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                         JOURNAL OF THE HEREDITARY PEERAGE ASSOCIATION

No.8                                                                                                                                                                                            1st November, 2009

My Lords,
It is now almost exactly ten years since the majority of us, the hereditary peers, were expelled from the House of Lords. A reforming Labour Government obtained approval for the House of Lords Act 1999 in November of that year and following Royal Assent, the majority of the hereditary peerage were given a glass of sherry as a reward for several hundred year’s service by them and their forbears, and sent packing. Allegedly, the Act was Stage I in a process of reform which would eventually lead to the completion of an unspecified but ‘fully reforming’ Stage II. In the meantime, 92 of your lordships were to be permitted to remain as members of the House pending this, supposedly radical, Stage II, and a process of by-elections was put in place to allow those who fell off their perches, to be replaced.

The by-election process has worked well and some former and some genuinely new hereditary blood now graces the benches. Nevertheless, the great debate about the functions and composition of the House of Lords and the manner by which new members should be elected or appointed continues unabated with little sign of consensus either between the political parties or the two Houses of Parliament.

Into this miasma the Government has decided to inject a sneaky little, not Stage II but Stage I (b), under which the Hereditary Peers’ By-elections will be ended, thus leaving time itself to wither away the hereditary rump. This proposal has been built in to the grandiosely named ‘Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill’. The section relating to provisions regarding the House of Lords and in particular, hereditary peers, makes no attempt to suggest that it is further reform or anything resembling a Stage II, but merely tidies up what the Government sees as unfinished business under Stage I.

The Government only obtained a relatively smooth passage to the original 1999 Act by adopting the concept of leaving the 92 hereditary peers in place together with the by-election system which was designed as encouragement for the Government to come up with a workable and enduring model for a fully reformed House. The 92 hereditary peers and their by-election system was to endure until that Stage II model was adopted.  Merely abolishing the irritant which was there to keep it focussed on full scale reform can hardly be called either reform or fair play and it is undoubtedly a breach of faith with those who agreed to ‘go quietly’ in 1999.

One cannot be blamed for feeling, and this is probably stating the obvious, that Mr Tony Blair’s main purpose of initiating the process of reform was simply to achieve what he indeed achieved, namely a rapid reduction of the perceived Conservative bias in the upper House.

The Bill has some further provisions attached the House of Lords Section. The principal among these is provision for peers, life or hereditary, to retire from the House and to disclaim their titles. The interesting anomaly in the Bill as drafted is that while a retiring peer is not obliged to give up his peerage, he must do so if he wishes to vote in any parliamentary election. This puts the retiring hereditary peer at a major disadvantage when compared to his former colleagues who were ejected in 1999. The latter retain their peerages but can vote in elections (and even get elected to and sit in the House of Commons as peers of the realm), while retirees must revert to being commoners even to vote in their local constituency. Peers giving up their peerages must renounce all style and dignity for their wives and children. It therefore seems likely that most will forgo their vote and only life peers appointed to the House of Lords as a fast-track route to ministerial office and who wish to return, or try to return, to the House of Commons, will avail themselves of the right to disclaim their peerages.

Any of your lordships who feel strongly about this matter might like to contribute to a debate by emailing your thoughts to the Association at debate@hereditarypeers.com where they will be posted on the website at www.hereditarypeers.com. Members of the House of Lords may find your views useful during the progress of the Bill.

THE SUCCESSION DEBATE
Some, indeed many of your Lordships will, I hope have seen the debate on female succession to peerages which took place on the Association’s website. This was prompted by the thought that were any peer’s female eldest child to challenge male-only inheritance of a peerage at European Court level, she might well succeed in overturning a large part of peerage law. It is understood that something along these lines has already happened in Spain .

A further debate was initiated regarding the inheritance of peerages by heirs born out of wedlock, the argument being that genetic inheritance can now be verified by DNA testing. One wag has pointed out that maybe legitimate heirs should also undergo DNA verification…… It is hoped that one or two of your lordships will contribute to this debate.

