Paul Scriven writes … From a council estate to the House of Lords

House of LordsPaul Scriven was made a peer just a month ago, and here he reflects on the path he has taken through life.

As the son of a dustbin man from a council estate in Huddersfield it was never in my wildest imagine that I would ever be in the House of Lords. Now that I have it is with a sense of both pride but just as important with a clear duty not to forget my journey in life and to fight for a more Liberal and fairer UK.

I know very well that the Liberal Democrats core aim to make sure all have opportunity to reach their full potential is a touch stone that makes us different from other parties. I wish to use my new role to fight to open opportunities and make sure that ladders for people to climb to reach their full potential are firmly planted for more people. I will make sure I shout up to ensure this happens. Also to fight with all my northern spirit those who seek to deny opportunities.

Born and bred in the North I will also make sure that Westminster doesn’t have just London centric approach. I want to celebrate and support those in the North who build, innovate, export, manufacture and educate. Giving a more balanced approach to the UK economy and social and regional policy.

My time in local government and the privilege of been Leader of Sheffield City Council , will ensure I keep my feet firmly rooted in a community approach to solutions to issues facing us and not a top down Westminster knows best route. I want to shout up for the role local councils can play in making the UK stronger and fairer. But, it has to be based round a new way of providing local public services and not just a call for more money! That is why devolution and more local powers will be my guiding principle.

Internationalism is something that I have always seen as an important way of people innovating and solving issues that go beyond national borders. I will use my new role coupled with my business expertise in the Far East for closer ties with Far East counties. Based yes, on economic opportunities, but also been a critical friend on social and human right issues when needed.

Finally coming back to my life journey from that estate in Huddersfield I have always been against privilege. For that reason I will do all in my power to get me and all other Peers abolished as soon as possible. We need a fully elected second elected chamber. That is the only Liberal and fair way to have a modern and democratic Parliament.

* Paul Scriven is a member of the House of Lords. He is a former Liberal Democrat Councillor and Leader of Sheffield City Council.

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  • Question how many Scottish peers sit in the Lords, presumably they will have to give up if there is Independence. Could change the balance of voting there as well as the Commons. .

  • Congratulations on your appointment, and well said in your closing paragraph.

  • Paul, I too welcome your final paragraph –
    ” Finally coming back to my life journey from that estate in Huddersfield I have always been against privilege. For that reason I will do all in my power to get me and all other Peers abolished as soon as possible. We need a fully elected second elected chamber. That is the only Liberal and fair way to have a modern and democratic Parliament.”

    Please stick with this and start as you mean to go on. You could mark a real break from those who have said similar words in the past but failed to deliver in practice. What is your plan of action? How about a cross-party campaign within the Lords itself taking weekly initiatives to keep the subject in te eyes of the media over the next 200 days?

    There must be a significant number of Lords who share your views. As a local council campaigner you will know the value of a clear plan to overcome the status quo.

  • Paul Scriven 9th Sep '14 - 6:43pm

    I am clear that I will fight for a more just and Liberal Britain. Also I will fight to get a 2nd elected chamber. You must judge me on my actions on this.

  • Tony Greaves 9th Sep '14 - 11:18pm

    Look forward to seeing you there, Paul!

    As for getting rid of the absurdity of the appointed (and part hereditary) House, I said the same thing 15 years ago and I’m still there. So I wish you the best of luck though you may need to hunker down for the long haul…


  • Tony Greaves 9th Sep '14 - 11:26pm

    On the technical issue of “Scottish peers” most peers who are Scots, or live in Scotland, are UK peers (including all the life peers). Therefore their status and position will not change. Some may decide to retire (now possible thanks to the Steel Bill) though most are likely to continue as they are.

    There are a few hereditary Scottish peers still in the House. Their peerages may all go back to before the Act of Union, I’m not sure. No doubt any legislation following a YES vote would have to decide what to do about them. On the Irish precedent they would, I think, be allowed to remain.

    No doubt there are experts around who can confirm all this or put me right!


  • Tony Greaves 9th Sep '14 - 11:52pm

    And finally, for anyone who wonders how this might affect the LD group in the Lords, now at an all-time record high level of (I think) 105 members, here is some typically weird HoL detail…

    The handful of LD hereditaries who survived the mass cull in 1999 included one member of the Scottish Peerage (Viscount Falkland) whose peerage dated back to James I in the 17th century. When I first got there he was our Deputy Whip but he has subsequently defected to the Cross-benches on the grounds that he objected to the amount of whipping we now have.

    Meanwhile there was a hereditary peers by-election for a Liberal Democrat place when the great Conrad Russell (Earl Russell) died. Voting was confined to the remaining four LD hereditaries and it was won by Patrick Glasgow (the Earl of Glasgow) who got 4 votes in the AV election, with all the other candidates getting 0. This is a Scottish peerage which dates back to just before the Act of Union.

    We have one other member of the Scottish Peerage in our group, Jamie Erskine, the Earl of Mar and Kellie which is a complicated double peerage that goes back to the Middle Ages. But he was part of the 1999 cull and came back as a Life Peer, Baron Erskine of Alloa Tower, so he sits in the House as a UK peer. However, the Lords being the weird place it is, it acknowledges his higher title and refers to him as the Earl of Mar and Kellie.

    By the way there is a by-election due for another LD hereditary place, following the death of Lord Methuen. This is even weirder. Voting for this particular place (by AV) is by the whole House – all members have a vote, and any elegible person can stand. But by convention and interparty agreement, the winner should be a Liberal Democrat. Don’t ask…

    Welcome to the Lords, Paul!

  • I’m pretty sure that the rules for the Lords say you just have to be a resident taxpayer in the United Kingdom to be eligible to actually take up your seat. Some Lords would probably fail to meet that requirement in the event of independence and would not take up their seats despite remaining on the books. They’d likely use the Steel retirement thing, as suggested above. But for the remainder, Scottish peers who decide to pay tax in the Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland, I’m sure we’d be stuck with them for life, as with any other peer. The hereditary peerages, well, since they’d be in the peerage of a foreign realm, the heirs presumably wouldn’t be eligible to be part of the grand raffle that divides up the limited number of hereditary seats between the aristocracy. But as for the incumbents, well, it is a job for life, so…

  • richard boyd 10th Sep '14 - 7:25pm

    How lrefreshing to read of an active, and successful, councillor from outside the Westminster
    Goldfish Bowl, joining the old war horses from the ALDC and the real world. Do what we all need.
    Get Media coverage and get the local media to report on what the real party members do!

    Best wishes, and congratulations from another old war-horse.

    Richard Boyd, OBE DL
    (Former Leader LD County Group Essex CC – Joint LD/Lab Administration)

  • We should all give thanks to Tony Greaves for casting some light on the weird absurdities of the House of Lords.

    Maybe he and Paul Scrivens, as part of a campaign for reform, should call for an end to the ludicrous “elections” by the remaining hereditary peers? A simple change to the law that says when hereditary peers die they are not replaced should do it. If all 105 Liberal Democrat MPs voted for this they may well pick up support from Cross benches and Labour.

    How about it Paul and Tony? As a first step it is simple and achievable. Why not give it a go?

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