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Retired priest, 90, is on a ballot for seat in the House of Lords

11 June 2021


The House of Lords

The House of Lords

A RETIRED priest from Wiltshire is looking to take a seat with the bishops in the House of Lords.

The Revd Fraser Arthur Richard Richards, a former Rector of Christian Malford with Sutton Benger and Tytherton Kellaways, near Chippenham, is also the 2nd Baron Milverton of Lagos and of Clifton, Bristol.

Although he is 91 next month, he is one of ten candidates seeking to replace the Countess of Mar, on her retirement, aged 80, from her position as a crossbench peer.

If he is successful next Thursday, it will be, for him, a return to the Upper House. Until the Lords was reformed in 1999, when all but 92 of the nation’s hereditary peers lost their seats, Lord Milverton attended regularly.

He said: “I know I’m old, but everybody says they are surprised when they hear my age; they think I am much younger. There is still life in me, there is always something left. My family are not surprised by me putting myself forward.”

He inherited his title from his father, and entered the House in 1979. By then, he had been a rector in Wiltshire for 12 years. “I was quite active back then,” he said. “I couldn’t go every day when I was still in charge of a parish: I would take a day off when possible, but, when I retired, I went regularly.”

His main interests were disability issues and children and young people. Then, he sided with the Conservatives, but occasionally abstained and occasionally voted against them.

“This time, I think I can be an independent,” he said. “I think I will bring to the Lords what I brought before: a very objective, reasonable argument. I think the Lords has changed quite a bit since I was last there, but it is still mainly doing what it should be doing: making sure the Government are getting it right and telling them if they are not.

“Whatever might happen to it in the future, it should always be a revising chamber; to make really good what the Government brings forth.”

Lord Milverton was educated in Bristol, Ontario, and Kenya before undertaking two years’ National Service from 1949, as a subaltern with the Royal Signals. Between 1952 and 1953, during the Mau Mau Uprising, he was a Kenyan Police reservist.

He was ordained deacon in 1957, after training at Bishop’s College, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and served his title at St George’s, Beckenham, in Kent. In 1963, after two further curacies, he was appointed Vicar of Okewood with Forest Green, Surrey. Four years later, he moved to Christian Malford with Sutton Benger and Tytherton Kellaways, where he remained as Rector until his retirement in 1993. He lives in Marlborough.

Success in the ballot would make him the oldest newly elected parliamentarian, breaking the record set in 1885 when Bernard Kelly, an Irish nationalist, became MP for South Donegal at 77. He would not, however, be the oldest member of the Lords. That is Lord Christopher, a Labour life peer, who is 96.

If elected, he would back Baroness Meacher’s Bill legalising assisted dying. “I support the idea of an individual being able to make a decision while they still have their mind working when faced with great pain and suffering. I believe they have the right to say they can’t go on — subject to suitable safeguards.

“If I was really ill I’d like, while I still had my mind, to be able to pass away in peace with one’s family. I believe there is another life, which makes the ‘I’ in me, my personality, go on in some wonderful, mysterious way.”

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