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The Peerage Act 1963 (1963 c 48) introduced four important changes into Peerage Law in the United Kingdom relating to the disclaimer of hereditary peerage titles, the treatment of Scottish and Irish hereditary peers and the status of women who held peerage titles. The Act has since been amended by the House of Lords Act 1999 which removed from all hereditary peers the automatic right to a seat in the House of Lords.

The details of the changes are as follows:

Disclaimer of Peerage: Sections 1 to 3 established a procedure by which the holder of an hereditary peerage title could disclaim the title for the remainder of his or her life. (Note that Section 2 was repealed and sections 1 to 3 amended in 1999 to take account of the different circumstances after the House of Lords Act 1999.)

Scottish peerages: Section 4 gave all holders of a title in the Peerage of Scotland the same rights as other hereditary peers, and thus ended the practice by which the members of Scottish peerage elected sixteen of their number to sit as representative peers in the House of Lords.

Irish peerages: Section 5 dealt with the treatment of holders of titles in the Peerage of Ireland who had largely lost the right to obtain a seat in the House of Lords by virtue of the granting of Irish independence in 1922. The Act permitted such peers to stand for election to the House of Commons and to vote in elections. This section was rendered redundant by the House of Lords Act 1999 and was thus repealed.

Peeresses in own right: Section 6 permitted a woman who held a peerage title the same rights as a male holder. Prior to this Act, although there were a small number of titles in the Peerage of England and a slightly larger number in the Peerage of Scotland which could be held by a female heir, they were not permitted to sit in the House of Lords. Margaret Haig Thomas, Viscountess Rhondda had attempted in 1922 to establish her right to a seat but this had been denied her; it took forty years of further campaigning to establish this right.

Despite the fact that the House of Lords Act 1999 has largely removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords the Peerage Act still remains relevant, as as an hereditary peer may still disclaim their title, and because it established that Peeresses in their own right and Scottish Peers have the same rights as all other hereditary peers, even if those rights are now somewhat diminished.


The PEERAGE ACT 1963
as amended by the House of Lords Act 1999)