SUBSCRIPTIONS
It is proposed that the annual subscription  shall remain at £15 for the coming year. Members of the original Association of Hereditary Peers (AHP) who made founding subscriptions of £150 will not be charged an annual subscription until 2012.

 

EMAIL AND HOME ADDRESSES
The Association is particularly keen to be able to communicate with its members by email and the Hon Secretary would be most grateful if all members who have email addresses and have not already notified the HPA could update the Association’s records by sending an email to secretary@hereditarypeers.com with HPA in the subject line their name and address in the text.

 

SOCIAL
The Association continues to hold a regular lunch at 12.45 pm on the last Tuesday of each month at the Boisdale Restaurant in Eccleston Street , London SWI. Attendance is open to all members who may bring a guest provided the guest is either another hereditary peer or heir to a peerage.  The Association also invites official guests from time to time. Members wishing to attend lunches may do so without prior notice but are requested if possible to call 07785 282436 a day or two beforehand indicating their intention to attend. The cost, including drinks is about £35.

Details of intended official guests, if any, will be published on the Association’s website at www.hereditarypeers.com and your Lordships are welcome to suggest official guests whose attendance might be of general interest to members of the Association. Such guests are not obliged to make a speech but can expect to be ‘lightly grilled’ over lunch under Chatham House rules.

 

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

INCOME & EXENDITURE ACCOUNT

Years to 30th April, 2007 and 2008

                                         2009      2008

                                          £                          £

Income

 Subscriptions  1,036                      1,110

 Interest                94                           198

 Other                      0                              0

                          -------                        -------

                                         1,130                 1,309

Expenses

 Entertainment        0                               0

Administration       0                           220

                          -------                        -------

                                 0                                   (220)

        -------                      -------

Surplus                          1.130                      1,089
                                       =====                   =====

  Subscription income for the year to 30th April, 2009 amounted to £1,036 (2007:£!,110). Interest income after tax was £94 (2007: £198). No expenses were charged in 2009 (2007: £220) and no official guests were entertained at the expense of the Association.

  BALANCE SHEET

Years ended 30th April, 2008 and 2009.

 

                                           2009                     2008

                                                £                        £

Surplus Brought

 Forward         15,411              14,322

Surplus for year               1,130                1,089

                                          --------              --------

Accumulated Surplus    16,541              15,411

                                          =====             =====

 

Represented by:

 

Cash at Bank                  16.591              15.461

Liabilities                          (50)                  (50)

                                         --------                 --------

Members Funds             16541                15,411

                                         =====               =====

 

The surplus carried forward at the year-end amounted to £16,541. The cash of £16,591 was held at C. Hoare & Co. The outstanding liability represented un-repaid expenses in respect of the 2008 newsletter

It is the present intention of the Association to accumulate funds to meet legal costs which may be incurred in challenging any diminution of peerage rights such as the right to attend a future coronation.

It is the intention that any event organised by the Association will be self-funding but HPA funds may be used to fund any small shortfalls between costs and event income.

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The AGM of the Hereditary Peerage Association will be held on Tuesday, 26th January at 12.00 noon in the Jacobite Room at the Boisdale Restaurant, Eccleston Street , London SW1 for the purposes of:

1. To approve the Accounts

2. To elect Committee members

3. To discuss any matters members may wish to raise

The Meeting will be followed by the usual monthly lunch at 1pm, in which it is hoped all members attending the AGM will partake.

GENERAL INFORMATION

  Joint Chairmen

Viscount Torrington               Lord Newall

Committee

Viscount Torrington               Lord Newall
Lord Kilmaine                       Lord St Oswald
The Earl of Erroll                   Viscount Trenchard
Lord Glanusk

Secretary

The Hon. Mrs Nicolson

Address

1 Fairchild House
Charlwood Street
London SW1V 2LB

Telephone:

07785282436
Email Address
Secretary@hereditarypeers.com 


Website:

www.hereditarypeers.com

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