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Only one woman eligible to stand in hereditary peer by-election, figures show

The male-dominated field will fuel calls to axe the controversial ballots, branded ‘ludicrous and indefensible’ by critics.

Out of more than 200 candidates eligible to stand in an upcoming hereditary by-election to the House of Lords, only one is a woman, figures show.

And just 31 peers are able to vote in the poll, which will cost taxpayers more than £1,140 to stage.

The latest vacancy was created following the retirement of Earl Baldwin of Bewdley.

The figures published by the Lords authorities will fuel calls to scrap hereditary peer by-elections, which have been branded “ludicrous and indefensible” by critics.

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House of Lords, by gender (PA Graphics)

The data was released in response to a parliamentary written question by Labour peer Lord Grocott, who has introduced a Bill to axe the by-elections, used to fill vacancies caused by death, resignation or expulsion.

His backbench legislation got bogged down in March amid angry accusations of delaying tactics, although the Government has offered extra parliamentary time and a “fair wind” to the Bill.

Lord Grocott pressed the Government again on the issue during question time in the upper house, where he pointed to the “anomalous position” where the 92 hereditary places were unaffected by proposals to curb the size of the unelected chamber.

As a result the recent retirement meant the Lords “will be by law obliged – against its policy – to replace that exiting peer with a new peer”, he said.

Responding, Conservative frontbencher Lord Young of Cookham said the Government had “unusually” offered additional time to his Bill, adding he had made “clear that the Government will not obstruct it”.

In a parliamentary written answer to Lord Grocott, the Lords senior deputy speaker Lord McFall said 211 peers are eligible to stand in the forthcoming hereditary by-election and 31 able to vote.

In a separate response, Lord McFall said: “One woman is eligible to stand in the forthcoming hereditary by-election.”

Asked about the costs, Lord McFall said it was expected to be in line with the last crossbench hereditary peers’ by-election, where the bill for services provided by Electoral Reform Services (ERS) was £1,140.

“This is in addition to the cost of House of Lords staff time spent organising the by-election which forms part of their normal duties and is not costed separately,” he added.

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