La Treizième Étoile: 07/11/10 - 14/11/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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Is William (the Earl of) Dartmouth MEP renouncing his peerage and title?

Saturday, 13 November 2010
A new blog post appeared on the BBC last Wednesday night penned by the Politics Show South West presenter Martyn Oates in which he discusses the “curious case of the disappearing peerage” and speculates the South West MEP William Dartmouth is renouncing his peerage.

William (the Earl of) Dartmouth MEP - a commissioned portrait as painted by Fanny Rush ( often in the shadows of Nigel Farage, his party leader, William (the Earl of) Dartmouth to give his full title, is one of the most flamboyant members in the European Parliament (who can forget his outburst at Catherine Ashton?). But is the 10th Earl of Dartmouth, or the “Earl of Independence” as he calls himself, set to renounce his life peerage, passed down through his family for three centuries?

I’m not so sure; instead I think that he is just referred to in this way for journalistic and linguistic convenience. Certainly in my experience, I recall him being referred to as Mr Dartmouth rather than William (the Earl of) Dartmouth each time and UKIP’s own website lists him as just “William Dartmouth”. That said, he is announced as “the Earl of Dartmouth” when called to speak in parliamentary debates (see here for example).

Martyn Oates’s blog also hints at a potential future turn of career with a campaign to run for the House of Commons with its reference to the House of Lords Act 1999 and the former Labour MP Tony Benn, who plays a key role in this story. But under the current law, Mr Dartmouth is not required to renounce his peerage if he wanted to swap Brussels for Westminster, so it does not qualify as an explanation.

Together with the Peerage Act of 1963, the House of Lords Act 1999 allowed those who inherited hereditary peerages to sit in the lower house of Parliament. Under British law at the time, peers of the United Kingdom were automatically members of the House of Lords and could not sit in, or vote in elections for, the House of Commons.

Mr Benn was elected to the House of Commons in 1950, he was heir apparent to a peerage (Viscount Stansgate) and did not intend to leave it for the other House, so he campaigned through the 1950s for a change in the law. When in 1960 the first Viscount died and Tony Benn inherited the title, he automatically lost his seat in the Commons but in the ensuing by-election was nonetheless re-elected to the House despite being disqualified. This turn of events led to the 1963 Act.

Some years later, and as the Labour Party under Tony Blair attempted to reform the upper House, the House of Lords Act 1999 was passed. This Act meant hereditary peers, such as the Earl of Dartmouth, would be barred from duties in the House of Lords but could stand to become an MP in the House of Commons; or could remain in the Commons if they inherit titles that would once have put them in the Lords.

Serving as proof, John Thurso (full title: John Archibald Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso) the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, today sits in the Commons as did the former MPs Michael Ancram and Douglas Hogg. Indeed, the Electoral Commission when listing what disqualifies a candidate from standing only states that peers “who sit and can vote in the House of Lords” are disqualified.

So do I think Mr Dartmouth is renouncing his peerage? No I don’t. I personally cannot see any reason why he would renounce a peerage that has been passed down within his family for 300 years – especially when he does not even have to in order to run for a seat in the House of Commons, should he ever decide to. But then again this is politics and stranger things have happened


Three candidates to compete to be the next Conservative leader in Europe

Wednesday, 10 November 2010
In light of the announcement made last month by the Conservative leader in Europe Timothy Kirkhope that he intends to step down as leader after five years in the role, the Tories have been looking for a successor.

According to ConservativeHome, nominations have closed and there are three candidates in contention for the role; they are Richard Ashworth, Martin Callanan, and Charles Tannock.

The South West MEP Giles Chichester, himself a former leader of the party in Europe, is in direct competition with Jacqui Foster to be elected as deputy leader while Syed Kamall is the only declared candidate for the Treasurer role and so has been elected unopposed.

Another South West MEP is also the running: Ashley Fox is one of four candidates nominated for the two available places as part of the Bureau.

The elections will take place in Strasbourg on 23rd November.

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As Tories reveal details of MEP meetings with lobbyists, who received the most?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Giles Chichester MEPSouth West MEP Giles Chichester was the Conservative Party’s MEP most regularly in contact with lobbyists in the first half of 2010, according to data published by the Tories in the European Parliament.

The publication last month of this first listing covering the six-month period of 1st January to 30th June 2010 arrives nearly 18 months after a commitment was made in the party’s manifesto for the last European elections which said its MEPs would "publish online details of all meetings with lobbyists and interest groups".

The 54-page document available to download from the party's website shows Mr Chichester, pictured left, had the most contact with lobbyists during the six-month period with a total of 219 entries, closely followed by his prominent colleagues Syed Kamall (145) and Malcolm Harbour (127).

The released information relating to the first half of this parliamentary year lists under the MEP's name the meeting date, the name of the lobbyist(s), their organisation (and clients, if applicable) and the 'context' of their meeting.

Mr Chichester, a former leader of the Conservatives in Europe, is a member of both the Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and its Committee on Petitions (PETI) so it comes as no surprise to see the majority of his meetings lobbyist undertaken within the context of “Energy”. But according to his self-compiled list, he also received lobbyists on issues relating to “Telecoms”, “Bio Economy”, “Insurance” and even one about a “visit [to a] RSPB reserve for briefing and to sign the Natura 2000 pledge to protect our best wildlife sites.”

While Mr Chichester along with Kamall and Harbour are among the MEPs most regularly in contact with lobbyists, two Tory MEPs - Sir Robert Atkins and Daniel Hannan - listed zero meetings. The latter, Hannan, a prolific EU-bashing columnist for the Daily Telegraph, claims to operate a no-lobbyist policy having “campaigned for years for more direct democracy, for the dispersal of power and for an end to comitology and an institutionalised role for NGOs”. It is perhaps thanks to this policy that he finds himself with enough time to blog on a near-daily basis.

The 54-page document is available to download from here. For the cropped version that features just the entries of the three Conservative South West MEPs click here (pdf, 1.24MB).


Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.