ALEX Salmond has attacked a controversial process that allows a handful of peers to gift a seat in the House of Lords to those with hereditary titles as a way of giving “political life-support by patronage” to those ousted by the electorate.

Salmond said it was “farcical” that three sitting Lib Dem hereditary peers will vote in the election for a place in Westminster’s second chamber, which will allow the winner to vote on UK laws and receive a daily, taxpayer-funded attendance allowance of £300. There are seven candidates standing for election to become a Lib Dem hereditary peer in the Lords, after the death of Lord Avebury, the former MP Eric Lubbock, earlier this year triggered a ballot.

Those standing include Viscount John Thurso, the former Lib Dem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross who lost his Commons seat in the SNP landslide in last year’s General Election.

Other candidates in the election, which takes place next week, include Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, the great-grandson of the former Liberal prime minister.

However, Salmond, speaking in the Commons, said the process allowed Thurso and the Lib Dems, who lost all but one of their 11 Scottish seats in last year’s General Election, to continue to vote on UK laws based on party patronage.

The former First Minister claimed that the Lib Dems, who also went from 57 to eight seats across the UK last May, were being allowed to vote on legislation despite their electoral meltdown.

Salmond called on Chris Grayling, the Conservative leader of the House of Commons, to scrap the system and criticised UK Government plans to reduce to the number of MPs in the Commons.

He said: “Can we have an early debate entitled ‘Liberal democracy in the 21st century’ to celebrate next Tuesday’s by-election of the hereditary section of the other place among the Liberals?

“There are seven candidates that have been declared and they will face an electorate of three; the noble Earls of Glasgow and Oxford and Asquith, and Lord Addington.

“The count will be conducted by electoral reform services and the full results, including the number of first preference votes for each candidate and the position after the transfer of votes, will be available in the printed paper office.

“How long are we going to have situation where a party, rejected by the people, is kept alive in political life-support by patronage?

“And, is the Leader of the House really going to propose to reduce the size of the elected chamber when we have more than 800 members in the Lords participating in these farces?”

Grayling, responding to Salmond, said: “He [Salmond] asked about liberal democracy. The reality is that there is very little of it left, but at least this is one election they are guaranteed to win.”

The election for the peerage is taking place because 92 life peers were allowed to remain in the Lords when it was reformed in the late 1990s by Tony Blair’s Labour government. Each time one dies, the party they belonged to is effectively allowed to vote to pick their replacement.

SNP MP Kirsty Blackman, the party’s spokeswoman on the Lords, described the election for peerages as an “absurd relic” in a “ridiculous institution”, which she said should be entirely abolished.

Blackman, the Aberdeen North MP, added: “This ludicrous farce highlights everything that is wrong with the undemocratic and unaccountable House of Lords.

“While the UK Government seek to diminish Scotland’s elected voice at Westminster by culling the number of MPs we have representing us, they are at the same time intent on increasing the ever-expanding size and cost of this absurd relic – it is the height of Westminster hypocrisy.

“The message from the people of Scotland at the last election could not have been clearer – it is the same message that we have seen in all the opinion polls – the House of Lords should be scrapped and Scotland’s voice at Westminster must be strengthened not weakened. The Prime Minister should listen to the voters in Scotland for once and abolish this ridiculous institution.”

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said: “We are the party who have pushed hardest for Lords reform and we will continue to work towards an elected upper chamber.”

Seven candidates, and just three voters – is this the world’s most bizarre election?

UNDER reforms to the House of Lords introduced by Labour in 1999, nearly all of the hereditary peers were ejected from Parliament.
As a compromise to get the House of Lords changes approved, the Labour Government of allowed 92 of these hereditary peers to temporarily remain in Parliament until further reforms took place.
However, the further reforms never actually took place and the hereditary peers have become a permanent fixture. Every so often one of them dies or retires, forcing a by-election to find a replacement who has a hereditary title to take the allocated place in the second chamber. The remaining 92 hereditary peerages were also allocated to individual political parties, with the Liberal Democrats currently holding just three of the slots.
One of these Liberal Democrat hereditary peers, the 4th Baron Avebury, died earlier this year and there’s now a by-election to take his place in the House of Lords.
Seven eligible Lib Dem-supporting aristocrats are fighting for the chance to enter parliament. They are Lord Calverly, Lord Thurso, the new Lord Avebury, Lord Kennet, Lord Lloyd-George, Lord Somerleyton, and Lord Russell.
Each of the candidates has been asked to submit a 75-word statement about their background and relevant experience.
The winner of the contest will receive a life time peerage and be able to vote on laws, propose amendments, and question UK Government ministers in the second chamber of the UK parliament.
They will also be able to claim £300 for attendance.
Ballots must be cast by 5pm on 18 April, with the result due to be announced the following day.