A little known hereditary peer, Lord Mereworth, has written to Peter Mandelson, in his role as Lord President of the Privy Council, to ask whether his disbarment, and that of other hereditary peers, was in fact legal.
Lord Mereworth, who was denied his seat in the upper house as a consequence of the House of Lords Act in 1999, has served a protocol letter, claiming that the law is unenforceable. It is a first salvo before mounting a judicial review in the high court.
The document says the 1999 act failed to revoke the “letters patent”, the act under which the then King, George V, granted a hereditary peerage to Mereworth’s grandfather. The protocol letter states: “It is stated expressly in the letters that George V bound his successors, and it is axiomatic that any attempt to alter the terms or effect of the letters would be a matter of moment for those successors.”
It is difficult to gauge the level to which the Government should take this matter seriously, but a great deal of legislation could be put under threat if this petition is credible.
Whatever the credibility of the claim, the prospect of a democratically elected government being undermined by a judicial review of an Act of Parliament, and potentially disqualifying all the laws that have passed through House of Lords since, is unconscionable.
According to The Guardian’s report the Government is taking the letter very seriously.
As an afterthought those people who have since been elected to the lower house, namely John Thurso, but still retain their hereditary title could see themselves being disqualified from the lower house by their re-instalment in the House of Lords.