Reforms to hereditary peers put the British monarchy at risk, peer suggests

Reforms to hereditary peers put the British monarchy at risk, peer suggests

Friday, September 7, 2018

British monarchy could be at risk if proposals to scrap the election of aristocrats to the House of Lords are approved, a peer has claimed.

Conservative Lord Shinkwin has warned that moves to abolish the by-election system used to fill vacancies caused by the death, resignation or expulsion of hereditary peers could be used as a precedent to “attack” other elements of the country’s heritage.

He echoed the words of the late Lord Napier and Ettrick, who claimed the “survival of the monarchy” in the 21st century could also be at stake.

This is as a result of the 1999 reforms to remove the majority of heriditary peers from the Lords.

Lord Shinkwin’s comments come as Labour peer Lord Grocott’s House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-elections) Bill returned for debate.

There are up to 92 hereditary peers remaining, with recent years causing calls for change after a 2016 Liberal Democrats hereditary peer by-election cost taxpayers £300 and involved only three voters.


‘Noble principle of public service’

The Government has said it will not block the Bill but believes it has “no prospect” of clearing all the necessary stages in the current parliamentary session to become law.

Lord Shinkwin, speaking ahead of the committee stage resuming on the Bill, said: "Some may say that the hereditary principle is out of date, but surely it is the politics of envy which is outdated - not the noble principle of public service handed down through the generations.

"A duty to serve in the Lords should never be regarded as an anachronism.

"Were this Bill to be passed, there would be no going back. That would be it. We would not be ending a chapter of our history, so much as turning our back on it."

Lord Shinkwin added: “I simply remind the House that it was the late Lord Napier and Ettrick - whose heir I believe would be an asset to the House - who said in his valedictory speech on March 30 1999, 'what could be at stake here is the survival of the monarchy'.

"So I simply ask we be careful what we wish for, for in attacking the rich legacy of public service, that fundamental duty to serve - which we as a country and a kingdom have inherited - we impoverish ourselves."

But Labour's Lord Desai, a supporter of the Bill, said: "If we had not continually revolutionised the institutions by due process, we would not be where we are - we would have been long ago destroyed, like the French monarchy was destroyed."

Tory Lord Cormack described himself as a "fervent monarchist" as he backed the Bill.

Opinion on the proposed legislation was again split among peers, with Conservative Lord Trefgarne arguing the Government should bring forward measures to reform the Lords rather than backbench peers.

But he faced claims of filibustering after moving a motion which delayed debate on amendments to the Bill.