Harriett Baldwin introduces a Ten Minute Rule Motion to bring in a Bill to make provision for the succession of female heirs to hereditary titles.
Hereditary Titles (Female Succession)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for the succession of female heirs to hereditary titles; and for connected purposes.
On this day, when we join in wishing Her Majesty a very happy birthday, we can note that we have been blessed to live in a new Elizabethan era in which Her Majesty has long reigned over us. We celebrate her platinum jubilee with true devotion.
The Succession to the Crown Act was given Royal Assent in 2013, meaning that henceforth the firstborn child of Prince George will be in line to succeed him. The Act ended male primogeniture for the Crown, but we left undone any wider reform to primogeniture in the United Kingdom. As a result, in this very Parliament, an eighth of the seats in the other place are reserved for men only. Can you believe that, Mr Speaker? I will repeat it, as I find it so shocking: an eighth of the seats in the upper House of this Parliament are reserved for men only, through the system of reserving 92 seats for hereditary peers.
Whatever our views are of the other place or of hereditary peerages more generally—I know that there will be a wide range of views—I hope we can all agree that in the 21st century, that embedded sex discrimination is simply not acceptable. Women are treated unfairly for no reason other than that they are women. That is unacceptable and indefensible, and it has terrible real-world consequences. For example, only 13% of land in the UK is owned by women—in other words, 87% is owned by men—and boys are twice as likely as girls to inherit family businesses.
If we cannot change inequality at the top of our society, we will never be able to change inequality for the whole of our society. Put simply, daughters should be treated the same as sons across society. If it is good enough for the succession to the Crown, it should be good enough for everyone else. The hereditary peerages in the other place should go automatically to the eldest child, but at the moment that very rarely happens.
My Bill would not apply immediately when a son is due to inherit a title, and it would certainly not be retrospective. If there were already a son in the line of succession, that would remain the case. The Bill would affect 803 hereditary peers, including 24 dukes, 34 marquesses, 191 earls, 115 viscounts and 426 barons, and four countesses and nine baronesses in their own right.
Each of them could potentially be one of the 92 hereditary peers, or be on the register to stand as a hereditary peer in a by-election to the House of Lords. I understand that the register of peers for the by-elections has 210 peers on it, only one of whom is female. As that demonstrates, it is already possible to be a female hereditary peer, but clearly, because of the current system, that does not happen as routinely as it does for males, and the system clearly is not fair.
As a Conservative, I stand for equality of opportunity. We want every person born in this country to enjoy the same chance to make a difference, to thrive and to prosper. I cannot rest until this posh glass ceiling is broken. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who tried to introduce the same Bill in March 2019; he is a champion of true equality. I also pay tribute to Charlotte Carew Pole of Daughters’ Rights, who helps to keep this just cause alive in this place.
Let us agree today that we will make this small and symbolic change for our country’s sake, and for the sake of equality between men and women.
Question put and agreed to.
That Harriett Baldwin, Nickie Aiken, Ms Harriet Harman, Philip Davies, Christine Jardine, Mrs Maria Miller, Jess Phillips, Esther McVey, Sarah Champion, Tim Loughton and Sir Christopher Chope present the Bill.
Harriett Baldwin accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 May, and to be printed (Bill 304).