Hereditary Peerage Association

Letters Page


The views expressed below are the views of individual members and do not necessarily reflect the position of the HPA. The HPA will publish all letters which its members wish to exhibit provided that they do not contravene the law or are considered by the editor to be likely to cause offence. The most recently received letter is highlighted in red in the list below.

INDEX:
Mountgarret 11/12/03
Napier of Magdala 4/12/03
Sudeley 30/07/03, 27/3/07
Clifford of Chudleigh 9/01/04

From Lord Sudeley 
30th July, 2003.

Sir,

Aristotle recommended a mixed constitution, much favoured in the 18th century, where the virtues are blended of the separate elements of monarchy and aristocracy, both hereditary, and democracy, which is elective.   Now most of the aristocracy is eliminated from the House of Lords, the monarchy, which is a very popular institution, has been exposed.

    In the old days the Lords sat for shorter hours and peers attended to speak on what they really knew about.   Hereditary peers were set at a serious disadvantage through the invasion of the Lords to its present degree by Party Politics, better left to the Commons, with the result of the 1999 Reform which must be objected to on three counts:

  1. It is clear from Servants of the People by Andrew Rawnsley, political correspondent of The Observer, that the Cranborne Deal to spare only 92 of the hereditaries was an initiative from the Government to split the opposition.   Lord Northbrook has addressed the Monday Club to say that without the Cranborne Deal and with the use of guerrilla tactics more of the hereditaries would have been spared.
  2. The Parliament Acts were concerned with the powers of the House of Lords and not its composition and the matter was never tested at law as it should have been on whether it was legal or constitutional for one Chamber of Parliament to dismantle the other without its consent.   Lord Beloff thought this was an important question.  He said the matter could be decided either way and he hoped we would win.   Michael Beloff QC takes an opposite view to that of his distinguished father and we need his notes to see how he reached this conclusion.
  3. The Government started with the aim of making the House of Lords more democratic and representative.   Now with the total lack of consensus on what to do next after the elimination of most of the hereditaries the Government has in effect lied and ended up in a different position from where it began, with an Appointed Chamber, upsetting the old theory of our constituion that it should consist of checks and balances.   Checks and balances are still preserved in the constitution of the USA with the careful division of authority between the Executive, Legislature and Judicature and we are familiar with the cries which go up where it is perceived the independence of the Judicature is threatened by a political executive.

Disservice has been done to the hereditaries by the report of the Fabian Commission on the Future of the Monarchy, with their preconceived vocabulary to include such words as ‘anachronistic’, to imply that time should move forward when it does not have to do so, and ‘acceptable’ without saying to whom. On the composition of the Lords, they tell us there is a general consensus heredity is not a good basis for government.   There has been no such consensus.   Before the 1999 Reform of the Lords an opinion poll showed most of the electorate did not want any change without knowing of something better in its place and nothing of the kind has been provided.   The Fabian Commission has ignored Burke’s advice that our constitution should evolve on a prescriptive or pragmatic and incremental basis to meet a particular need at a particular time.

yours etc.  
Sudeley

From Lord Napier of Magdala
4th December, 2003

Sir,

Title Verification
I think it is most important that a Roll of the Peerage be established. If it means more rigid verification and the inablility to use the title until proved, so be it; this is a small price to pay.
 
A role for excluded peers.
An artificial or symbolic role has no interest for me. Indeed, I find the idea rather unseemly.

Yours etc
Napier of Magdala

From Viscount Mountgarret
11th December, 2003.

Sir,
Many thanks for the Newsletter which I found most interesting. You wanted views on two points: 

Peerage Roll
I would be supportive of this idea, which in my view would be easier to maintain than a peer claiming his title by either a Writ of Summons or establishing their right to be elected when the death of one of the magical 92 takes place. It is indeed very important for the future that some mechanism exists that titles can be properly established and maintained. 

