Hereditary peers: By-elections briefing January 2019

Posted on the 22nd January 2019

The result of the most recent hereditary peer by-election will be announced on Wednesday 23 January.

This by-election was called following the death of Lord Skelmersdale on 31 October 2018. As one of the 15 hereditary peers elected by the whole house in 1999, his replacement will be elected by the whole house.

Eligible candidates are drawn from the Register of Hereditary Peers held by the Clerk of Parliaments. This list contains any hereditary peer who has expressed an interest in standing in a by-election.

Peers can join or leave the list at any time and the list is published annually. Out of 198 on the list, there is only one woman.

There were 16 candidates in this by-election and 785 peers were eligible to vote. To date, turnout at the seven by-elections where the whole house was eligible to vote has only averaged around 48%.

Background

The 1999 House of Lords Act removed all but 90 of the hereditary peers (plus holders of the offices of Earl Marshall and Lord Great Chamberlain) – 92 in total. 667 hereditary peers lost their right to sit in the Lords in these reforms.

Subsequently, vacancies that result from death or – since the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 and House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015 – retirement, resignation or exclusion are filled through a by-election.

By-elections take place within party groups – except for 15 hereditary peers, such as Lord Skelmersdale, originally elected to serve as office holders, whose successors are elected by the whole house. These party groups reflected the proportion of party affiliation at the time of the 1999 reforms. There are 47 Conservative hereditary peers, four Labour, four Liberal Democrat and 31 Crossbench hereditary peers (one UKIP, one non-affiliated). See full breakdown here.

Where are the women?

There is only one female hereditary peer currently sitting in the House of Lords (the Countess of Mar).

Three of the original five female hereditary peers that remained following the 1999 reforms have since died and one retired in 2014. All four were replaced by male peers and there is only one female hereditary peer listed on the most recent register of eligible candidates of June 2017. No female hereditary peer has been admitted to the House of Lords through a by-election.

Previous hereditary by-elections

Elections to the House of Lords use the Alternative Vote. The first hereditary by-election was held in 2003 following the death of Viscount Oxfuird.

Hereditary by-elections: the figures

The 35 hereditary by-elections to date have had an average turnout of just 28 voters, excluding elections by the whole house (the average is 94 including whole house elections).
This compares to an average of 28,823 votes cast over the last 35 Commons by-elections – a larger democratic mandate by a factor of 1,000.

Excluding whole house elections, the average electorate for ‘normal’ by-elections is just 32 (this is 175 if we include whole house elections).

3,288 votes have been cast in total for the 35 peers elected in hereditary by-elections since 2003.
By contrast, over a million – 1,008,808 – votes have been cast in the last 35 House of Commons by-elections.

At its highest, the electorate has been 803, at its lowest just three.

Four by-elections have had more candidates than electors. This includes the only by-election within the Labour group of hereditary peers for which there were 11 candidates and only three voters (30th October 2003).

The average turnout for by-elections is 84%. Three by-elections have had 100% turnout, all of which have had an electorate of four or fewer.

Hereditary Peer By-Elections since 2013

Previous
Peer

Reason

Electorate

Date of Results

No. of Candidates

Electorate

Turnout

Turnout %

Winning Candidate

Earl Ferrers

Died

Conservative

06/02/2013

27

48

46

96%

Viscount Ridley

Lord Reay

Died

Whole House

17/07/2013

23

753

334

44%

Lord Borwick

Lord Moran

Died

Crossbench

09/04/2014

13

29

27

93%

Lord Cromwell

Lord Methuen

Died

Whole House

22/10/2014

15

776

283

36%

Earl of Oxford and Asquith

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo

Died

Crossbench

10/12/2014

18

27

25

93%

Lord Russell of Liverpool

Lord Cobbold

Retired

Crossbench

10/12/2014

18

27

25

93%

Duke of Somerset

Lord Chorley

Retired

Crossbench

03/02/2015

18

28

26

93%

Lord Thurlow

Lord Saltoun of Abernethy

Retired

Crossbench

03/02/2015

18

28

26

93%

Earl of Kinnoull

Viscount Tenby

Retired

Crossbench

07/07/2015

19

28

25

89%

Lord Mountevans

Lord Luke

Retired

Conservative

16/09/2015

16

48

41

85%

Duke of Wellington

Viscount Mountgomery of Alamein

Retired

Crossbench

20/10/2015

17

29

26

90%

Lord Oaksey

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

Died

Conservative

24/11/2015

14

48

44

92%

Lord Fairfax of Cameron

Lord Avebury

Died

Lib Dem

19/04/2016

7

3

3

100%

Viscount Thurso

Lord Bridges

Non-Attendance

Crossbench

12/07/2016

17

31

27

87%

Earl of Cork and Orrery

Lord Lyell

Died

Whole House

27/03/2017

27

803

346

43%

Lord Colgrain

Lord Walpole

Retired

Crossbench

19/07/2017

10

31

27

87%

Lord Vaux of Harrowden

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

Retired

Crossbench

04/07/2018

19

31

26

84%

Earl of Devon

Lord Glentoran

Retired

Conservative

18/07/2018

11

47

43

91%

Lord Bethell

Lord Northbourne

Retired

Crossbench

28/11/2018

11

31

29

94%

Lord Carrington

Read more posts...

A quick guide to Citizens’ Assemblies

Download as a pdf (124.1KB pdf) Citizens’ assemblies are a form of deliberative democracy: processes through which citizens can engage in open, respectful and informed discussion and debate with their peers on a given issue....

Posted 12 Mar 2019