Hereditary peers: By-elections briefing July 2018

Posted on the 4th July 2018

Two hereditary peerage by-elections are currently underway in the House of Lords.

These follow the retirement of the 4th Earl Baldwin of Bewdley (9 May), grandson of Stanley Baldwin, and the retirement of Lord Glentoran (1 June), a Conservative hereditary peer.

As a Crossbench Peer, Earl Baldwin’s replacement will be selected by hereditary peers of the Crossbench group – 31 in total – with the election on the 4th July. Lord Glentoran’s replacement will be selected by 47 eligible voters on the 18th July.

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 Register of Hereditary Peers at any time and the list is published annually. Out of 211 on the list, there is only one woman.

There are 11 candidates to 47 voters for the Conservative ‘election’, and 19 candidates to 31 voters in the Crossbench vote. On the basis of the previous turnout, around 26 Peers and 39 Peers respectively will decide which aristocrat remains in Parliament to vote on our laws, for the rest of their lives.

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 retirement, resignation or exclusion since the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 and House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015) are filled by by-election.

By-elections take place within party groups (except for 15 hereditary peers, 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 49 Conservative hereditary peers, 4 Labour, 4 Liberal Democrat and 31 Crossbench hereditary peers (1 UKIP, 1 non-affiliated). See a full breakdown of the composition of the Lords.

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 register of future candidates (June 2017). No female hereditary peer has been admitted to the House of Lords by 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 Oxford.

Hereditary by-elections – the figures

Elections to the House of Lords use the Alternative Vote. The first hereditary by-election was held in 2003 following the death of Viscount Oxford. According to ERS analysis:

  • Hereditary by-elections have an average of just 29 voters (This is for ‘normal’ by-elections – ones which do not involve the whole house. The figure is 100 when including the whole-house elections, which are for filling 15 official hereditary roles in the Lords, such as Deputy Speaker). This compares to an average of 29,116 votes cast over the last 32 Commons by-elections – a larger democratic mandate by a factor of 1,000.
  • The average electorate for normal hereditary by-elections is just 32 (188 including whole-house elections).
  • 3,190 votes have been cast in total for the 32 peers elected in hereditary peer by-elections since 2003. By contrast, 931,725 votes have been cast in the last 32 House of Commons by-elections.
  • At its highest, the electorate has been 803, at its lowest just
  • Four by-elections have had more candidates than electors, including Lib Dem by-elections and the only by-election within the Labour group of hereditary peers – for which there were 11 candidates and only 3 voters (30th October 2003).
  • The average turnout for by-elections is 83%. Three by-elections have had 100% turnout (all of which have had an electorate of four or fewer).

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 45 Lord Borwick
Lord Moran Died Crossbench 09/02/2014 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 Saftoun of Abernethy Retired Crossbench 03/02/2015 18 28 26 93 Earl of Kinnoul
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 Trevethein and 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 21/03/2017 27 803 346 43 Lord Colgrain
Lord Walpole Retired Crossbench 20/07/2017 10 31 27 87 Lord Vaux of Harrowden

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