Campaigners back move to scrap “absurd and archaic” hereditary peerages

Posted on the 23rd March 2018

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release.
  • Spokespeople are available for interview. For more information, contact or 07870212425.

A proposal to scrap hereditary peerages being debated today (Friday) has been backed by democracy campaigners.

There are currently 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords – almost exclusively men.

Labour peer Lord Grocott’s draft legislation would mean that when a hereditary peer dies, retires or is excluded, they would not be replaced [1].

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) believes this measure is ‘long overdue’ and that the archaic system of hereditary peers has no place in a modern democracy.

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director at ERS, said: 

“The House of Lords in its entirety is an affront to democracy – with the public currently having no say over who fills its famous red benches. But continued presence of hereditary peers is frankly beyond the pale.

“All but one of them are men who owe their peerage to the family into which they were born, rather than to a truly democratic vote. Time and time again voters are astonished that this absurd situation is allowed to continue.

“Indeed, it is telling that the last time this Bill was heard, it was scuppered by just two hereditary peers – despite overwhelming cross-party support. This is the power which these unelected aristocrats still wield on our democracy.

“The ability of a small pool of hereditary Lords to pick people to vote for life on our laws is among the most backwards and bizarre parts of our politics – and needs fixing once and for all.

“As peers they enjoy many privileges and have the capacity to affect all legislation, including that on Brexit. It can’t be right that they inherit their positions.”

Lord Grocott’s Bill would bring an end to hereditary peers by abolishing the system of by-elections when one leaves.

Currently by-elections take place within ‘party groups’ of registered hereditary peers, which has resulted in situations where the number of candidates has outnumbered the electorate. Recently, the number of ‘voters’ has been as low as three people. [2]

Mr Sullivan, added:

“The entire system is ludicrous. It is a farce which must be brought to an end, and we hope that peers from all parties will back this Bill.”

The House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill will be debated in the House of Lords today.


Notes to Editors

[2] This was the case in the 2016 by-election triggered by the death of Lord Avebury. There were seven candidates and an electorate of three: the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, the Earl of Glasgow and Lord Addington.

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