buckinghamshire, and that of Northstead Manor.