Succession to the Crown was changed to allow the first-born Royal child to be in line for the Throne, now this principle must be extended to peerages

Over a decade ago, when Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne, the Succession to the Crown was changed by allowing the first-born Royal child to be in line for the Throne, regardless of its sex.

The Succession to the Crown Act (2013) amended the provisions of the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement to end the system of male primogeniture as it related to the Monarchy, under which a younger son can displace an elder daughter in the line of succession.

And yet a lot of other parts of our society continue to use male primogeniture. The part that particularly exercises me as a female Member of Parliament is that it applies to hereditary peerages which means that one-eighth of seats in the Upper House of our country’s Parliament are reserved for men-only. It is the last bastion of constitutional sexism, and constitutional sexism is completely indefensible and has terrible real-world consequences. It is Parliamentary misogyny baked right into the institution.

As only the 341st woman in our country’s history elected to the House of Commons, I work tirelessly to champion the work of women in Parliament and to get more women involved in all walks of public life and encouraging them to stand for political office at all levels of government and public administration.

I am not alone in my endeavours. Over the last decade, a veritable parade of Bills have been proposed, in both Houses, to seek to redress this historical imbalance. Perhaps most famous was the so-called Downton Abbey Bill, formally known as the Equality (Titles) Bill, which was brought to the House of Lords as the Monarchy was enacting its own constitutional reform. And I pay tribute to the Daughters’ Rights campaigners who are working tirelessly to bring about this important change.

Since my first attempt at passing this legislation I have had constructive meetings with Government Ministers and, although the principle of this particular reform has wide support, I fear that the Government does not have the parliamentary time to do it. My own conversations with individual Lords indicates sympathy for my campaign but I continue to face reticence, if not resistance across the body politic.

Put simply, daughters should be treated the same as sons across our country. The royal Family decided that it was right for them and I think most people would agree that it should be good enough for everyone else. The hereditary peerages in the House of Lords should go automatically to the eldest child and at the moment, this very rarely happens.

Only 13 per cent of the land in the UK is owned by women. Boys are twice as likely as girls to inherit family businesses. If we can’t level up the top of society, then we will never be able to change inequality for the whole of society sending entirely the wrong message to all the young women who look up to the House of Parliament.

I am adamant that reform is required. I think the House of Lords does valuable work scrutinising our legislation, but whatever your view about the House of Lords itself, you must surely agree that the rights of men and women should be the same. This anachronistic approach to a small proportion of the seats in the Upper Chamber sends the wrong message to every woman and girl who has even a passing interest in politics. As someone who has worked hard to achieve equal representation of men and women in the House of Commons, I am saddened that inequality is baked-in to the Mother of all Parliaments.

Harriett Baldwin MP

Harriett Baldwin is the Conservative MP for West Worcestershire, and elected in 2010.