Today, I presented a Bill to the House of Commons to continue to press for hereditary peers to be abolished from the House of Lords. This would mark a small but significant reform of the House of Lords. If parliament adopt this Bill it could be used to navigate the next chapter of the Lords in its slow march towards a more democratic and accountable future.
My Bill continues the efforts of Lord Bruce Grocott who recently introduced a Private Members Bill to the House of Lords to bring an end to the by-elections of hereditary peers. This version of the Bill would have incrementally eroded away hereditary peers from the Upper Chamber as they would not be replaced once they departed the House.
Under current law, 92 hereditary peers sit within the House of Lords and once they depart the House they are replaced through a by-election process within their own political party. This has created scenes whereby someone is elected to sit in Parliament for life – debating and legislating on matters affecting us all – with a mandate of only 3 existing hereditary peers. This was the case with Lord Thurso. He had previously resigned his ability to sit within the House of Lords to become an MP. Once he lost his seat in 2015, Lord Thurso sought to sit within the Lords once more. As the group of Liberal Democrat Peers stands at only 3, plus the seat now inhabited by Lord Thurso, the by-election only needed 3 voters to be won over with a 75 word statement.
The Bill being introduced to the House of Commons by me goes one step further than Lord Grocott. It will be formed of two parts; the first is a replica of Lord Grocott’s Bill, but the second introduces a sunset clause. This will see hereditary peers expelled from the House of Lords after 31 December 2019.
I have previously introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on the very same issue.
Our Parliament should be a paragon of democracy, but at every turn you are confronted by the hereditary peers in the House of Lords. They have no reason for sitting in the Upper House other than accident of birth. It is time for them to depart and allow our Parliament to redress the balance and become more democratic in the process.
We have hereditary peers currently sat within the Upper Chamber who gained that position following the support of only 3 electors. That would cause uproar within a parish council election so why should the same not apply to the second chamber in Parliament. To add insult to injury hereditary peers only have to write a 75 word statement on why they should have the power to create and amendment all our laws.
The Government stalled on the reform that Labour had introduced. It is now time for the Government to support my Bill and ensure that constitutional reform is continued. Making our Parliament more representative and less undermined by the hereditary principle.