Tomorrow, Labour MPs from parliament’s Tribune group – led by Delyn MP David Hanson – will table a new Bill to remove hereditary peers from the House of Lords. Despite Labour’s successful attempt in 1999 to remove most of the hereditary peers, 92 peers still sit in the House of Lords for no other reason than accident of birth. Their power allows them to create our laws a visible relic of past times.
Parliament should not be the last bastion of privilege in the UK, we should be at the forefront of inclusivity.
This ridiculous situation sees current parliamentarians such as Lord Fairfax of Cameron in the Lords. The Tory peer is entitled to sit within the Lords because his ancestor, Thomas Fairfax, was given a seat in the Lords. This seat was given as a gift by the then king as he was the first Englishman to travel to Scotland and swear allegiance to the new King James I. Other Lords include Earl Attlee, the Tory grandson of Labour’s reforming PM, and Lord Thurso who was elected by 3 hereditary peers to sit in the Lords; it is nonsense.
This Bill has the aim of continuing to push forward with Labour’s reform of the House of Lords, something that has stalled under the Tories. The Bill has two parts, the first would end the by-election process of hereditary peers. Currently, when a hereditary peer departs the House they are replaced through a by-election of hereditary peers. This would see a natural decrease in the number of hereditary peers. But the second part of the Bill introduces a cut-off date for hereditary peers remaining as legislators. If my Bill is enacted, from the 31 December 2019 hereditary peers would no longer be eligible to sit in the Upper Chamber and decide our laws.
This reform is much needed, especially when faith in our democracy is being tested. It would be a clear sign that Labour believes in the voice of the people in deciding our laws and not hereditary peers.