Lord Monckton has responded more directly to charges that he has falsely claimed to be a member of the House of Lords than he has in the past. Here’s what he said.
I am charmed that so many of you are fascinated by the question whether I am a member of the House of Lords. Perhaps this is because your own Constitution denies you any orders or titles of nobility. Here is the answer I recently gave to the US House of Representatives’ Global Warming Committee on that subject:
“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 1999 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 I am The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (as my passport shows), a member of the Upper House but without the right to sit or vote, and I have never pretended otherwise.”
Let’s break this down.
1) He acknowledges that the House of Lords Act bars him from sitting and voting in the House of Lords.
2) Some beaurocrats, at some point, construed that to mean that hereditary peers excluded by the Act should give up their “Letters Patent” that grant them their titles. But the effort to get the excluded peers to give up their letters was squelched.
3) Therefore, since he still has his “Letters Patent,” and hence his title, he is still entitled to call himself a member of the House of Lords, even though he can’t actually DO anything in the House of Lords.
4) However, the House of Lords Information Office has been instructed to deny that the excluded peers are members.
This seems to me to be conflating two separate issues, because the House of Lords Act 1999 specifically DID NOT annul the titles of excluded peers. The official British Government explanatory notes on the House of Lords Act says,
The Act does not affect the rights of holders of a hereditary peerage excluded from the House of Lords to keep all the other titles, rights, offices, privileges and precedents attaching to the peerage which are unconnected with membership of the House of Lords.
On the other hand, it specifically DID exclude most hereditary peers from MEMBERSHIP in the House of Lords–not just the right to sit and vote. Paragraph 7 of explanatory notes says:
The main provision of the Act restricts membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage. No present or future holders of a hereditary peerage in the peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom, or their heirs, have the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords by virtue of that peerage, or to sit and vote in committees of the House, or to speak in the House, or to receive a writ of summons, unless they are excepted from this general exclusion by section 2 of the Act.
Did you get that? The main point of the Act was to “restrict the membership” of the House of Lords. That means that some people (like Monckton’s father) were kicked out of the House of Lords. Yes, they lost their seats and votes. Why? Because they weren’t members anymore. In fact, the document I linked also says:
Holders of a hereditary peerage whose membership is ended by the Act cease to be excusable as of right from jury service.
If you didn’t get the idea that “restricting” the membership means kicking some people out, did you get that the excluded peers’ membership was “ended” by the Act?
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there are legitimate legal grounds for Monckton to claim he is still a member of the House of Lords, even though he acknowledges that he does not have the right to sit and vote in the House since the House of Lords Act 1999. If so, then how are all these excluded Lords letting the House of Lords get away with saying there is no such thing as a member who has no seat or vote? Monckton seems to like to file lawsuits–where is it? Where are all the lawsuits by the hundreds of other excluded hereditary peers?
I suspect the answer is that Monckton is about the only one who still thinks that he can find some loophole to wiggle his way to somewhere closer than the spectators gallery of the House of Lords, and no sane lawyer will take his case.
[UPDATE: Tim Lambert has provided even more evidence that Monckton’s legal argument is… on the fringes.]