An 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 Eng1and, 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
31 July 1963
Disclaimer of Peerage
1 Disclaimer of certain hereditary peerages
(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, any person who, after the commencement of this Act, succeeds to a peerage in the peerage of England, Scotland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom may, by an instrument of disclaimer delivered to the Lord Chancellor within the period prescribed by this Act, disclaim that peerage for his life.
(2) Any instrument of disclaimer to be delivered under this section in respect of a peerage shall be delivered within the period of twelve months beginning with the day on which the person disclaiming succeeds to that peerage or, if he is under the age of twenty-one when he so succeeds, the period of twelve months beginning with the day on which he attains that age; and no such instrument shall be delivered in respect of a peerage by a person who {has applied for a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords in right of that peerage} is excepted from section 1 of the House of Lords Act 1999 by virtue of section 2 of that Act.*
(3) The foregoing provisions of this section shall apply to a person who has succeeded to a peerage before the commencement of this Act as they apply to a person who succeeds to a peerage after the commencement of this Act, but subject to the following modifications:—
(a) the period within which an instrument of disclaimer may be delivered by such a person shall be twelve months beginning with the commencement of this Act or, if he is then under twenty-one years of age, twelve months beginning with the day on which he attains that age; {and
(b) an instrument of disclaimer may be delivered by such a person notwithstanding that he has applied before the commencement of this Act for a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords.}
(4) In reckoning any period prescribed by this section for the delivery of an instrument of disclaimer by any person no account shall be taken of any time during which that person is shown to the satisfaction of the Lord Chancellor to have been subject to any infirmity of body or mind rendering him incapable of exercising or determining whether to exercise his rights under this section.
(5) The provisions of Schedule 1 to this Act shall have effect with respect to the form of instruments of disclaimer under this section, and the delivery, certification and registration of such instruments.
{2 Disclaimer by members of the House of Commons and parliamentary candidates
(1) Where a person who succeeds to a peerage to which section 1 of this Act applies is a member of the House of Commons when he so succeeds, any instrument of disclaimer to be delivered by him under that section in respect of that peerage shall be delivered within the period of one month beginning with the date of his succession, and not later; and until the expiration of that period he shall not, by virtue of that peerage, be disqualified for membership of the House of Commons whether or not he has delivered such an instrument:
Provided that—
(a) a person who is exempt from disqualification for membership of the House of Commons by virtue only of this subsection shall not sit or vote in that House while so exempt; and
(b) if any such person applies for a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords in right of the peerage in question this subsection shall cease to apply to him.
(2) Where a person who succeeds to such a peerage as aforesaid has been or is nominated as a candidate at a parliamentary election held in pursuance of a writ issued before his succession, he shall not (unless he applies for such a writ of summons as aforesaid) be disqualified by virtue of that peerage from election to the House of Commons at that election, and if he is so elected subsection (1) of this section shall apply to him as if he had succeeded to the peerage immediately after the declaration of the result of the election.
(3) Where an instrument of disclaimer is delivered under this Act by a person to whom this section applies, a copy of that instrument shall be delivered to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
(4) In reckoning any period prescribed by this section in relation to any person no account shall be taken—
(a) of any time during which proceedings are pending on any parliamentary election petition in which the right of that person to be returned to the House of Commons is in issue
(b) of any time during which that person is shown to the satisfaction of the Speaker of the House of Commons to have been subject to any such infirmity as is mentioned in subsection (4) of section 1 of this Act; or
(c) of any time during which Parliament is prorogued or both Houses of Parliament are adjourned for more than four days
and if Parliament is dissolved during that period the foregoing provisions of this section shall cease to apply to that person in respect of the peerage in question.}
3 Effects of disclaimer
(1) The disclaimer of a peerage by any person under this Act shall be irrevocable and shall operate, from the date on which the instrument of disclaimer is delivered,—
(a) to divest that person (and, if he is married, his wife) of all right or interest to or in the peerage, and all titles, rights, offices, privileges and precedence attaching thereto; and
(b) to relieve him of all obligations and disabilities {(including any disqualification in respect of membership of the House of Commons and elections to that House)} arising therefrom,
but shall not accelerate the succession to that peerage nor affect its devolution on his death.
(2) Where a peerage is disclaimed under this Act, no other hereditary peerage shall be conferred upon the person by whom it is disclaimed, {and no writ in acceleration shall be issued in respect of that peerage to the person entitled thereto on his death}.
(3) The disclaimer of a peerage under this Act shall not affect any right, interest or power (whether arising before or after the disclaimer) of the person by whom the peerage is disclaimed, or of any other person, to, in or over any estates or other property limited or settled to devolve with that peerage.
(4) The reference in the foregoing subsections to estates or other property limited or settled to devolve with a peerage shall, for the purposes of the application of this Act to Scotland, be construed as including a reference to estates or other land devolving as aforesaid under an entail or special destination, or the beneficial interest in which so devolves under a trust.
Parliamentary qualifications of Scottish Peers, Irish Peers and Peeresses in own right
4 Scottish peerages
The holder of a peerage in the peerage of Scotland shall have the same right to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords and to site and vote in that House as the holder of a peerage in the peerage of the United Kingdom; and the enactments relating to the election of Scottish representative peers shall cease to have effect.
{5 Irish peerages
The holder of a peerage in the peerage of Ireland shall not by virtue of that peerage be disqualified—
(a) for being or being elected as a member of the House of Commons for any constituency in the United Kingdom:
(b) for voting at elections for that House whether or not he is a member of that House.}
6 Peeresses in own right
A woman who is the holder of a hereditary peerage in the peerage of England, Scotland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom shall (whatever the terms of the letters patent or other instrument, if any, creating that peerage) have the same right to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords, and to sit and vote in that House, and shall be subject to the same disqualifications in respect of membership of the House of Commons and elections to that House, as a man holding that peerage.
Supplemental
7 Short title, and repeals
(1) This Act may be cited as the Peerage Act 1963.
(2) {repealed}

* The words in italics were inserted by the House of Lords Act 1999


Text of the Act taken from http://home.freeuk.net/don-aitken/peer63.htm

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