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              HPA NEWSLETTER                     

                         JOURNAL OF THE HEREDITARY PEERAGE ASSOCIATION

No.6                                                                                                                                          1st April, 2008

HOUSE OF LORDS REFORM
As is now a matter of habit, this journal continues to attempt to chronicle the snail-like process entitled ‘Further Reform of the House of Lords’. A quick summary of the material steps achieved since last April would not fill many column inches. During the last twelve months, however, two Bills were introduced, both of which sought to bring an end to hereditary peers’ by-elections. The first Bill, introduced by Lord Steel, aims to create a new appointments Commission which would be responsible for all new creations, to abolish the hereditary peers’ by-elections, to institute permanent Leave of Absence and finally to prevent peers who had been in prison for a year or more on a criminal charge from sitting in the House.

Neither Bill had Government backing. Lord Steel’s passed a day in Committee on 17th January, when even debate on amendment No.1 (a proposal to rename the House as the ‘Senate’) was inconclusive. During the debate, many noble Lords vociferously defended the by-election principle and even Lord Richard, one of the architects of the 1999 House of Lords Act, agreed that Stage II of the reform, which could trigger the departure of hereditary peers and the ending of the by-elections, would have to be something more substantive than the reforms suggested in Lord Steel’s Bill.

Notwithstanding this, Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat and himself a hereditary peer, reintroduced a Bill (which fell in the last session) which simply lifts Clause 10 of Lord Steel’s Bill into a one page Bill, which sought to do nothing else but abolish the by-elections. Again, this Bill in Second Reading on 22nd February, was vociferously opposed by Conservative hereditary peers and was offered little support by the Government. It was nevertheless not withdrawn and was sent to Committee, at a date unspecified, when it is likely to fare badly.    As the long title of the Bill is “A Bill to amend the House of Lords Act 1999”,   the possibilities for amendment are infinite!

Perhaps the best quote from the debates on the two Bills came from Lord de Mauley, a Conservative member of the House who inherited his title and was the first newly-succeeding peer to be elected to the House after the 1999 cull: He said of the Steel Bill:  

“This is the wrong Bill at the wrong time, dropped into a House that is functioning well and targeted at a rare category of new entrants untainted by accusation of impropriety over their means of entry to your Lordships House, a category that few outside your Lordships’ House, against the background of cash or loans for peerages, see as the most urgent target for reform.”

A White Paper on proposals for an elected House is awaited. This has now been postponed again, as Jack Straw is still hoping to achieve some “consensus” on the proposals to be made in it.    It is therefore unlikely that anything much will happen before the next General Election.

CROSS BENCH BY-ELECTION
The sad death of Lady Darcy de Knayth on 24th February gives rise to a Cross Bench by-election. Candidates must be registered by 1st May, the ballot will take place on 21st May and the result will be available on 22nd May. As always, this Association would encourage all those eligible to stand. If you are eligible but not registered, contact the Journal Office at the House of Lords.

GETTING ELECTED  
The Association of Conservative Peers has, since 1999, encouraged expelled hereditary peers who remain interested in being re-elected, to attend their weekly meetings (2pm Wednesdays) and has assisted new peers, who have been inscribed on the Roll of The Peerage and who are interested in standing for membership of the House, to obtain Research Passes so that they can learn the workings of the House and attend ACP meetings.

By contrast, no such facility has been available to potential Cross Benchers. Lady Saltoun writes:

“When a Cross-bench Peer dies and a bye-election has to take place,  it has to take place within three months of the death of that Peer.    Eight years on from 1999,  when these elections were instituted,  only some of the candidates for election today are Peers who were members of the House before 1999.    Increasingly the majority are the heirs of those Peers,  and are,  of course, not known to the electorate,  or it is so long since the electorate has last seen those Peers that they cannot remember them!    This means that the electorate is unable to assess the merits of all the candidates.

I have been wondering what can be done about this.    The Conservative Party let Hereditary Peers who aspire to be elected attend the ACP weekly Meetings.     I don’t think the Cross-bench Peers are very keen to let the aspirants come to our meetings, and it was suggested that aspirants might be invited to their Xmas and Summer Parties..    The problem is that these only take place in July and December.    Now,  very sadly,  as a result of the recent death of our much loved colleague,  Lady Darcy de Knayth,    there will have to be an election by May,   and there will be no party  to which to invite candidates.    In any case, Peers are far too busy chatting to their chums at such parties to want to be bothered with trying to meet and assess potential new boys and I doubt whether a party is the right atmosphere in which to assess anyone,  and whether one party would be enough to give the electorate a fair impression of a candidate.    I wonder whether the Cross-bench Peers would consider letting candidates attend meetings between the death of a member and the by-election?    That would give the Peers time to get to know them a little and assess them .    They could be asked at the meeting they first attended to make themselves known to the others and perhaps to introduce themselves and say something of their aims.

