Question Cameron Law

Why are there still Heritage Peers in the House of Lords?

Why are there still Heritage Peers in the House of Lords?

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Answer Internal Staff

Heritage peers are members of the House of Lords whose seats are bestowed upon them via their ‘inherited’ title.

The issues academics and other influential bodies have with the existence of such peers are almost innumerate, given the responsibility of the House of Lords (HoL) in the creation of legislation.

With the introduction of the House of Lords Act 1999 (1999 Act), a large proportion of hereditary peers (HP) were removed from the HoL. However, under s.2 (‘Weatherill Amendment’) of the 1999 Act, a number of these peers were allowed to keep their seats and therefore continue to remain involved in the formation of legislation.

As the labour party were so adamant at reforming the HoL, specifically removing the HP from their seats, as indicated by their 1997 manifesto; why were a number of said peers permitted to remain?

Lord Weatherill, a life peer, managed to form an arrangement with the labour party on behalf of the current HoL conservative party leader, Lord Cranborne. This deal was originally devised on the premise that the majority of the HP would be removed from the HoL in what was agreed to be the first step in a two stage process. The second stage entailed the removal of the final HP, thereby eradicating them entirely from the HoL.

Why this decision was made is a matter of political intrigue, considering how adamant the labour party was to originally remove the HP. It could be due to any potential constitutional issues caused by such an abrupt action (House of Commons, 1998), or it may have been done as a political counter-measure to any difficulties that would present themselves when attempting to pass a Bill through the HoL to remove the HP.

The reason the HoL still contains HP is therefore simple. Stage two of the peers’ removal was never acted upon. Although there have been further attempts to reform the HoL since the 1999 Act, such as the House of Lords Reform Bill 2012-13, they have all been unsuccessful.


Hansard HC Deb. 02 vol. 321 cols. 874-82, 2 December 1998

House of Lords Act 1999. (c.34). London: The Stationary Office.

House of Lords Reform Bill 2012-13. (HC Bill 52). London: The Stationery Office.

psrwebs (no date) Labour party manifesto, general election 1997 [Archive]. Available at: (Accessed: 2 October 2016).