Lords examines House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill

Image of the Lords chamber
10 September 2018

The House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill continued its committee stage, the first chance for line by line scrutiny, in the Lords on Friday 7 September.

This is a private member's bill. A private member's bill is a type of public bill (that affects the public). Private members' bills must go through the same set of procedures as other public bills.

This bill would amend the House of Lords Act 1999 to abolish the system of by-elections for hereditary peers.

Members discussed appointment of hereditary peers from Northern Ireland and Scotland, the age of members being elected and the political balance of the House.

Lord Trefgarne (Conservative)  proposed a motion regretting that the bill has not been brought forward by the government, and proposes piecemeal, rather than wholesale, reform. This was not agreed to.

There were also three divisions (votes) on proposed changes (amendments) to the bill.

Members discussed a clause to provide a method for ensuring the age of excepted hereditary peers appointed to the House was lower than the average age of the membership overall.

23 members were in favour of the amendment, with 117 against, so the change was not made.

The next vote was on a change which would ensure future vacancies would provide for a fair representation of hereditary peers representing Northern Ireland and Scotland, reflecting the proportion of MP's from Northern Ireland and Scotland in the House of Commons.

19 members were in favour of the amendment with 107 against, so this change was not made.

The final vote was on a clause that would allow the Prime Minister, within a month of a vacancy arising, to confer a life peerage on a person who has the same party affiliation as that of the deceased elected peer.

21 members were in favour with 73 against, so this change was not made.

Day three of Committee Stage has yet to be scheduled.

Lords committee stage day one:  Friday 23 March

Members discussed subjects including the consequence of a wholly appointed second chamber, the right of a political party not to fill a hereditary peer vacancy and the role of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Vote on a motion to regret

Lord Trefgarne (Conservative) proposed a motion to regret that the bill is proceeding even though the recommendations in the report of the Lords Speaker's committee on the size of the House have not yet been implemented.

Members of the Lords voted on the regret motion, with 2 in favour and 129 against, so the motion was not agreed to.

Vote on a change to the bill

Following the regret motion, there was a further vote (division) on a proposed change (amendment) to bill.

Members considered a change that would retain the system of by-elections, but would amend the House of Lords Act 1999 so that in the event of a vacancy:

  • any hereditary peer can stand as candidate
  • the method for the by-election, including eligible electors, must not be based on party political affiliation

20 members were in favour of this amendment, with 111 against, and so the change was not made.

Second reading

The House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill had its second reading, the key debate on the draft law's purpose and principles, on 8 September 2017.

Lords news: Private members' bills September 2017

 Further information

Image: House of Lords/Roger Harris 2017

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