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Friday, May 28, 1999 Published at 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK

UK Politics

Housewife peer lashes out at Labour

Baroness Arlington is welcomed to the Lords

A housewife who could be the one of last hereditary peers to take up a seat in the House of Lords has been sworn in.

Lords Reform
Baroness Arlington, alias, Jennifer Forwood, 60, has fought a two-year battle to have her claim to her title officially recognised.

She is the first Arlington to sit in the House for three centuries.

And after taking the oath of allegiance she attacked the government's planned constitutional reforms which would have her and most of her fellow hereditaries ejected from the chamber later this year.

The BBC's Jon Devitt: One of the last peers to take her place in the House of Lords
Labour was out of touch with public opinion on this issue Lady Arlington insisted.

"Everyone in my home town, the ordinary people - and I am not being patronising - wish me well. There's no jealousy, " she said.

[ image: Most hereditary peers are set to lose their attendance rights]
Most hereditary peers are set to lose their attendance rights
"They are all behind the hereditary peers and say we shouldn't be kicked out at all."

She added: "I am sitting on the crossbenches as the conscience of the people."

She also pledged she would try to make her maiden speech before she lost her voting and sitting rights in the Lords.

"I hope to make some contribution before I have to leave," she said.

Concern about drugs

Lady Arlington said she would try to highlight drug issues as one of her two sons was an ex-addict.

[ image: Lady Arlington required a writ from the Queen to take up her seat]
Lady Arlington required a writ from the Queen to take up her seat
"My younger son James has been a crack cocaine addict and went to Wandsworth and Brixton prisons.

"But to look at him now you wouldn't know he was at the bottom of the heap four years ago. We have been through the horrors and now we tell students about it.

"James is now my pride and joy and he has shown that drug addicts can climb out of it. It was the thought of going back to prison that made him stop. He was frightened.

"That's why I shall be so sad to leave this place, because the public needs to know about drugs and what can be done to help."

Aristocratic saga

The Arlington barony goes back to 1664 and was created for Sir Henry Bennett, a member of Charles II's inner cabinet of Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington and Lauderdale, who were known as the Cabal.

Sir Henry, born in Harlington, Middlesex, later became Viscount Thetford and Earl of Arlington.

[ image: The title became vacant when Lasy Arlington's uncle died in an accident]
The title became vacant when Lasy Arlington's uncle died in an accident
He died in 1685 and was succeeded by his daughter Isabella, Duchess of Grafton.

The titles then passed into the Fitzroy family who still sit in the Lords as Dukes of Grafton.

Unlike the Grafton titles, daughters can inherit the Arlington titles.

When the unmarried ninth duke died in a car crash in 1936, the Arlington title fell into abeyance between his two younger sisters, neither of whom claimed it.

After the death of the eldest sister in 1995, her elder daughter, Jennifer, began a long and complex though uncontested process of claiming the barony.

Last month the Queen finally terminated the abeyance in her favour, against the potential claims of her aunt and sister, and issued the Writ of Summons.

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