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Bill to allow first-born daughters to inherit titles passes first stage

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8 March 2019 — The Daughters’ Rights campaign to allow first-born daughters the same rights to inherit titles as sons took an important step towards becoming law this week when the Hereditary Titles (Female Succession) Bill passed its first reading with cross-party support in the House of Commons.

The passing of the first stage of the Hereditary Titles (Female Succession) Bill was a huge achievement for Daughters’ Rights and I am grateful to Philip Davies MP for proposing the Bill and to all the MPs from across parties who co-sponsored the Bill and supported us. This issue is gathering momentum and we now have Government support from Women and Equalities Minister, Penny Mordaunt. 

Today is International Women’s Day with the theme, Balance for Better. At a time when gender balance is rightly being championed in all areas of public life, we are calling on Parliament to take this Bill forward and put an end to the practice of male primogeniture, which is not only discriminatory but is preventing the House of Lords achieving better gender balance and, as a consequence, the UK being a better democracy.

Our Bill proposes a simple extension of the legislation that was passed for the Royal Family in 2013, without applying it retrospectively, which would abolish male primogeniture and allow women to stand in the by elections for the 92 hereditary seats in the House of Lords. This is not about the hereditary principle, but the fact that while hereditary seats in the Lords remain, daughters should be treated equally.

The next stage is the second reading of the Bill on 22 March. Ahead of then we are gathering strong cross-party support in the Commons and the Lords, including from Penny Mordaunt, Maria Miller, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Harriet Harman, Christine Jardine, Baroness Berridge, Lord Lucas, Baroness Deech and Baroness Goudie, among many others.

Philip Davis, who is proposing the Bill and sits on the Women and Equalities Committee, said: 

“It is frankly staggering that the practice of male primogeniture for hereditary titles is still ongoing in the UK. People shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their gender and surely anyone who believes in sex equality must accept that this is unjustifiable. With the legislation I am proposing we can take a significant step towards genuine equality which is what I seek.”

Lord Lucas, one of the current 92 hereditary peers who sit in the Lords, said: 

“There is no good reason why the inheritance of a title, which conveys distinction and (for the moment at least) eligibility for election to the House of Lords, should favour men over women, and every reason why we should wipe out this superannuated discrimination.”

Daughters’ Rights also has a case, led by Lord Pannick QC and Paul Hardy of DLA Piper, lodged against the UK Government at the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of five daughters of peers who, save for their gender, would be able to stand in by elections for hereditary seats. The current status quo of male primogeniture for hereditary titles is in contravention of two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights – discrimination on the basis of gender and the right to free and fair elections. 

Daughters’ Rights has a powerful case lodged with the European Court of Human Rights. However, it would be far preferable that the Hereditary Titles (Female Succession) Bill became law as a Parliamentary initiative and that we didn’t have to wait for a ECtHR judgement regarding our domestic electoral affairs.

Paul Hardy of DLA Piper, who drafted the Bill said: 

“This Bill is about fairness. It is plainly discriminatory that daughters are not allowed to inherit the great majority of hereditary titles in the UK. The fact that the House of Commons has agreed to a Second Reading of a Bill that will right that wrong is a very important step.”

The Hereditary Titles (Female Succession) Bill is being co-sponsored by the following MPs: Harriet Harman QC MP (Lab – Camberwell and Peckham), Sir Christopher Chope MP (Con – Christchurch), Jess Phillips MP (Lab – Birmingham Yardley), Esther McVey MP (Con – Tatton), Maria Miller MP (Con – Basingstoke), Vicky Ford MP (Con – Chelmsford), Tim Loughton MP (Con – East Worthing and Shoreham), Sarah Champion MP (Lab – Rotherham), Christine Jardine MP (Lib Dem – Edinburgh West), Jo Swinson MP (Lib Dem – East Dunbartonshire), Helen Grant MP (Con – Maidstone and The Weald).

Contact:

Charlotte Carew Pole 

T:07977 481460 E:charlotte@daughtersrights.co.uk

@DaughtersRights

Background:

Male Hereditary Peers: 91 

Female Hereditary Peer: 1 

Male Peers on the register for election: 209 

Female Peers on the register for election: 1

Daughters’ Rights began its work when five daughters of hereditary peers, all professionals in their own right, came together to bring a case to abolish male primogeniture for hereditary titles to the European Court of Human Rights. All these women want and have much to contribute to public life, but as daughters rather than sons, they are not eligible to stand for election. While hereditary seats continue to remain a part of the upper House, they believe that women as well as men should be allowed to stand for them.

DaughtersRightsBill to allow first-born daughters to inherit titles passes first stage

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