I think a lot of Peers thought that the Steel Bill (House of Lords Bill) would soon be through and that would be the end of the Hereditary Peers’ Elections, but I think that is questionable.     The Avebury Bill (House of Lords [Amendment] Bill) did get a second reading   but is likely to have a rough ride when it comes to Committee stage.   The Hereditary Peers are here until the full 2nd stage reform of the House has been completed,  and this was agreed by the Government,  who have so far stood by their commitment,   made in 1999 in order to kill the Hereditary  Peers’ opposition to their House of Lords Bill.     That second stage is not yet in sight, so there is the prospect of  more by-elections,  where it might be a help if the electorate had some idea of whom they were voting for,  and if the Life   Peers who unfortunately do not have a vote,  had a chance to vet the candidates too  and make their views known to the electorate.

  That brings me to another aspect of the Elections which is not satisfactory, the electorate.    At the time in 1999, it seemed a good idea that the Hereditary Peers should elect their colleagues,   the people who were to represent them, much as the Scottish Peers elected the Scottish Representative Peers before 1964,   and that was the model the elections were based on as far as the electorate was concerned.     With hindsight, I believe this to have been a mistake.    It would have been better if the electorate had been all the Peers in the Party.    At the time they actually knew better who was worth keeping than many of the hereditary Peers did, because they were here  most of the time and the backwoods hereditary Peers were not.    But now we have a situation where in the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties the number of candidates is liable to exceed the number of the electorate,  and so the elections have become a farce.    This could be remedied by making the electorate all the Peers in the Party.

  This change could be done quite easily.    It is not a matter for Primary Legislation,  but for the House on a report from the Procedure Committee.   The Clerk of the Parliaments has checked on this for me. When the proposal to do this was discussed in 1999 it was strongly opposed.    But that was 8 years ago when it was never envisaged that we would still have been having these elections 8 years later.    I believe that we should make this change,  which  I have in mind to propose  to the Procedure Committee.”

THE RIGHTS OF PEERAGE
In last year’s Newsletter, we included extracts of Dr Noel Cox’s excellent paper on the Rights of Peerage (a copy of which is available to any peer on sending a request to tt@byng.net). Following on from that, and in particular on the section covering the residual rights of ‘non-parliamentary’ peers (yes, that’s us, the expelled hereditaries), your committee has been giving some thought to the future and we  print below a letter from Lord Glanusk setting out some ideas:

 “It was 17 November 1999 when the House of Lords Act came into force and the House sat without most of the Hereditaries. It would seem fitting that we mark the tenth anniversary in November 2010 in some way and we need to determine now what if anything to do in order to allow adequate time for planning and execution.

I would like to suggest that the core precursor  of any such event should be a Council of Hereditary Peers convened on the question that we present at the event, an humble address to the Queen. The rest of the event can be entirely social and jolly

  Part of my thinking for this is ...

  1.    The last Great Council of Peers, convened by the Sovereign, was held in York in 1640.

2. Ten yearly meetings might become established in some way

3. The 2040 event should be held in York or Yorkshire

4. The time might then be right to form a Great or Standing Council of Peers

  I was also wondering, following on from the above, whether the HPA should now call itself  an 'Hereditary Council of Peers' rather than simply the HPA.. I was avoiding the terms 'The', 'Great' or 'Magnum' as these have both traditional and royal connections to which we cannot yet aspire. I was also avoiding 'Standing' as that is used with statutory authority by the Baronets.”

Lord Glanusk was referring to the fact that Dr Cox made the point, which is worthy of repetition, that peers are hereditary councillors of the Sovereign and that this role is unconnected to the right to sit in the House of Lords. Historically, Sovereigns have summoned peers to the Magnum Concillium (the last time was in 1640) but such a council is still arguably one of the great Councils of State. To attend such council is a privilege of peerage and not a privilege of Parliament. The revival of the Magnum Concillium might provide a modest basis for a formal manifestation of the continuing link between the Sovereign and her now non-parliamentary peers.

