Second Reading

Part of Equality (Titles) Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 12:32 pm on 25th October 2013.

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Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 12:32 pm, 25th October 2013

My Lords, any hereditary Peer who speaks on this Bill probably has to declare a series of interests. My interest is that my only child is a daughter. I have checked under all the beds and cannot find anybody else in the house; and she is definitely a daughter.

Would I like my daughter to inherit my title? Yes, I would. Do I think my younger brother, or either of his two sons would do a particularly bad job if, by some miracle, the hereditary peerage process is still going by the time it comes round to them? I touch wood in saying that and will ensure that I cross the road carefully when I leave the Chamber. Would they be any good at the job? Who knows? My two nephews are still far too young to even consider this as a realistic prospect as you cannot sit in this Chamber before attaining the age of 21. But, would my daughter be any worse? I do not think so. Would my older sister have performed worse than me, had she sat in this Chamber? She would have done things differently, but would she have been worse than me? I doubt it. However, we are talking about history here. I am a direct descendant of the first Lord Addington through the younger sons’ line. Had this Bill become an Act in an earlier era and been implemented, I would be very surprised if there had not been a few females succeeding to the title. The fact that it has always been done and chance has always worked in that way is not a good reason for carrying on with the present system. The fact that things can change and there is a pool of talent out there that could add to this place is something we should embrace.

If hereditary Peers’ automatic right to sit in this Chamber is cut within the next few years—we have been waiting a decade and a half and there does not seem to be any great hurry to reduce it—it would be merely a courtesy that should be carried on in the fairest way to reflect society. It is a bit of history that does not hurt very much. We should embrace the fact that history is living and changing.

I have a good memory for previous arguments on this issue that I have listened to, and my noble friend has probably found a way forward that will allow us to take that important step. It may not be the end of the argument but it is a step forward. In embracing the idea I suggest that if we pass this measure the world will carry on turning. There will probably be a few family squabbles but there always will be, some of which are quite entertaining, provided that you are out of punching and throwing range at the time. We should take on this part of our history, make it slightly more up to date and let it carry on. While we still have an entrance into this House, it is absurd not to do this, given that we have the opportunity. This measure will not hurt anyone and I totally support it.