Borough Freedom (Family Succession) Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:26 pm on 24 April 2002.

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Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 9:26, 24 April 2002

My Lords, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord on bringing this Bill before us. It made me begin thinking about certain memorable occasions in the past when this House discussed the hereditary principle. I declare almost an interest, being one of the surviving hereditary Peers—one of the "preserved in aspic" brigade, as it were. I have an older sister and the question has been raised, "Why should you be there and I am not?" There are those wonderful acrimonious moments that one can only have in families.

As regards the Bill itself, I agree that there is no reason for resisting it. Presumably, it refers to the Norman idea of preserving estates and things in one place, which we have officially got rid of. The idea that daughters should not be allowed to inherit has been done away with over time. And the hereditary principle has been finally dealt with in this Chamber.

Whether freemen of the borough still have a place in modern society is not addressed in the Bill. The principle of whether such an anomaly should be allowed to continue is still there and if it is primarily honorific we should be able to say yes to that. I cannot see any reason why the principle should not be endorsed, but whether Parliament should spend more time on it than a short debate of this kind is open to discussion. I shall not try to do any more of the Government's job than that. It is an interesting example of how history tends to continue unless one gets rid of it, and that is always very true in legislation.