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House of Lords Act 1999 (Amendment) Bill [HL]: Briefing for Lords Stages

Published Wednesday, August 10, 2016

This House of Lords Library briefing provides background information in advance of the second reading of the House of Lords Act 1999 (Amendment) Bill in the House of Lords on Friday 9 September 2016.

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The House of Lords Act 1999 (Amendment) Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Lord Grocott (Labour). The Bill received its first reading on 24 May 2016, and is scheduled to have its second reading on 9 September 2016. The Bill seeks to amend the House of Lords Act 1999 to remove the system of by-elections currently used to fill vacancies caused by the death, resignation or expulsion of individuals who are members of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage.

The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the right of individuals to be Members of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage, with some exceptions, which are outlined in section 2 of the Act. Section 2 states that 90 hereditary Peers, the holder of the office of Earl Marshal and the holder of the office of Lord Great Chamberlain are excepted from the exclusion provided for in section 1. In addition, section 2 provides for the Standing Orders of the House to “make provision for filling vacancies among the people excepted from section 1”; vacancies in the 90 excepted hereditary Peers are caused by death, resignation or expulsion and in these instances the Standing Orders of the House of Lords provide for by-elections. The office of Lord Great Chamberlain is a hereditary one, vested jointly in the Cholmondeley, Ancaster and Carrington families, rotating between them in successive reigns and therefore not subject to by-elections. The office of Earl Marshal is also hereditary, and has been held by the Duke of Norfolk since 1677, the post is not subject to by-elections. Section 3 of the House of Lords Act 1999 removes disqualifications in relation to the House of Commons—voting in elections to the House of Commons and being a Member of the House of Commons—from holders of hereditary peerages; this section does not apply to excepted hereditary Peers and these restrictions therefore continue to apply to them.  

The House of Lords Act 1999 (Amendment) Bill would amend the House of Lords Act 1999 to the effect that:

  • Clause 1(2) would amend section 1 of the Act so that Members of the House of Lords on the day before the proposed Bill was passed would be excepted; this would mean that all of the 92 current Members of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage would remain.
  • Clause 1(3) would remove section 2 of the House of Lords Act 1999; this would remove reference to the 90 Peers, the holder of the office of Earl Marshall and the holder of the Office of Lord Great Chamberlain being excepted from the exclusion of individuals based on their hereditary peerage. It would also remove provisions for the Standing Orders of the House of Lords for by-elections where vacancies amongst the excepted hereditary Peers arose. This would mean that where a vacancy amongst either the 90 Peers or the two office holders arose, it would not be filled; while the offices of Lord Great Chamberlain and Earl Marshal would continue to be filled, those office holders would no longer be Members of the House of Lords.
  • The Bill would amend section 3 of the 1999 Act to remove references to excepted hereditary Peers and replace it with a reference to Members of the House of Lords on the day before the proposed Bill was passed. This would mean that the disqualifications in relation to the House of Commons that would continue to apply to individuals who were Members of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage.

Lords In Focus LIF-2016-0043

Author: Heather Evennett

Topic: House of Lords

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