Peerage Act 1963

The Peerage Act 1963 (1963 c. 48) is the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that permitted women peeresses and all Scottish hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, and which allows newly inherited hereditary peerages to be disclaimed.

Peerage Act 1963
Long titleAn Act to authorise the disclaimer for life of certain hereditary peerages; to include among the peers qualified to sit in the House of Lords all peers in the peerage of Scotland and peeresses in their own right in the peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom; to remove certain disqualifications of peers in the peerage of Ireland in relation to the House of Commons and elections thereto; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.
Citation1963 c. 48
Territorial extentEngland and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Royal assent31 July 1963
Other legislation
Amended byStatute Law (Repeals) Act 1974, House of Lords Act 1999
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended


The Act resulted largely from the protests of one man, the Labour politician Tony Benn, then the 2nd Viscount Stansgate.[1] Under British law at the time, peers of the United Kingdom (who met certain qualifications, such as age) were automatically members of the House of Lords and could not sit in, or vote in elections for, the other chamber, the House of Commons. When William Wedgwood Benn, Tony Benn's father, agreed to accept the Viscountcy, he ascertained that the heir-apparent, his eldest son Michael, did not plan to enter the House of Commons. However, within a few years of the peerage being accepted, Michael Benn was killed in action in the Second World War. Tony Benn, his younger brother, became heir-apparent to the peerage and was elected to the House of Commons in 1950. Not wishing to leave it for the other House, he campaigned through the 1950s for a change in the law. In 1960, the 1st Viscount died and Tony Benn inherited the title, automatically losing his seat in the House of Commons as a member for the constituency of Bristol South East. In the ensuing by-election, however, Benn was re-elected to the Commons, despite being disqualified. An election court ruled that he could not take his seat, instead awarding it to the runner-up, the Conservative Malcolm St Clair.[2] In 1963, the Conservative Government agreed to introduce a Peerage Bill, allowing individuals to disclaim peerages; it received Royal Assent on 31 July 1963.[3] Tony Benn was the first peer to make use of the Act. St Clair, fulfilling a promise he had made at the time of taking his seat, accepted the office of Steward of the Manor of Northstead the previous day,[4] thereby disqualifying himself from the House (outright resignation is prohibited), and Benn was then re-elected in Bristol South East at the ensuing by-election.

Disclaiming peerages

To disclaim a hereditary peerage, the peer must deliver an instrument of disclaimer to the Lord Chancellor within one year of succeeding to the peerage, or within one year after the passage of the Act, or, if under the age of 21 at the time of succession, before the peer's 22nd birthday. If, at the time of succession, the peer is a member of the House of Commons, then the instrument must be delivered within one month of succession, and until such an instrument is delivered, the peer may neither sit nor vote in the lower House. Prior to the House of Lords Act 1999, a hereditary peer could not disclaim a peerage after having applied for a writ of summons to Parliament; now, however, hereditary peers do not have the automatic right to a writ of summons to the House. A peer who disclaims the peerage loses all titles, rights and privileges associated with the peerage; if he is a married man, so does his wife. No further hereditary peerage may be conferred upon the person, but a life peerage may be. The peerage remains without a holder until the death of the peer who had made the disclaimer, when it descends to his or her heir in the usual manner.

The one-year window after the passage of the Act soon proved to be of importance at the highest levels of British politics, after the resignation of Harold Macmillan as Prime Minister in October 1963. Two hereditary peers wished to be considered to replace him, but by this time it was considered requisite that a Prime Minister sit in the Commons. Quintin Hogg, 2nd Viscount Hailsham and Alec Douglas-Home, 14th Earl of Home took advantage of the Act to disclaim their peerages, despite having inherited them in 1950 and 1951 respectively.[1] Douglas-Home was chosen as Prime Minister; both men later returned to the House of Lords as life peers.

