EXCL Anger as Lords set to sabotage bill that would end hereditary peerage system

Posted On: 
15th March 2019

Brazen peers sparked fury today as they prepared to sabotage a move that would stop seats in the House of Lords from being passed down through families.

The House of Lords boasts 92 hereditary peers
PA Images

Two peers tabled more than 60 wrecking amendments to a bill that would kill off the hereditary peerage system for good.

Lord Grocott, who tabled the bill, said his colleagues were “bringing the House into disrepute by trying to preserve an indefensible system”.

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Under current rules 92 hereditary peers hold seats in the Upper Chamber. When they die or retire a vote of other hereditary peers is held so another title-holder can take their place.

The bill by Lord Grocott, set to be debated today, would end those hereditary by-elections, meaning the number of peers allowed to take their seats by birth would dwindle to nothing over time.

But other Lords have tabled dozens of amendments to thwart his bid - including 49 tabled by Lord Trefgarne and 16 tabled by the Earl of Caithness.

Lord Grocott fumed: “These peers should stop bringing the House into disrepute by trying to preserve an indefensible system of ludicrous by-elections, and by abusing procedure to thwart the wishes of the House.”

He said the two peers had “a vested interest” and were “setting about to wreck” the bill.

And he added: “They just want to block it in this adolescent way: it’s an abuse of the House.”

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “It is simply outrageous that a couple of hereditary peers can block the will of the public and Parliament as a whole.

“Lord Trefgarne and the Earl of Caithness should withdraw their wrecking amendments and allow this bill to be put to a vote.”

Lord Trefgarne was granted a hereditary title in 1962 that was first created in 1947, while the Earl of Caithness title was first created in 1455. 

Lord Grocott has tried to pass the same bill in previous years, but fellow peers always thwart his bid by tabling dozens of wrecking amendments and talking it out.

One amendment tabled for tomorrow says hereditary peers all around the world would have to back scrapping the by-elections for the change to come into force.

The offices of Lord Trefgarne and the Earl of Caithness failed to respond to PoliticsHome before publication.