Lord Sewel has been in the news a lot lately ever since a tabloid released a video of him allegedly snorting cocaine off a prostitute’s breasts. He has since had to step down from his roles as Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords and Chairman of Committees. Now, the media have been speculating that he might have to go even further and resign his peerage.
The trouble is, that would be impossible. A peerage can only be annulled by an Act of Parliament. This is an exceedingly rare occurrence–the last time it happened was in 1919 when several peers lost their titles under the provisions of the Titles Deprivation Act 1917 because they fought against the United Kingdom in World War I.
Although Lord Sewel’s peerage may be immutable, the law now allows a peer to be divested of their membership of the House of Lords, either voluntarily or involuntarily. The House of Lords Reform Act 2014 lets peers resign, while the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015 lets the House of Lords itself suspend or expel a member. But neither of these Acts affect a peerage. Even if Lord Sewel ceases to be a member of the House of Lords, he will still be Lord Sewel unless an Act of Parliament provides otherwise.