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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 11:02 am on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour 11:02 am, 13th March 2020

My Lords, we have a paradox here. I have been here since before the Lords reform Act was passed, so I was present at the creation of this anomaly. We have hereditary Peers arguing for democracy—for elected Peers—and we, the life Peers, are defending appointed Peers. That is an anomalous situation, so perhaps one of the hereditary Peers might table an amendment to my noble friend’s Bill to propose that, instead of what he proposes, we should remove all appointed life Peers. We would then have only 92 popularly elected Peers, which would solve the problem of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, at one stroke; instead of having 800 Peers, we will have only 92. That is perhaps an amendment I would vote for.

However, having been here at that time, I always thought that we were removing 750 hereditary Peers and keeping 90, but that the electorate in future replacement would remain exactly those 750 individuals who were alive then. As that electorate dwindles, nobody should be qualified to run for a vacancy. Those 750 were originally the electorate; if they have passed away, the election passes away. No child of an original hereditary Peer should be qualified to either vote or run in these by-elections. That is the original conservative spirit of this arrangement.

I hope that, among the 50 or 60 amendments that will be proposed by the side opposite, the two I propose will be adopted—first, that all appointed Peers are to be abolished or removed; and, secondly, that by-elections should be only from the survivors of the original 750 and nobody else.