Succession to Peerages and Baronetcies Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 3:20 pm ar 9 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Chapman of Darlington Baroness Chapman of Darlington Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 3:20, 9 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I have no interest to declare in considering this Bill.

When I first saw the Bill’s Title, I thought we were going to get one thing; on reading the Bill, it turned out that that was not to be. As we have heard, the Bill does not mean that daughters will be treated the same way as sons. As an eldest daughter with a younger brother, I imagine what would have happened had my dad not been the son of a soldier from Middlesbrough with little to pass on but some medals and a casserole dish. Would I take a different view on this? In reading the Bill, I genuinely think that Clause 1(4) really stands out as something that it is very surprising to read in a Bill in 2024. I listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, said to explain it; he spoke about the management of estates and great houses. We all appreciate and enjoy the great estates of our country—of course we do—but it sounds a bit thin as justification for keeping such a rule in place. I wonder whether there are not some more ingenious ways around it that would allow for the eldest child, not just the eldest son, to be preferred.

The Government have said previously that it is too complex to make this change for women to inherit titles on an equal basis with men. That has not been sufficiently explained by Ministers; I wonder whether the Minister here today could help us out. Many contributors have acknowledged—I applaud the lack of self-interest, as well as the self-awareness, of many of the hereditary Peers who have spoken—that it is time for us to revisit this issue; that is to be commended and welcomed.

This is a strange little Bill. With the best will in the world, it does not really do an awful lot for the reputation of this House and the relevance of Parliament, nor for the situation of women across the country. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, did not bring it here hoping to be heralded as some sort of feminist icon, but we can do better. There is a gradual approach—I accept that—but there is gradual and then there is a glacial pace. We could move a bit quicker.

I must commend what the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, said. She is completely right: the right way forward is for the eldest child, rather than the eldest son. As she said, if titles occasionally die out, that is something the nation can withstand.