Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Conservative baroness reveals hotel booking 'frisson'

Baroness Trumpington
Baroness Trumpington's late husband loved paying for drinks on her bill

A Conservative life peer has revealed that booking into a hotel used to give a "certain frisson", as her late husband had to use a different name.

Baroness Trumpington, formerly Jean Alys Barker, was speaking during a Lords debate on the use of titles.

Male peers confer an honorary title on their wives, but husbands of female peers keep their original names.

Crossbencher Baroness Deech urged a change to the law, but the government said it had no plans for this.

The Equality Bill is currently progressing through Parliament.

'Raised eyebrows'

He loved putting his drinks on my bill. And it did add a certain frisson to staying in a hotel together

During the House of Lords questions, Baroness Deech said: "Equality has to start here in the chamber between the sexes and if a male peer's wife is always a lady, then why should not the same courtesy extend to the husband of a woman peer, because I'm sure they have done just as much to support the women as the men.

"And if the issue is trivial then either titles should be extended to the husbands or titles should be confined only to the recipients."

There was laughter as Baroness Trumpington, a former mayor of Cambridge who was married to William Barker, said: "Is the minister aware that, when my husband was alive, he loved being [mistakenly] called M'Lord?

"He loved putting his drinks on my bill. And it did add a certain frisson to staying in a hotel together."

Fellow Tory Baroness Sharples, whose three husbands have predeceased her, said neither the second nor third had objected.

"I have had the same situation as Baroness Trumpington - signing into a hotel did raise a few eyebrows," she added.

'Absolutely delighted'

The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Peter Forster, said that if the situation was solved without the position of bishops' wives being looked at, justice minister Lord Bach might find a "deputation of them on his doorstep, which is not a prospect I would wish upon him".

Lord Bach said it was "an anomalous situation, certainly, that women take their husbands' titles but men do not take their wives' titles.

"The reason for it, I suspect, is that the UK honours system of titles is pretty complex and rooted in history.

"Of course the position of women has changed, thankfully, dramatically in recent history. However, notwithstanding this, I have to tell the House frankly that the government is not aware of any great anxiety or urgent desire to change it."

On Baroness Trumpington's comments, he said: "I'm absolutely delighted to hear that story and I very much hope other noble baronesses will bear it in mind."

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