Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Peers Urged To End "Hereditary Succession" Rules

The prospect of this happening did occur to me when the rules regarding the line of succession was changed, although there are some hereditary titles which cross gender.The Duke of Fife inherited his title from his Aunt for example, and Countess Mountbatten of Burma inherited hers from her father. But this does not go via the eldest and a Special Act had to be put through when such titles came into existence.
On a political level this does not change much. Most Peers eligible to sit in the Lords are Life Peers (meaning their title dies with them) and if the last 100 years are anything to go by the House of Lords will soon have none. However, 100 Lords members hereditary Peers and it is the principle that matters as much as the practice.

1 comment:

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

I doubt this will happen. The problem is that the inheritance rules for each peerage are set down in the legal instrument that created the title in the first place and every single one would have to be amended. The original creation can specify any rules of inheritance whatsoever but most are to the heirs male of the man ennobled - the exceptions tended to involve prominent men of advanced years with no sons where there was a desire to perpetuate the title. Some of the older Scottish peerages allowed inheritance either by or through female lines as a back up in an age when many families relied on such inheritance (this is also the reason why double-barrelled surnames are traditionally associated with the upper classes).

Changing a title's rules of inheritance after the event would require specialist legislation and could involve all manner of challenges, both on the grounds of where the new line of inheritance should start from and also if property is tied to the title - a prospective heir may have already invested heavily in their expected property or else foregone other careers to take up the reins early. Such ex-heirs may well be in line for heavy compensation.

Oh and as for the Lords I think if anything the last 100 years suggest the hereditaries will be there for a very long time. Remember the 1911 Act itself states it's an interim measure pending a final settlement - that's an awfully long interim!