With Lord Monckton's Australian and New Zealand Tour 2013
- Ye Olde Chestnut Returns -
Is he a member of the House of Lords?
The topic of Lord Monckton’s ‘membership’ of the House of Lords always stirs up a hornet’s nest of righteous indignation or jealous outrage.
The most malicious accusation implies Lord Monckton is lying about his membership of the House of Lords and is therefore an untrustworthy ‘politician’ type and therefore his considered views and empirical evidence on many topics should be ignored.
Now I am a sceptical person by nature and when I came across these ‘charges’ of deceit I was bemused. In my ignorance of the changes to the rules in the UK upper House I imagined the fuss was about the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley calling himself a Lord. The dictionary made clear his right to do this. And as I believed the House of Lords was where the Lords who so chose, gathered to consider legislation in the upper house, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. Clearly, those in the UK Labour Party who were attempting to stamp out the tradition of Hereditary Peerages felt they had succeeded in 1999 with the Act as described later, below.
Even the US Congress, before which Lord Monckton has frequently testified, has raised the question. Lord Monckton's reply to the Democrat chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee was as follows:
"The House of Lords Act 1999 debarred all but 92 of the 650 Hereditary Peers, including my father, from sitting or voting, and purported to – but did not – remove membership of the Upper House. Letters Patent granting Peerages, and consequently membership, are the personal gift of the Monarch. Only a specific law can annul a grant. The 1992 Act was a general law. The then Government, realizing this defect, took three maladroit steps: it wrote asking expelled Peers to return their Letters Patent (though that does not annul them); in 2009 it withdrew the passes admitting expelled Peers to the House (and implying they were members); and it told the enquiry clerks to deny they were members: but a written Parliamentary Answer by the Lord President of the Council admits that general legislation cannot annul Letters Patent, so, as my passport shows, I am The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley."
However, the one thing you can’t say about Lord Christopher Monckton is that he ignores and gives up on the facts; of history; of science; of the law; and the truth as he has done his best to discern it to be.
The Summary of Hugh O’Donoghue’s opinion on this topic in which these issues are discussed, follows:
I am asked to consider whether The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley was correct when, in a recent radio interview in Australia, he answered the question "Are you a member of the House of Lords?" by saying, "Yes, but without the right to sit or vote." My conclusion is that Lord Monckton‟s answer was and is correct at all points. We have the authority of two Law Lords in the Privileges Committee that the meaning of the words "membership of the House" in the Act is confined to the right to sit and vote. The implication is that in all other respects excluded Hereditary Peers remain members of the House. Also, the Letters Patent that created Peerages such as that of Monckton of Brenchley have not been revoked, and we have the recent authority both of the Leader of the House and of the High Court for that. Though the House of Lords Act 1999 purported to remove "membership of the House of Lords" from excluded Hereditary Peers including Lord Monckton‟s late father, its constitutionality is questionable. Peerages entail membership of the House. Lord Monckton is correct to state that he does not at present have the right to sit or vote, though if the 1999 Act is unconstitutional the excluded Hereditary Peers are unlawfully excluded. Therefore, Lord Monckton remains a Member not only of the Peerage but also of the House of Lords, save only that he cannot for now sit or vote there, and he was and is fully entitled to say so.
The full opinion which includes a marvelous and enlightening meander through the history of the British Peerage and associated constitutional issues can be found here:
I trust this will be both controversial and defendable enough for readers to keep the ‘barbarians’ at bay.