Today, I pushed for my hereditary peers abolition Bill to be supported and introduced by the Government.
This week an election took place to one of the most exclusive group of legislators in the world. The House of Lords held a by-election to fill one of the 92 hereditary peer seats in the Lords. This follows the sad death of Lord Lyell, who was one of 15 hereditary peers elected by the whole House in 1999. The winner of the by-election will be able to make our laws, question ministers and have a platform on which to make their views heard.
The hereditary peers were a compromise by the last Labour Government to ensure that urgent reform was achieved. But this was only a stepping stone and the remaining 92 hereditary peers were never supposed to be a long-term feature of the new Lords.
I believe now is the time to remove the hereditary principle from our democracy once and for all. There are a large number of different opinions on how the Lords should be reformed, but there is a consensus that the hereditary peers should be scrapped once and for all.
Here are a few examples of hereditary peers that currently sit within the House of Lords:
• Conservative peer, Earl Attlee: Prime example of how the hereditary principle is bizarre. Earl Attlee obtained his right to sit in the Lords because his grandfather, Clement Attlee, Labour Prime Minister, was made an Earl. Clement Attlee would never have voted the way his grandson has. Yet the hereditary principle gives Earl Attlee that right.
• Lord Fairfax of Cameron – a Conservative peer – is entitled to sit within the Lords because his ancestor, Thomas Fairfax was given a seat in the Lords because he was the first Englishman to travel to Scotland and swear allegiance to the new King James I.
The time has come to abolish the hereditary principle once and for all in our democracy. It was a compromise that was only intended to last a few years. It is now 18 years after the House of Lords Reform Act 1999 and it is time for the Government to support my short Bill to get rid of these hereditary peers.
My Bill is built upon the proposals by Lord Grocott, showing that this is not a Commons versus Lords issue, but one that we have consensus. I want to end the ridiculous situation of people have the power over our laws based on the ability for someone’s ancestor to catch a stagecoach to Scotland to pledge allegiance to the new Kind.
If the Government do not support my Bill I will continue to press this issue. Next week I have a Westminster Hall debate on this very matter and will be holding the minister to account on why he fails to understand that enough is enough of the hereditary principle.