Rôle for the Excluded Peers
I have always been strongly of the view that the HPA should, on many subjects and occasions, give a representative view of the peerage as a whole through the Association, of matters going through Parliament. I feel we all should be more active and have regular debates on current topics, and make appropriate representation to Parliament in a similar way as any other associations such as for example the CLA do at present. Having said that, I really doubt whether the Monarch would have the time, or indeed she might be advised not to attend such a gathering, if only because, whether we like it or not, the majority of the HPA are more conservative inclined and might appear to be dabbling in party politics. I am though keen on plenary gatherings on a regular basis.

Yours etc.
Mountgarret

From Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
9th January, 2004.

Sir,
Sovereignty; Constitution; Flexibility.

Recognising that involvement and progress are both motivated by innovation, no one can deny that change is a necessity.  The speed and manner of any alteration to a tried system dictate the failure or success of the alteration, the variation of ‘a well-tried system’.

The most recent attempt (1998-1999) to reform the Revisory Chamber of the British Parliament (the House of Lords) has been judged by some as ‘unfinished business’ and this is correct.  Not solely because the projected second phase of that Chamber’s Reform has not taken place and so resulted in confused, multi-factional ‘group thoughts’ amongst the Elected Representatives at Westminster, but most obviously because the variation, the change failed to address changes to the elected House of Commons.
 

The November 2003 Hereditary Peers Association Newsletter raised, indeed reminded readers of certain valid and crucial issues and principles  upon which the British, unwritten constitution is founded.  Many Peers, by succession or appointment, will declare their approval for confirmed changes within the Revisory Chamber, but a return to ‘the old system’ is out of the question.  Possibly the following further changes may be considered worthy of digestion and debate. 

The House of Lords: Elected Voting Peers. 

1.       Working on the premise that in order to be seen to express their own opinion, rather than the opinion forced upon them by ‘party whips’, the House of Lords (the Revising Chamber) should be totally cross-bench (independent) save for the obvious church representatives and the essential legal bench of Law Lords.

2.       The number of Peers with the privilege to vote on any motion to be equivalent to the number of people elected to sit in the House of Commons.

3.       Voting Peers will be elected by County and the number of Peers per county would match the number of individuals elected to sit, representing constituencies within that County, within the House of Commons. 

4.   Selection of Voting Peers.

A body under the Chairmanship of the Lord Lieutenant of the County (the Monarch’s Representative) and consisting of the following elected councillors, would agree to the names of Peers wishing to stand for election. 

·        County Councillors (up to 10 depending on size of County).

·        District Councillors (up to 20 depending on size of County).

(It must be understood that District Councillors are drawn from Parish Councils and reflect the primary echelon in the electoral hierarchy. 

5.      Election date would coincide with the date chosen for a General Election.

6.      By-election: to operate under the same principle as that applicable to the House of Commons with the names of the Peers standing to be considered by the Council mentioned in paragraph 4.

7.      Tenure of Post: a Voting Peer may hold that position for only 5 years and may be reconsidered as a Voting Peer after 15 years have past since being first elected to that role. 

Letters Patent: These should remain as an essential heritage of the Kingdom known as Britain.  “The essence of the contract (contained in Letters Patent) should remain that the onus upon Peers is to consult with and advise the Monarch”.  This being the case, every Peer (by succession or by appointment) should have the opportunity to exercise their responsibility and therefore to speak within the Revising Chamber; the House of Lords. 

8.      Remuneration: as any payment will arrive from the Public Purse all travel expenses which may be claimed must be at the standard rate.  The rate paid for accommodation and meals must reflect the average rate charged by a hotel within a 5-mile radius of Westminster.  Taxi fares (R.P.I linked) may be reclaimed by disabled and able-bodied Peers up to £30 per day.  Such a ruling avoids not only discrimination but also ensures that quintessential form of public transport within the Nation’s Capital is recognised and supported so discouraging the unnecessary use of private cars. 

The House of Commons. 