Since the abolition in 1999 of the general right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, and the consequent removal of the general disability of such peers to sit in or vote for the House of Commons, it is no longer necessary for hereditary peers to disclaim their peerages for this purpose. In 2001, John Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso became the first British hereditary peer to be elected to the Commons and take his seat. Later that year, Douglas Hogg inherited the peerage his father (Quintin Hogg) had disclaimed, but did not have to disclaim it himself to continue sitting in the House of Commons. In 2004, Michael Ancram became Marquess of Lothian on the death of his father, and was also able to continue sitting as an MP. On their retirements from the House of Commons, Ancram and Hogg entered the House of Lords as life peers, while Thurso was elected as an excepted hereditary peer after losing reelection as an MP. Since the chief purpose for the Act ended in 1999, only one disclaimer has occurred — Christopher Silkin disclaimed the title 3rd Baron Silkin in 2002.

The Act only applies to titles held in the Peerage of England, the Peerage of Scotland, the Peerage of Great Britain, and the Peerage of the United Kingdom. No provision was made by the Act for titles in the Peerage of Ireland to be disclaimed, as the entitlement of new Irish representative peers to be elected to sit in the House of Lords was considered to have lapsed after most of Ireland became independent in 1922 (and the last surviving Irish representative peer had died in 1961).

Other provisions

The Act granted Peers of Scotland the same right to sit in the House of Lords as Peers of England, Great Britain or the United Kingdom, thereby ending the election of representative peers, thereby increasing their number in the Lords from 16 to about 115.[5] An amendment that would have allowed Irish peers to sit in the House as well was defeated by ninety votes to eight.

The Act removed the disqualification of Peers of Ireland, by virtue of an Irish peerage, to vote in elections for members of the House of Commons; and to sit in the British House of Commons without losing the privilege of peerage.[6]

The Act also granted suo jure hereditary women peers (other than those in the Peerage of Ireland) the right to sit in the House of Lords, which introduced twelve new women to the House. This was not the first time that women were members of the House of Lords; the Life Peerages Act 1958 allowed all life peers (men and women) to sit in the House. The 2nd Baroness Ravensdale had already entered the Lords in 1958 through the receipt of a life peerage. The women who took their seats in the House after the Peerage Act 1963 and before the House of Lords Act 1999 were:

Female hereditary peers who took their seat[7]
Title Name Date took seat Ref.
The Baroness Strange Of Knokin Elizabeth Frances Philipps 19 November 1963 [8]
The Baroness Audley Rosina Lois Veronica MacNamee 20 November 1963 [9]
The Baroness Beaumont Mona Josephine Tempest Fitzalan-Howard 4 December 1963 [10]
The Lady Kinloss Beatrice Mary Grenville Freeman-Grenville 18 February 1964 [11]
The Countess of Erroll Diana Denyse Hayd 29 July 1964 [12]
The Lady Nairne Katherine Evelyn Constance Bigham 27 October 1964 [13]
The Lady Sempill Ann Moira Forbes-Sempill 19 July 1966 [14]
The Baroness Berkeley Mary Lalle Foley-Berkeley 10 May 1967 [15]
The Countess of Loudoun Barbara Huddleston Abney-Hastings 22 June 1967 [16]
The Lady Ruthven of Freeland Bridget Helen Monckton 26 October 1967 [17]
The Countess of Sutherland Elizabeth Millicent Sutherland 26 March 1968 [18]
The Baroness Darcy de Knayth Davina Marcia Herbert Ingrams 15 July 1969 [19]
The Baroness Dacre Rachel Leila Douglas-Home 28 May 1970 [20]
The Baroness Portal of Hungerford Rosemary Portal 26 April 1972 [21]
The Baroness Dudley Barbara Amy Felicity Hamilton 23 May 1973 [22]
The Baroness Lucas Anne Rosemary Palmer 10 June 1975 [23]
The Countess of Mar Margaret of Mar 28 October 1975 [24]
The Lady Saltoun of Abernethy Marjorie Flora Fraser 13 December 1979 [25]
The Baroness Braye Mary Penelope Aubrey-Fletcher 09 April 1986 [26]
The Baroness Strange Jean Cherry Drummond of Megginch 17 December 1986 [27]
The Countess Mountbatten of Burma Patricia Edwina Victoria Knatchbull
The Baroness Wharton Myrtle Olive Felix Robertson 25 June 1990 [28]
The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby Nancy Jane Marie Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby 25 January 1994 [29]
The Baroness Berners Pamela Vivien Kirkham 25 October 1995 [30]
The Baroness Arlington Jennifer Jane Forwood 27 May 1999 [31]

