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Fred Goodwin’s knighthood: should peers be worried about their titles?

Unlike a knighthood, only an act of parliament that has received royal assent can permanently revoke a peerage

The honours forfeiture committee, which is empowered to recommend the revocation of knighthoods and lesser awards, cannot remove the titles of peers.

Only an act of parliament that has received royal assent can revoke a peerage permanently. The last time this punishment was enforced was during the first world war on the grounds of treason when two lords fought “for the king’s enemies”.

Peers are appointed for life and their summons to attend the House of Lords renewed by letters patent sent out by the monarch at the beginning of each new parliament.

At present, the House of Lords, therefore, only has the power to suspend members for a maximum period of up to five years – the length of any one parliament.

In opposition, David Cameron proposed bringing in legislation that would enable parliament to take away the title of any peer who breached a code of conduct.

A House of Lords reform draft bill – which would introduce a mainly elected upper chamber – is being considered by a select committee. It contains powers to simplify the procedure for separating errant peers from their honorific titles under the House’s standing orders – mirroring the situation regulating MPs in the Commons.

Lord Archer, who served a four-year prison sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice, has been identified as someone who might be at risk of losing his peerage under any change to the law.

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