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House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:50 am on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative 10:50 am, 13th March 2020

My Lords, with so many speakers I hesitated to speak at this Second Reading, but in the 2016-17 Session and the 2017-19 Session I was in a position to sit through much of the debate on the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. This Bill closely resembles it, but I thank him for the courteous way in which he worked to ensure that the debate on the Bill and the previous Bills, on such a passionate subject, was done in a spirit of co-operation, which I know he has extended to my successor as Chief Whip.

I think the House will wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, on his success in coming so close to the top of the ballot on three occasions. With such good fortune, he should be at Cheltenham, not here today. I expect he will say that the gods are shining on a righteous cause and his Bill addresses an important aspect of making this House fit for purpose. I am not inclined to disagree with that point, but his Bill addresses only one aspect of reforming this House. As someone who cares very much about this place, I do not want to see bits and pieces change. I believe that our role as a scrutinising House that can lend its experience to government is more important than ever, particularly as the Government now enjoy a substantial majority in another place.

Hereditary Peers are found in all corners of this House, as has been pointed out. It will not have escaped noble Lords’ notice that my successor as Government Chief Whip is a hereditary Peer. He joins my noble friend the Deputy Leader of the House, who will be replying to this debate, and the Deputy Chief Whip. Hereditary Peers have always played an important part on these Benches, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my noble friend Lord Bethell, who is very important in bringing news of the virus outbreak to the House, is a hereditary Peer, as is my noble friend Lord Younger. Wherever we look, we find hereditary Peers. As has been pointed out, the Cross Benches also make a great contribution to this House.

While it is difficult to justify the presence of hereditary Peers in this House, they continue to play an important part in its character. We may need all the building blocks we have, if we are to make this House constitutionally effective. It is not just the membership of hereditary Peers that needs to be considered in the changes we shall have to make.