List of disclaimed peerages

Indicates peerage which is currently disclaimed
Title(s) Disclaimed by; life Time disclaimed Notes Ref.
Viscount Stansgate Tony Benn (2nd Viscount), 1925–2014 1963 to 2014 Extant; inherited in 2014 by Stephen Benn, 3rd Viscount Stansgate [1][4]
Baron Altrincham John Grigg (2nd Baron), 1924–2001 1963 to 2001 Extant; inherited in 2001 by Anthony Grigg, 3rd Baron Altrincham [4][32]
Earl of Home; Lord Home; Lord Dunglass; Baron Douglas Sir Alec Douglas-Home, KT (14th Earl), 1903–1995[lower-alpha 1] 1963 to 1995 Extant; inherited in 1995 by David Douglas-Home, 15th Earl of Home [33][1]
Viscount Hailsham; Baron Hailsham Quintin Hogg (2nd Viscount), 1907–2001[lower-alpha 2] 1963 to 2001 Extant; inherited in 2001 by Douglas Martin Hogg, 3rd Viscount Hailsham [34][1]
Baron Southampton Charles FitzRoy (5th Baron), 1904–1989 1964 to 1989 Extant; inherited in 1989 by Charles FitzRoy, 6th Baron Southampton [35]
Baron Monkswell William Collier (4th Baron), 1913–1984 1964 to 1984 Extant; inherited in 1984 by Gerard Collier, 5th Baron Monkswell [36]
Baron Beaverbrook Sir Max Aitken (2nd Baron), 1910–1985 1964 to 1985 Extant; inherited in 1985 by Maxwell Aitken, 3rd Baron Beaverbrook [37]
Earl of Sandwich; Viscount Hinchingbrooke; Baron Montagu Victor Montagu (10th Earl), 1906–1995 1964 to 1995 Extant; inherited in 1995 by John Montagu, 11th Earl of Sandwich [38]
Baron Fraser of Allander Sir Hugh Fraser (2nd Baron), 1936–1987 1966 to 1987 Extinct 1987 [39]
Earl of Durham; Viscount Lambton; Baron Durham Antony Lambton (6th Earl), 1922–2006 1970 to 2006 Extant; inherited in 2006 by Edward Lambton, 7th Earl of Durham [40]
Baron Sanderson of Ayot Alan Lindsay Sanderson (2nd Baron), born 1931 Since 1971 [41]
Baron Reith Christopher Reith (2nd Baron), 1928–2016 1972 to 2016 Extant; inherited in 2016 by James Reith, 3rd Baron Reith [42]
Baron Silkin Arthur Silkin (2nd Baron), 1916–2001 1972 to 2001 Inherited in 2001 by Christopher Silkin, 3rd Baron Silkin, who also disclaimed the peerage [43]
Baron Archibald George Christopher Archibald (2nd Baron), 1926–1996 1975 to 1996 Extinct 1996 [44]
Baron Merthyr Trevor Lewis (4th Baron), 1935–2015 1977 to 2015 Extant; inherited in 2015 by David Lewis, 5th Baron Merthyr [45]
Earl of Selkirk; Lord Daer and Shortcleuch Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (11th Earl), born 1942[lower-alpha 3] Since 1994 [46]
Viscount Camrose; Baron Camrose Michael Berry, Baron Hartwell (3rd Viscount), 1911–2001 1995 to 2001 Extant; inherited in 2001 by Adrian Berry, 4th Viscount Camrose [47]
Baron Silkin Christopher Silkin (3rd Baron), born 1947 Since 2002 [48]
  1. Created life peer as Baron Home of the Hirsel, 1974.
  2. Created life peer as Baron Hailsham of St Marylebone, 1970.
  3. Created life peer as Baron Selkirk of Douglas, 1997.

