House of Lords FURY: MPs and peers urged to back law to end ‘absurd’ hereditary selection

Brexit: Boris Johnson's deal clears House of Lords

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Earlier this week, the list of candidates for the four upcoming hereditary peer “by-elections” was published where a handful of peers will pick fellow peers to sit in the Lords for life. The Conservative hereditary peers’ by-election will see three spots up for grabs, following the retirement of the Earl of Selborne in March 2020, the retirement of Lord Denham in April 2021 and the non-attendance of Lord Selsdon during the 2019-21 Parliamentary session. Their replacements will be elected in one ballot on June 14.

The UK Parliament website also states that following the retirement of the Countess of Mar on May 1, 2020, there is a vacancy among the “excepted hereditary peers who sit in the House of Lords”. This will take place on June 15 and 16.

Following the death of Lord Rea on June 1, 2020, there a vacancy has opened up for excepted Labour hereditary peers who sit in the Lords, which is due to be held on July 12.

Finally, following the retirement of Lord Elton on October 29, 2020, there is also a vacancy among the excepted hereditary peers who sit in the upper house, due to take place on July 13 and 14.

But the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has lashed out at the latest by-elections, raging the ability for hereditary peers to continue to stand in the UK parliament is “beyond baffling”.

The pro-democracy group has urged the Government and peers to back legislation “to end this absurd practice”.

The body added putting an end to these by-elections must be a “first step towards ensuring we have real democracy in the UK” and has again called for an overhaul of the upper house that is “fit for purpose, and accountable to the public”.

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director of the ERS, told “The fact that in 2021, hereditary aristocrats are still guaranteed representation in our parliament is beyond baffling.

“Even the Lord Speaker accepts that this is just unacceptable in a modern democracy, and it needs to change now.

“The Government and peers need to back legislation – which is ready to go – to end this absurd practice.

“At the moment, a handful of aristocrats are picking who can vote on our laws and claim expenses for life, on the basis of birthright.

“Voters should decide who votes on our laws.”

He added: “Ending these absurd by-elections must be a first step towards ensuring we have real democracy in the UK – with a revising chamber that is fit for purpose, and accountable to the public.

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“At the moment, it looks like a mockery of voters, rather than the Mother of Parliaments we deserve.

“It’s time for a proportionally-elected second chamber, to replace this private member’s club at last.”

Earlier this year the backlash intensified with huge numbers of peers being appointed, leaving the upper chamber “bursting at the seams with donors and party figures”, according to one critic.

There are currently more than 800 members of the Lords, a figure which ballooned last year when Boris Johnson appointed 52 new peers – including 16 at the end of 2020.

But analysis from the ERS found most of the Prime Minister’s new Lords appointees had a primary background in politics, “shattering” the myth of an independent second chamber.

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the ERS, said: “Those who vote on our laws for life should be picked by the public, not parties.

“Sadly, this latest round of peerages provides us with more of the same problems.

“There are now over 800 Lords, and the chamber is bursting at the seams with donors and party figures.

“Every day the second chamber looks more like a taxpayer-funded private member’s club.

“We need to move to a much smaller, proportionally-elected second chamber that can stand up for the nations and the regions of the UK.

“With the majority of new peers coming from professional politics, it is increasingly wrong to claim that our unelected lawmakers give the second chamber political independence.”

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