We would be interested to hear your Lordships’ views on holding such an event as Lord Glanusk describes.

HISTORICAL NOT
Lord Sudeley has succeeded in extracting from Lord Salisbury (formerly Lord Cranborne) the fact that the so-called ‘Weatherill’ or ‘Cranborne’ deal by which the 92 hereditary peers were retained in the reformed House was entirely formulated by the Government as a ploy (successful, it would seem) to split the Tory opposition in the Lords to ensure the swift passage of the House of Lords Act 1999. It was not a Cranborne or opposition initiative as it has so often been portrayed. Lord Sudeley’s dissertation on the story will be published on the website.

ROLL OF THE PEERAGE
As usual, your Lordships are asked to encourage any newly succeeding hereditary peers of their acquaintance who have not yet established their succession with the Department of Constitutional Affairs and been inscribed on the Roll, to do so. Advice on the procedure is available on the Association’s website.

SUBSCRIPTIONS
While there is to be no change to the annual subscription of £15, certain members have enjoyed varying subscription holidays by virtue of having made large founding donations to the AHP, one of the two original bodies which were merged to create the HPA (the other being ‘TOPs’). The number of years holiday is roughly based on the formula Original Donation divided by 15, plus 1. As subscription holidays progressively end, the Association will send out Bankers’ Orders for future subscriptions to the relevant members, and hopes that it can count on their continuing support.

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 updaye the Association’s records by sending an email to secretary@byng.net with HPA in the subject line their name and address in the text.

RIGHTS OF SUCCESSION
Your Lordships will recall that there have been a number of initiatives over recent years to bring peerage succession more into line with modern thinking on ‘gender equality’. The idea that peerages should be inherited by the eldest child of whatever sex has, however, been opposed as a step to far but there is a feeling that bringing the entire peerage into line with the rules governing peerages of Scotland , i.e. inheritance by the eldest daughter where no immediate male heir exists, might find fairly general favour. We understand that the Baronets are actively pursuing initiatives in this area and the Association would be interested to hear the views of your Lordships on this matter (by email please to secretary@byng.net). If there ever is to be any change by legislation, it would seem best that it be initiated while there are still hereditary peers in Parliament.

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 £32. Attendance has recently ranged between 3 and 16 attendees.

Details of intended official guests will be published on the Associations 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 & EXPENDITURE ACCOUNT

Year to 30th April, 2007  

                                                    2007                       2006

                                                        £                           £
Income

 Subscriptions              1,080                      1,185

 Interest                           119                            88

 Other                                   0                              0
                                     -------                        -------

                                                   1,199                       1,273

Expenses

 Entertainment                  118                          165

Administration                   46                            85

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

                                                      (164)                     (250)

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

Surplus                                       1.035                      1,023
                                                =====                   =====

Subscription income for the year to 30th April, 2007 amounted to £1,080 (2006:£!,185). Interest income after tax was £119 (2006: £88). Expenses consisted of  £136 (2006: £250) principally covered postage of the newsletter, £18  and entertaining the Association guests at Boisdale lunches and providing the Hon secretary with the occasional lunch cost £118..

BALANCE SHEET

Year ended 30th April, 2007.

 

                                           2006                     2005

                                                £                        £

Surplus Brought

 Forward         13,287              12,264

Surplus for year               1,035                1,023

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

Accumulated Surplus    14,322              13,287

                                          =====             =====

 

Represented by:

 

Cash at Bank                  14,736              13,537

Liabilities                         (414)                (250)

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

Members Funds            14,322                13,287

                                         =====              =====

The surplus carried forward at the year-end amounted to £14,322. The cash of £14,736 was held at C. Hoare & Co. There were no outstanding Liabilities.

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The AGM of the Hereditary Peerage Association will be held at 12.15 am on Tuesday, 27th May, 2008 in the Jacobite Room at the Boisdale Restaurant, Eccleston Street , London SW1 for the purposes of:

1.        Approving the Accounts for the year to 30th April, 2007

2.        Considering Appointments to the Committee

3.        Considering nominations for President of the Association

4.        Considering the future policy of the Association

All paid-up members of the Association are entitled to attend and vote.

Given that a lunch will follow the meeting, business will ideally conclude by 13:00.

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

    Bankers

Messrs C Hoare & Co

Lowndes Square

London SW1

Address

1 Fairchild House

Charlwood Street

London SW1V 2LB

Telephone:

07785282436

Email Address

Secretary@byng.net

Website:

www.hereditarypeers.com

 

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