Skip to main content

Hereditary Peers By-election

Volume 795: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2019


The Clerk of the Parliaments announced the result of the whole-House by-election to elect a hereditary Peer in place of Lord Skelmersdale. Two hundred and fifty-nine Lords completed valid ballot papers. A notice detailing the results is in the Printed Paper Office and online. The successful candidate was Lord Reay.

That was a necessarily and traditionally short report from the acting returning officer on the by-election. I would like to add a couple of details that might be helpful. There were indeed 16 candidates. It should be added that, as with previous hereditary Peer by-elections, this was a men-only shortlist. It was also, of course, the first by-election of 2019. As the House will know, 2019 is a particularly significant year because it marks the 20th anniversary of the by-election procedure, which was introduced in 1999 as a temporary, short-term measure. We do not rush things in the House of Lords. It is also the 36th by-election held under this procedure. The by-elections are coming along with increasing frequency—there is another one pending to look forward to—and inevitably it will be the case as Father Time takes his toll.

I have one final point, and I ask that we all listen to this carefully as the detail is not simple. This particular by-election, in which the whole House was the electorate, was one of 15 established under the 1999 Act to enable those hereditary Peers who were Deputy Speakers at the time to remain in the House. But after 20 years many of the original 15 are no longer Deputy Speakers, and the person who wins the by-election is not expected to become a Deputy Speaker. So, to summarise, in these Deputy Speaker by-elections the departing Member does not have to be a Deputy Speaker and the person replacing him does not have to be a Deputy Speaker either. You know it makes sense.

Notwithstanding my noble friend Lord Grocott’s comment, I welcome the new Member of the House of Lords, Lord Reay, and we look forward to him playing his full part in our affairs. As much as we welcome an individual Lord, the system has had its day, as my noble friend said. It is increasingly difficult to defend a temporary measure that has gone on beyond its time. While we do not criticise anyone who stands or any noble Lords who vote in such a by-election—or the result—we think a change in the system is long overdue. I know the government programme is very challenging at the moment but debating this tiny little Bill in government time to remove the hereditary Peer by-elections would be very welcome and have overwhelming support in your Lordships’ House.

My Lords, we have given a lot of time to this Bill. I have been in discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, for some time. He knows that, when appropriate, we will try to find time for his Bill to be debated on Report before it can leave this House. I will be in touch with him in due course.