HC Deb 13 July 1909 vol 7 cc1863-4

asked leave to introduce a Bill to enable Peers of Scotland, not being Lords of Parliament, to be elected and returned to sit in the House of Commons.

The Bill has for its object to make gentlemen who are Peers of Scotland, without hereditary seats in the House of Lords, eligible for election and for sitting in the House of Commons. This is not an academic matter. If the law as it at present exists remains it will expose to a very grievous disability and deprivation a gentlemen whom we all greatly esteem. There are 86 gentlemen who hold Scotch peerages. Of these 50 are peers either of Great Britain or of the United Kingdom, and have seats, irrespective of their Scotch peerages, in the House of Lords. Of the 36 who remain 16 are Scotch representative peers, and the remaining 20 are not able to be Members of this House or to represent any constituency, nor have they seats in the House of Peers. They might, no doubt, be elected as representative peers of Scotland. Gentlemen who wish that position, and who are Conservatives, have, of course, a very excellent chance of that, but a gentleman of Radical principles has no chance whatever, inasmuch as it is done on party lines. I wish to give Scotch hereditary peers without seats in the House of Lords an opportunity of sitting in the House of Commons, and of voting there exactly as Irish peers, depriving them during the same time, of course, of their right to elect Scotch representative peers, and of the ordinary status of the peerage. The Under-Secretary for India is heir-apparent to a Scotch peerage. If he obtained it to-morrow, not having a hereditary seat in the House of Lords, he is absolutely excluded from politics, he ceases to be a Member of this House, he cannot be a Member of the House of Lords, and his career is at an end. He would be in fact blocked out of this House by an accident. I like the hon. Gentleman personally, and I would ask that justice should be done. It would be really very absurd if he were prevented from entering this House for the reason I have stated. The peerage of which he is the heir is an old one, having been created in 1613, and because an ancestor was made a peer more than 200 years ago the moment he becomes possessed of this title, which is in reality nothing but a sound, he is obliged to walk straight out of the House of Commons. I think that is an anomaly which should be corrected, and I hope to get the leave of the House to bring in this Bill. It is backed by Members of all shades of opinion, who desire to do an act of justice not only to one whom we would not willingly lose, but who at the same time wish to clear away a very extraordinary Constitutional anomaly.

Question. "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to enable Peers of Scotland, not being Lords of Parliament, to be elected and returned to sit in the House of Commons," put and agreed to.

Bill presented accordingly, and read the first time. [To be read a second time, 22nd July.]

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