Hereditary Peers’ By-elections - Motion on Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:02 pm on 7th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 2:02 pm, 7th September 2020

I support this Motion for the reasons given by the Senior Deputy Speaker, and because at the moment no elections to any public office are being held. Elections were postponed in May and no local council by-elections are being held. If the only election at this point was the hereditary peers by-election in the House of the Lords, it would make us look even more foolish—if that were possible—than we already do.

I very much hope that this is a stopgap measure. The strong balance of opinion in the House is that this system should be done away with, and we need to make progress. We are in a difficult position, in that Private Member’s Bill debates are not taking place. I think it is the Procedure Committee that needs to take an in-principle view on this—given the ways of your Lordships’ House, and having been here only 20 years, I am not quite sure about that. Now that we are more back to normal, we need to get more back to normal in dealing with Private Members’ Bills. Then, we could deal with the Grocott Bill, because at the moment it is in limbo, and we need to move on it.

Until recently it was possible to argue that abolishing by-elections for hereditary Peers altogether should not go ahead because it was being beastly to the Conservative Party, which would lose disproportionately. However, the profligacy of the Prime Minister in his recent appointments list—however unwelcome in so many ways—means that the Conservatives can no longer feel unfairly done by. I hope, therefore, that the Government and all their Back-Benchers will review their position and support permanent abolition of by-elections for hereditary Peers.