Bill to scrap ‘absurd’ hereditary peer by-elections returns to the Lords

A fresh bid to scrap the ‘absurd’ practice of hereditary peer by-elections will return to the Lords today.

Lord Grocott’s Bill will have its Second Reading in the Lords on Friday, to end the process where aristocrats are given seats for life through a vote of other hereditary peers.

There are 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords, meaning that in 2021, around 11% of the second chamber’s lawmakers.

This year alone has seen seven new aristocrats have been elected to the Lords – the most recent being Lord Hacking who took his seat earlier this month. In July the Viscount Stansgate, son of former Labour MP Tony Benn who famously renounced his peerage, joined the Lords in an uncontested election.

The ERS are calling for the government to back Lord Grocott’s Bill as a stepping-stone to real reform of the unelected second chamber.

Lord Grocott said: “These by-elections are beyond satire. In the 21st Century a system where we have by-elections for just 92 places in the House of Lords in where only hereditary peers can stand and only peers can vote cannot be taken seriously.

“There have been seven new peers ‘elected’ this year alone – more than any other year since they were introduced in 1999. I’d love to think that with support, this bill could mean that they will be the last.”
“There are now no women hereditary peers in the Lords. These by-elections were ludicrous from the start but the fact that for every woman who has left the chamber a man has been ‘elected’ in her place shows they are only becoming more ridiculous.”

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society said: “This bill should be uncontroversial – a common sense reform that would be a small step forward in modernising this our second chamber. Failing to back this modest change would be a spectacular own goal for both ministers and the 800-odd Lords.

“It’s time we got serious about modernising our politics. This bill is a chance for the government to get to grips with this out-of-touch chamber and begin on the path of real reform – scrapping this private members’ club and replacing it with a fairly-elected senate of the whole UK is the only way forward.”