Category Archive 'House of Lords'

26 May 2012

The Benefits of a Hereditary House

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The Countess of Mar addressing the House of Lords.

Lord Montararat, in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe, opposes reforming the House of Lords alleging the existence of some mystical connection between the conservative nature of the institution and Britain’s historic greatness:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,
As every child can tell,
The House of Peers, throughout the war,
Did nothing in particular,
And did it very well:
Yet Britain set the world ablaze
In good King George’s glorious days!

He may very well have been right. Certainly, Parliamentary Reform in 1911, and afterwards, has been a hallmark of a period of astonishing decline.

The Independent, on Friday, remarked on the remarkable abilities of some hereditary peers to bring levels of practical experience and unusual expertise on subjects and in forms never found among professional politicians.

The main argument against reforming the House of Lords is that there are people in it who would be unlikely to get elected but bring a specialised knowledge that the average politician lacks. The truth of this was brought home by a question printed in yesterday’s edition of Hansard from the Countess of Mar, who is in Parliament because she is the elder heir proportionate of her father, the 30th Earl of Mar, who died in 1975. He inherited the title from his second cousin once removed, both being descendants of the sister of the 27th Earl – as you probably already knew. The Countess is a farmer. Who else would table a question asking: “What testing is carried out in addition to Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto and Borrelia afzelii for tick-borne diseases including Bartonellosis, Ehrlichiosis, Borrelia garinii, Babesiosis, Louping ill and Q-fever, and for other zoonoses such as tick-borne encephalitis, Boutonneuse fever, Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever…”? The minister’s answer was quite long, but can be summarised as “it depends”.

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