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Duke of York and ‘dubious’ peers ‘could be stripped of their titles’

The Duke of York (PA/Neil Hall)
The Duke of York (PA/Neil Hall)

The Duke of York and peers could be stripped of their titles under a proposed law tabled in Parliament.

There is currently no mechanism for such a title to be removed, but calls have been growing for action against Andrew since he paid millions to settle a US civil sexual assault case with his accuser Virginia Giuffre.

Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central, is seeking to address the gap in the law via her Removal of Titles Bill.

Labour MP for York Central Rachel Maskell (Parliament/Jessica Taylor)
Labour MP for York Central Rachael Maskell (Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

It aims to give the monarch new powers to remove titles or a committee of Parliament to determine that a title should be taken away.

Ms Maskell told the PA news agency her constituents made it clear to her that they wanted the Duke of York’s title to be removed, particularly given York’s recognition as a Human Rights City.

She argued there is already a “culture clash” when it comes to conversations around tackling violence against women and girls in the city.

Ms Maskell stressed the proposed legislation could also have “wider implications” for individuals like Lord Lebedev, the Russian-born businessman who was awarded a peerage in 2020, as he could also be stripped of his title.

An aerial view of York city centre (PA/Anna Gowthorpe)
An aerial view of York city centre (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

She said there is “definite interest” from across the Commons and even the Lords to put in place a mechanism that would deal with the issue of “people who have not lived up to public expectation”.

Ms Maskell said: “Back in February, when we had the focus on the court case, which was being brought against Andrew, my constituents responded that 80% of people wanted the association with the current Duke of York to be broken. And therefore, I met with the clerks here in the Commons to see how it can be achieved.”

She added: “There are no mechanisms in place, even for the monarch, to remove the title. The only real way it could be done is for Andrew to no longer call himself, by choice, the Duke of York.

“The problem is, particularly with an international city like York, that using a title like the Duke of York is an ambassadorial role, it carries the name of our city across the world.

“And it’s a city, which is a Human Rights City, the only Human Rights City in England. We are already in a culture clash when we are talking about violence against women and girls and the issues that we are really working hard on in the city, about making York a very safe place.”

She went on: “If this principle can be established, then obviously it could have wider implications.”

Lord Ahmed arriving at Sheffield Crown Court to be sentenced in February 2022 (Danny Lawson/PA)
Lord Ahmed arriving at Sheffield Crown Court to be sentenced in February 2022 (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ms Maskell highlighted the case of disgraced peer Lord Nazir Ahmed, adding: “Therefore, it could have wider implications about how the legislation could then be used to remove titles of people who have not lived up to public expectations.”

Lord Ahmed was convicted earlier this year of twice trying to rape a girl and sexually assaulting a boy under 11 in the early 1970s.

In January, Conservative MP for Rother Valley Alexander Stafford started a petition in the wake of the verdicts, calling for Lord Ahmed to be stripped of his title.

The presentation to Parliament of Ms Maskell’s Bill, which is due to receive its second reading on December 9, comes not long after York Council decided to strip Andrew of his Freedom of the City.

Andrew had already given up several patronages in both the city and the county in 2019, after stepping down from royal duties due to his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

In her lawsuit, Ms Giuffre accused Andrew of sexual abuse, saying the duke had sex with her when she was 17 and had been trafficked by his friend, the late Mr Epstein.

Although the parties settled the case in February, the out-of-court agreement was not an admission of guilt from the duke, who has always strenuously denied the allegations against him.