1.      Members:  Elected members may be titled or untitled though titled elected members of Parliament (House of Commons) should not be addressed by their title, either in the Parliamentary Chamber, in Public or in writing whilst holding the position as a member of the House of Commons.

2.      The tenure of the position as a member of Parliament (MP) should be for no longer than two consecutive terms (10 years) unless the elected person is elevated to a Ministerial role when the limit will be extended to 20 years; or 30 years if privileged to become Prime Minister.

3.      Members may not be considered for election unless they have been employed for at least 8 years and that 3 years of that period of employment must not have been as a Local or National Government employee.

4.      Prime Ministers should be allowed to hold that position for no more than 10 consecutive years (two terms).

5.      Ex-Prime Ministers (similar to ex Chiefs of Defence Staff) should automatically be appointed to the Revisory Chamber (the House of Lords). 

The Voting System (applicable to all elections): 

Voting by post, proxy or in person should be compulsory.  This would not infringe any ‘Human Rights Act’ clause as no-one has the right to complain or object to any legislation or suggested law should apathy overrule responsibility. The Legal System (decided by Parliament) must be obeyed by all citizens of Great Britain and visitors to this Country must be aware of the codes which dictate the lifestyle of Great Britain. 

Voting Forms: 

A system of ‘single transferable vote’ should be operated as opposed to the current ‘first past the post’ system of electing a candidate.  It is only fair to recognise that the majority of the electorate do not agree entirely with one particular candidate, but do prefer one and select another as ‘second choice’.  In this system the candidate receiving two ‘second choice’ crosses would achieve the equivalent to one ‘first choice’.  For the electorate, members who are uncertain about any of the candidates proposed an ‘Abstention Box’ should be available on the ballot sheet. 

Members of the electorate who refuse to vote in person, by post, or by proxy will risk losing certain benefits which may be received from the Public Purse and, if no benefits are received by committed to a 6 month term of ‘community service’. 

Elections. 

Out of consideration towards and for the convenience of the Electorate MP’s, voting Peers, and members of the European Parliament should be elected on the same day. 

Similarly, District Councillors, County Councillors and Parish Councillors should be elected on the same day which would be a different date to that selected for Members of Parliament.  Preferably, County Elections would be held on different years to National Elections. 

The Monarch. 

This most important and essential part of British Democracy must not only obey all legislation imposed upon its subjects, but also have the right to be briefed weekly by the elected Prime Minister, and have the right to silence should the Monarch feel that certain proposed legislation would not be for the good of British Citizens. 

The Monarchs role as Supreme Ambassador and promotion of the Country’s business must remain a prime role. 

Yours sincerely, 

Clifford of Chudleigh

From Lord Sudeley 
27th March, 2007


Dear Sir,

The Department of Constitutional Affairs has disclosed that it has no record of the meeting between the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, and Lord Cranborne (now Lord Salisbury) where the deal was formed to spare temporarily 92 hereditary peers. This must be to the discredit of the Government which professes openness and transparebcy in its dealings for the sake of democracy. All we have is the account in 'Servants of the People' by Andrew Rawnsley, political correspondent of the Observer, which Lord Salisbury tells me is only partially accurate, and that he is keeping his notes of the meeting for his own private use. Here, on a matter of major constitutional significance, was a closed door negotiation, internal deal or 'stitch-up'.

I have a letter from William Hague to condemn the deal; and Lord Howard of Rising (formerley Greville Howard, Enoch Powell's literary executor) thinks that if the hereditaries had dug their heels in, the Government would have backed off. The 'Deal' was a ploy of the Government to split the opposition and Cranborne fell into their trap. As we are now, after Stage I of reform to eliminate most of the hereditaries, owing to a total lack of consensus as to what to do next, no Stage II has been reached and it is thought that this is where we will remain until at least after the next election.

Yours Sincerely

Sudeley

 

 

 

Updated 16.01.11

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