TimELINE OF OUR CAMPAIGN
DR met Chloe Smith, Minister for the Constitution and Devolution and was told the matter was too complex because of courtesy titles, fairness, reform on the Lords, property and consensus.
Baroness Berridge asked the government what they planned to do to end male primogeniture on International Women’s Day in the Lords.
Philip Davies sponsored a Ten Minute Rule Bill on ending male primogeniture, which Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North and Minister for the Constitution and Devolution objected at the second reading. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0349/19349.pdf
Helen Grant asked in a Topical Question to Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women and Equalities at the time, what the Government proposed to do about ending male primogeniture for hereditary titles. Penny replied she would ask the Cabinet Office to look into it.
Philip Davies asked Kevin Foster as interim Minister for the Constitution for what reason the Government objected to the Hereditary Titles (Female Succession) Bill on 22 March 2019 and was told because hereditary peers are exempt from the 2010 Equalities Act and ‘this is a matter for the House of Lords in regulating its own affairs.’
Baroness Deech asked the Government on 6 June 2019 what it proposes to do about allowing women to stand in the by-elections for hereditary peers. When Lord Young of Cookham replied for the Government, he made the point that allowing women to take part would have no meaningful effect on the gender balance of the Lords. Yet this argument was not deployed against the Lords Spiritual (Women) Act which enables female bishops to take their seats.
Met with Greg Hands and Kevin Foster, Minister for the Constitution, where Kevin Foster said the government had in fact no objection to ending the practise of male primogeniture but there were concerns over property rights. He would make his officials available to discuss these concerns.
I met with Cabinet Office officials with two of the Daughters’ Rights lawyers to discuss their concerns of consensus from within the Lords and land rights. I offered to do due diligence on these but when I asked Penny Mordaunt for advice, she said not to undertake them, they were going to be very expensive & the Cabinet Office should really do this work. She asked Chloe Smith to ensure the Cabinet Office did so.
Philip Davies asked Kevin Foster if he will make it his policy to end male primogeniture for hereditary titles. The reply was ‘careful consideration is needed of the issues that reform in this area would raise including the legitimate expectation of males next in line to inherit a title, and the effects of reform on land and property rights.’
Penny Mordaunt asked Boris Johnson during PMQ’s what the government proposed to do about ending male primogeniture, Boris said it would be looked into.
The Earl of Shrewsbury called for end to male primogeniture in his International Women’s Day speech in the House of Lords.
I offered to meet Chloe Smith with Sir Crispin Agnew from the Standing Council of Baronetage, Viscount Torrington from the Hereditary Peers Association and the Earl of Shrewsbury from the 92 hereditary peers. All three support moving the matter forward. I was told in a letter by Chloe Smith and co-signed by Lord True that it was too complex, not enough legislative time and no consensus.
Earl of Devon’s International Women’s Day speech on supporting the campaign.
These are the reasons given by the cabinet office for being too complicated
1. Courtesy titles: you can inherit a title or are given a life peerage, either way your spouse is entitled to use a courtesy title. i.e. a Duke’s wife is a Duchess, a male life peer’s wife is a Lady. Husbands of female life peers, or same sex partners, are not given courtesy titles, which is clearly wrong. However, this doesn’t require legislation but a Royal Warrant. It would be a straightforward, standalone matter that any peer in the Lords can organise but does not need to be included in this Bill.
2. Property: there are some cases where property was given with the title, or there is property that is tied to the title so that it can also only be inherited by the eldest son. This was so the title and estate stay together. We have included a clause in the Bill so any property currently tied to the title will also have ‘male’ removed from it and it can remain with the title through daughters as well as sons.
3. Expectation of inheritance: it could be argued that there is a legal ‘reasonable expectation of inheritance’ for men waiting to inherit. In order to gain consensus from everyone with a vested interest we included a clause which says that any son waiting to inherit when this Bill is enacted will still be the heir, even if he has older sisters and the Bill will come into effect for that family at the next generation.
4. Consensus: since the Earl of Shrewsbury’s speech on International Women’s Day 2020 supporting the end of male primogeniture he has been working on consensus from the 92 hereditary peers and says the majority would support this Bill. I also have support from Lord Grocott, who is trying to abolish the hereditary by-elections, that he will not add any wrecking amendments to this bill.
5. Reform of the Lords: this Bill is a very simple gender equalities Bill. It is only a consequence of a hereditary title that you can stand in the by-elections to the House of Lords so this Bill doesn’t mention the House of Lords, the 92 hereditary or the by-elections – it is simply to end legalised son preference.
6. Priority: legislation on a variety of matters is always being debated and passed through parliament, with varying levels of national significance. Most people aren’t aware of what is on the Order paper daily. Not being as ‘important’ in some people’s views shouldn’t justify dismissing this Bill.
7. Legislative time: we feel that with senior, cross party support this very simple Bill to end a universally agreed principle that son preference is wrong, will take very little time. We have addressed all the concerns raised by the Cabinet Office.
8. Complexity: we cannot understand why the issue of complexity is given as a reason not to put this Bill through. We have addressed the concerns of the Cabinet Office and have made it incredibly simple. Brexit and Devolution were complex, this is a simple Bill showing the value we place on our daughters.