We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Undemocratic Westminster practices

April 6, 2018 12:51 PM
By Bryan Lewis

Chief among the weird practices at Westminster is the continued presence of 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords.

Their role is not just ceremonial. They are entitled to amend draft legislation and challenge the government of the day. Astonishingly they are the only Lords to be elected! All the others are appointed.

A vacancy occurs if a hereditary peer dies and to be eligible to stand you have to be a hereditary peer not currently in the Lords. To House of Lordsvote in the 'election' you have to be a hereditary peer from the relevant political party, already in the House.

Following the death of Lord Avebury in 2016 there was an 'election' with seven candidates but only three electors! What an embarrassing stain on our democracy. But thankfully, one member of the house is trying to change that.

Lord Grocott has brought forward draft legislation which would scrap hereditary peerage 'by-elections' once and for all. He proposes to achieve this by ensuring that when a hereditary peer dies, retires or is excluded, they are not replaced.

Lord Grocott's Bill reached the committee stage and was debated in the House of Lords on March 23rd. But then two hereditary peers put down about 60 amendments causing time to run out. It means further time will need to be made for the bill to progress. It is not certain that this will happen.

It's time to end not just the farce of hereditary peerage by-elections but the anachronism of an unelected second chamber which must be brought into the 21st century.