By Jonathan Isaby
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The latest issue of the House Magazine (not online) features an interesting little snippet: the ex-MP formerly known as Douglas Hogg could be returning to Parliament through an unconventional route.
When his father, Viscount Hailsham, died in 2001, he inherited the title, but did not style himself as such whilst he remained in the Commons until his retirement as MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham at last year's general election.
Prior to Tony Blair's 1999 House of Lords Act, he would of course have had to resign from the Commons in order to take up his seat in the Lords on his father's death, but after the cull of most of the hereditary peers, he no longer had to do so (and neither did Michael Ancram, when his father, the Marquess of Lothian, died).
However, under the terms of the same House of Lords Act, 92 hereditary peers were saved and the same number have been entitled to remain ever since, meaning that there are still 47 Tory hereditary peers on the red benches.
And when one of the party-aligned hereditary peers remaining in the Lords dies, a by-election takes place to replace him among those remaining hereditaries taking that party's whip in the Lords. Candidacy in these contests is open to any hereditary from that party who was expelled in 1999, or the heir who inherited the title of a former hereditary peer who has since died.
As such, Hogg, now Viscount Hailsham, is on the register of hereditary peers entitled to stand in these by-elections and the House Magazine reports that in the contest to replace the Earl of Onslow, who died last month, Hailsham "appears to be the frontrunner".
If successful in the by-election (whcih is taking place next month), the former Agriculture Minister's return to Parliament will be controversial, since it was reported in March that the House of Lords Appointment Commission had recommended against accepting David Cameron's proposal that he be given a life peerage.
He did of course attain notoriety for his moat-related expenses claims, whilst his wife, Sarah Hogg, who was head of John Major's policy unit, already sits in the Lords in her own right as Baroness Hogg.
Full details of the procedure for the by-election – a postal ballot conducted by, ahem, Alternative Vote, is available in this House of Lords briefing paper.