See also


  1. "Disclaiming a peerage". BBC News. London: British Broadcasting Corporation. 14 July 2005. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  2. Zander, Michael, QC (11 April 2014). "How to lose a title". New Law Journal (7602). Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  3. "No. 43072". The London Gazette. 2 August 1963. pp. 6533–6534.
  4. "No. 43072". The London Gazette. 2 August 1963. p. 6534.
  5. "Election By Scots Peers". The Times. London. 7 October 1959. p. 14. There were 115 Peers of Scotland at the time of the last representatives' election in 1959.
  6. "Peerage Act 1963". Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  7. "Lords Membership: Lists of Current and Former Female Peers". 30 January 2018. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  8. HL Deb 19 November 1963, vol 253, col 207
  9. HL Deb 20 November 1963, vol 253, col 327
  10. HL Deb 04 December 1963, vol 253, col 961
  11. HL Deb 18 February 1964, vol 253, col 753
  12. HL Deb 29 July 1964, vol 260, col 1089
  13. HL Deb 27 October 1964, vol 261, col 4
  14. HL Deb 19 July 1966, vol 276, col 359
  15. HL Deb 10 May 1967, vol 282, col 1421
  16. HL Deb 22 June 1967, vol 283, col 1537
  17. HL Deb 26 October 1967, vol 285, col 1765
  18. HL Deb 26 March 1968, vol 290, col 931
  19. HL Deb 15 July 1969, vol 304, col 119
  20. HL Deb 28 May 1970, vol 310, col 1165
  21. HL Deb 26 April 1972, vol 330, col 371
  22. HL Deb 23 May 1973, vol 342, col 1191
  23. HL Deb 10 June 1975, vol 361, col 111
  24. HL Deb 28 October 1975, vol 365, col 141
  25. HL Deb 13 December 1979, vol 403, col 1359
  26. HL Deb 09 April 1986, vol 473, col 191
  27. HL Deb 09 April 1986, vol 483, col 165
  28. HL Deb 25 June 1990, vol 520, col 1427
  29. HL Deb 25 January 1994, vol 551, col 875
  30. HL Deb 25 October 1995, vol 566, col 1103
  31. HL Deb 27 May 1999, vol 601, col 1037
  32. "Proposals for reform of the composition and powers of the House of Lords, 1968–1998" (PDF). Library Note (LLN 98/004). House of Lords Library. 14 July 1998. p. 81. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 November 2006. Retrieved 16 June 2008. Mr. Grigg, who had disclaimed his hereditary peerage as Lord Altrincham in 1963
  33. "No. 43143". The London Gazette. 25 October 1963. p. 8770.
  34. "No. 43164". The London Gazette. 22 November 1963. p. 9515.
  35. "No. 43273". The London Gazette. 17 March 1964. p. 2387.
  36. "No. 43293". The London Gazette. 10 April 1964. p. 3085.
  37. "No. 43353". The London Gazette. 12 June 1964. p. 5065.
  38. "No. 43394". The London Gazette. 28 July 1964. p. 6412.
  39. "No. 44197". The London Gazette. 13 December 1966. p. 13471.
  40. "No. 45048". The London Gazette. 24 February 1970. p. 2263.
  41. "No. 45484". The London Gazette. 30 September 1971. p. 10509.
  42. "No. 45657". The London Gazette. 27 April 1972. p. 4999.
  43. "No. 45675". The London Gazette. 22 May 1972. p. 6131.
  44. "No. 46514". The London Gazette. 11 March 1975. p. 3312.
  45. "No. 47209". The London Gazette. 29 April 1977. p. 5835.
  46. "Hansard, Vol 250 Col 931". 28 November 1994. Retrieved 16 June 2008. The House has been officially notified today that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West has disclaimed the title under the provisions of the Peerage Act 1963.
  47. Hart-Davis, Duff (4 April 2001). "Lord Hartwell (obituary)". London: Independent News and Media. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
  48. "House of Lords Journal 235 (Session 2001–02)". 16 May 2002. p. 724. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
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