Parliament: New peer says Lords robes should use fake fur

By Lucy Webster
BBC Politics

  • Published
Baroness Hayman in the House of Lords wearing red synthetic robesImage source, UK Parliament

New peer Baroness Hayman says the House of Lords should no longer use real fur robes during its ceremonies.

Traditionally, peers wear robes made of ermine, but the House has some synthetic fur robes in stock for those who prefer not to wear real fur.

Baroness Hayman said all the robes "should be replaced with synthetic robes for good".

She wore the fake fur robes for her introduction to the Lords on Tuesday.

The Labour peer said she had been "campaigning against fur since I was a student, so it's always been an issue that's been close to my heart".

Although she had told the authorities that her two supporters - peers who accompany a new member at the introductory ceremony - also wanted to wear fake fur robes, on arrival they found that not enough were available, she said.

Baroness Smith and Baroness Jones ended up not wearing any robes for the ceremony. Peers who are not wearing robes are not meant to take part in the ceremony but were allowed to in this case, Baroness Hayman said.

Referring to the short supply of synthetic robes, she added that she had "taken that up with the authorities and I think the committee is going to look at it, because that should change."

But Mark Oaten - a former Liberal Democrat MP who is now chief executive of the International Fur Federation - argued the use of fur robes was a "long tradition".

"It is also one of the most sustainable and natural textiles that you can have," he said, adding: "I would much rather we protected the environment and use natural materials than switching to plastic or chemical based alternatives."

Baroness Hayman was the Labour MP for Workington between 2015 and 2019.

She was shadow environment secretary for two years under Jeremy Corbyn, but lost her seat to the Conservatives at the 2019 election.

She is a vegetarian and as an MP she frequently spoke about animal welfare in the Commons, including supporting tougher sentences for people who abuse animals.

In a tweet when she was nominated for a peerage, Baroness Hayman said she would be "a voice for the environment, animal welfare and for West Cumbria".

During the introduction ceremony, Baroness Hayman took an oath to be "faithful and bear true allegiance" to the Queen.

She will sit as a Labour peer known as the Baroness Hayman of Ullock.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Traditional Lords robes are trimmed with the white fur of a stoat

The House of Lords said synthetic robes have been available "as an option for a number of years" but it did not know how many peers have used them in their introductory ceremonies.

It said peers choosing the synthetic robes was "not unusual".

Traditional robes are made from ermine, which is the white winter coat of the stoat. The Wildlife Trust describes stoats as small mammals related to the weasel and otter families, which can be recognised by their "distinctive bounding gate".