Second Reading

Part of Equality (Titles) Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 12:28 pm on 25th October 2013.

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Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 12:28 pm, 25th October 2013

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has set in motion a change in the way that hereditary titles and various other matters are passed from the male route to the first born. Of course, only a few hereditary Peers are still Members of this House and any change will have little effect in this Chamber.

So what effect will this measure have? A Peer whose titles might go back many centuries might not have a son and, in order to find the closest male relative, it might be necessary to proceed to, let us say, a seventh cousin twice removed who is totally unknown to the immediate family. However, that Peer might have a daughter who could succeed and in this modern age this would make so much more sense.

Family heirlooms often have a sentimental value rather than a monetary one. They can be passed from one generation to another regardless of the gender of the recipient. Following the House of Lords reform and the reduction in the number of hereditary Peers who sit in this House, a family title is now often no more than an heirloom—however, one that the custodian has no choice in who to pass it on to. In addition, when there is a monetary value gained through the land, property and chattels, why should this not be passed to the next generation in the immediate bloodline?

My title dies with me, but I have a child, a daughter. Should she inherit my title? Most definitely. I am going to get personal. My daughter has risen to the top of her career in an age when we are encouraging more gender equality in the boardroom. Her experience has included working in government departments in countries where there are distinct segregated societies where women have only recently been allowed to have formal education, drive a car and have the right to vote. She is often asked whether she has faced any issues based on her gender during her international work. She has the skills and expertise and can rightly say that she has not. The only place where she faces equality issues based on her gender is here, in this House.

However, we now have female MPs and Ministers of the Crown and have had a female Prime Minister. The successor to the Crown can now be a female if she is the first born of the monarch, and it was announced only this week that a stumbling block has been removed for women thinking of applying to be part-time High Court judges. Things change and the succession to hereditary titles needs to catch up in the name of equality. I look forward to seeing this Bill being passed.