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In the House of Commons, or in the Australian House of Representatives or the New Zealand Parliament, a Member can be 'named' (for committing some unparliamentary act e.g. calling a minister a liar), and if a vote is carried against them they are said to be suspended from the service of the House. It effectively means (in Britain at least) they cannot sit in the Chamber for 5 consecutive days and lose a corresponding amount of salary.

But to be suspended from the service of the House does not seem correct English. Does it mean the Member's service of the House? Or does it mean the House's service of the Member? If the former it would seem to me that of should be replaced with to, and the definite article removed - so that it becomes suspended from service to the House. If it is the latter it doesn't seem to make sense. How does the House serve the member?

  • I think there is something idiomatic about it, like : service of the House of God. books.google.com/ngrams/… - biblehub.com/sermons/auth/clarkson/… – user66974 Nov 10 '15 at 11:43
  • I'm guessing,the latter is correct. How does the house serve the member? I'd imagine that the most important services are providing the ability to debate and vote on Bills in the house. – KillingTime Nov 10 '15 at 11:43
  • Does it have "suspension from the service of the Lords"? I don't think they would be suspended, but if there is, it sounds more weird than "service of the House". – user140086 Nov 10 '15 at 11:56
  • I think the wording is the same: suspended from the service of the House (of Lords). – WS2 Nov 10 '15 at 12:11
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    I don't understand why this question deserves a downvote. – user140086 Nov 10 '15 at 12:13
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I asked the people who know. Here is the email I received.

You'll notice the clarifying phrase, "They do this primarily by service to the House"


HOC Enquiries (HCEnquiries@parliament.uk) 10/11/2015

To: ###############

HCEnquiries@parliament.uk

Dear xxxxx

Thank you for your email regarding the phrase ‘Service of the House’.

An MP is elected to serve their constituents (as their representative and advocate). They are also obliged to serve the Monarch and the country (these are sworn by oath or affirmation). They do this primarily by service to the House and its work: in scrutinising legislation, helping to decide important issues and holding the government to account.

Suspension from service of the House prevents an MP from carrying out their duty or making any contribution to the work of the House. MPs can continue with their work outside the House, which may include constituent casework, although they would be restricted in their options for raising constituent cases in the House until after the period of suspension.

You may be interested to read the full debate on the privilege motion relating to the suspension of the Members listed in the EDM you cite below:

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1995/apr/20/privileges

I hope this answers your question.

Sincerely,

####

House of Commons Enquiry Service House of Commons London SW1A 0AA

I hope that answer your question! :-)


This is where I started http://www.parliament.uk/

  • Well done. I feel that your enterprise merits a tick. But I still have a slight problem with why we say service of the House rather than service to the House. I suppose one would say he's in the service of the Marquis of Sodhampton, so if he lost his job he would be dismissed from the service of the M of S.So one is comparing the service of, with service to. Haven't completely got my mind around it yet. – WS2 Nov 11 '15 at 16:29
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    This seems to cover it, "...no man can impute this difference to him, though he has been employed in the service of the House about it..." books.google.co.uk/… – chasly from UK Nov 11 '15 at 20:29
  • Yes. So its an interesting use of service isn't it? I am of service to my employer. But I am also in the service of my employer. – WS2 Nov 11 '15 at 21:13
  • @WS2: The second is beyond question. But the first (not, I am sure, in your case, but in the case of MPs, who are supposed to be of service both to the House and to their constituents) is not. – Tim Lymington Dec 26 '15 at 23:54
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Service: 7. employment in any duties or work for a person, organization, government, etc. - dictionary.com

Service of the House means roughly working for the government. So being suspended from the service of the House means the Member isn't allowed to serve the House for the period of suspension. You're right to say that this of is interpreted as the Member doing the serving, not the Member being served. This may not be exactly the same as your suggestion of service to the House, though.

The "[x] of [y]" construct is used in several ways. There are three that could be considered here, the first two of which you have identified.

  1. The Member serves the House;

  2. the House serves the Member; or

  3. the Member serves another party (the public) by working on House matters.

The first is awkward because the House did not 'employ' the Member - the public did. The second is not suitable because the intent is suspension from work, not simply the suspension of dining or other privileges. I think the third option is at play here.

This also relates to your comment about "service of" vs "service to". Take an analogous phrase: the mechanic's service of my car. Here, the mechanic serves me, not my car, and the phrase is taken to mean that he serves me by working on matters concerning my car. Note that this is not the same as the mechanic's service to my car, where the mechanic serves the car itself. Likewise, it wouldn't be appropriate to simply replace service of the House with service to the House, even though the original phrasing may sound a little archaic.

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