What this country needs: the conversion of life peerages into hereditary ones

House of Lords - Some rights reserved by UK Parliament

The House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill was published only yesterday and was scheduled for a second reading today.

It is one of a number of Bills introduced by backbench Conservative MPs listed for second reading which seem off the wall and it is a wonder that they were scheduled for second reading debate without having first been printed.

One would assume from its title that this Bill has the sole purpose of limiting the number of active peers. It does that and, no doubt because the Bill has been rushed into print at the last minute, the dates for it to take effect are all in the past.

It provides for a maximum number of 650 peers, and it also provides for compulsory retirement in order of seniority to reduce the number of active peers to that magic figure.

It also provides that a Life Peer who retires voluntarily can opt to have his peerage converted to a non-voting hereditary title. As the hereditary principle is no longer regarded as appropriate in the modern age, I see no reason why a large number of new hereditary peers should be now be appointed in this way. It is odd that this Bill has been published so late and contains this backward- looking provision, which is not signalled by its title.

The mysterious process by which time is allotted for debates in Parliament needs to be looked at to make sure that this kind of thing does not keep happening. Who decided to schedule this Bill for debate without reading it first?

Full text of bill here.


* Michael Hall is a Solicitor, and Liberal Democrat Conference Representative from Orpington.

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  • David Faggiani 26th Feb '16 - 5:04pm

    I’ve got two reactions! a) Yes, creating new hereditary peerages is utterly insane BUT 2) Yes! Some Tories are trying to constructively cap the the sprawl of the Lords!! How can we help them, and help this bill get more sane?

  • No. There should be zero Lords and a devolved English Parliament on the Scottish/Welsh/NI models.

  • “As the hereditary principle is no longer regarded as appropriate in the modern age,” When on earth was *that* decided?

    This is the creation of hereditary honours, not members of the legislature, (unless you think the words “without voting rights” are of no effect). I can think of no good reason to oppose such things. If we really do think that hereditary honours are not “appropriate” that surely means that all the existing ones should be abolished? And no, I’m quite positive this country never decided on that.

    Let’s focus on the principles here. If we want to keep the power of heredity limited then surely making a very clear distinction between hereditary titles and seats in the legislature is a good thing? Surely putting more power into the hands of recent governments rather than former ones (by removing old appointments faster) is a good tweak to an appointed chamber?

    It’s hardly the most well thought out plan. But it’s hardly worst than the last half a dozen attempts at lords reform. Seems a perfectly sensible bill to me.

  • nigel hunter 27th Feb '16 - 9:27pm

    I agree with the comments that it is purely a Tory ploy. The y believe that they are dominant and will do whatever they need to do to remain their.

  • Scott Walker 28th Feb '16 - 3:11pm

    Is the hereditary conversion a means of getting ‘big beasts’ back in to the Lords after compulsory retirement? Say, for example, that a Heseltine or Kinnock was forced to retire and converted their peerage. They would then be eligible for election to one of the 92 voting hereditary peers, upon the death of an existing one… and would be more likely to be elected than an unknown.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Feb '16 - 12:27am

    Absurd proposal, replace older and often brilliant people like Baroness Williams who has CHOSEN to retire, or Lord Avebury who has departed this world ,hopefully to be proved wrong about an afterlife, with Tory placemen and women !

    From our party side, could we have a less antagonistic attitude to what is a very constructive forum, most power in nearly every country is not only unelected , it is not transparent.Of course a predominantly elected second chamber would be more just , and welcome.Meanwhile, what , pointless boycotts like re the Police Commissioners ?!

    Neither the House of Lords , or the Monarchy , have power of a definite , let alone , significant sort. One is a revising chamber, the other a ceremonial and diplomatic role.Both do a very good job , far better , often, than the quangos, the bureacrats, the sharehlders, the bankers, the lobbyists,the …………..

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