During Business Questions on December 2nd, the Lord President of the Council - Jacob Rees-Mogg - was teased by the SNP's Pete Wishart about an alleged £6 million loan from his company Saliston Ltd, as well as a claim that Conservative party guarantees peerages to those who donate over £3 million to the party:-
Today, of course, it is the Leader of the House who is all over the headlines, as he emerges as the latest Government Minister to be investigated because of his outside interests. Six million quid! I never knew he was so loaded. He could buy two peerages in the House of Lords with that money.
When he responded, Rees-Mogg mentioned the House of Lords Precedence Act 1539:-
The hon. Gentleman wishes me to go to the House of Lords, which is very flattering of him. He is clearly unaware of the 1539 Act about places in Parliament—the House of Lords Precedence Act 1539—which allows the Lord President, when not a peer, to go and sit in the House of Lords. It is not a privilege I have ever taken up, as I am worried that their lordships might be a bit surprised, but the Lord High Chancellor, the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Treasurer—a position currently in commission—and various others have the right to go and sit in the House of Lords when they are not peers, so I assume that is what the hon. Gentleman was talking about.
The relevant section of the legislation seems to be Section VIII, which indeed appears to give the holders of these posts the right to sit in the House of Lords, "at the uppermost parte of the sakkes in the middes of the saide Parliament Chamber, eyther there to sytt uppon one fourme or uppon the uppermost sakk".
Presumably this privilege was used when these posts were regularly held by non-MPs, but have any elected MPs ever made use of this privilege to sit in the House of Lords while holding these positions?