RISHI Sunak’s Tories have been accused of showing “contempt for democracy” after they made a hereditary peer a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

James Younger, termed “Viscount Younger of Leckie”, was handed the DWP role on New Year’s Day with responsibilities including maternity benefits, bereavement benefits, child maintenance, and oversight of departmental business.

Green MSP Maggie Chapman said that the “absolute bare minimum for holding such a position should be winning an election”.

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She told The National: “Government ministers make decisions that affect the lives of tens of millions of people. In the case of the Department of Work and Pensions these decisions could literally mean the difference between life and death. The absolute bare minimum for holding such a position should be winning an election.

“Appointing this hereditary peer who voters can never hold accountable shows the level of contempt the Tories hold for both democracy and the electorate.

“It’s not the first time the Tories have done this, previously appointing peers to various ministerial posts and a party donor [Malcolm Offord] to the Scotland Office. The House of Lords has no place in a functioning democracy.”

The National:

SNP MP David Linden, his party’s social justice spokesperson at Westminster, also hit out at Younger’s (above) appointment.

Linden said: “Our welfare system does not need more Tory peers from an undemocratic House of Lords – it needs to be taken out of the hands of cruel Westminster governments for good by becoming an independent country with a welfare system for everyone in Scotland.”

He said that Scotland's progress was "consistently being undermined by brutal Westminster policies", adding: “People across Scotland are sick of being made to suffer the consequences of politicians and decisions they do not vote for – from the Tory made cost of living crisis to the catastrophe of Brexit. As an independent country, Scotland can do far better."

Younger replaces Deborah Stedman-Scott in the role of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the DWP, which also involves speaking on department business in the Lords.

Stedman-Scott was made a Tory life peer in 2010. At the time, she was the chief executive of the Tomorrow's People Trust, which works with young and disadvantaged people to help them find and retain employment.

It is not Younger’s first ministerial role. He was handed a position as a government whip almost immediately after he became a peer and has also worked as a minister in the business department and as a minister in the communities department.

There are 92 seats for hereditary peers in the House of Lords, 42 of which are Conservatives. If a Tory hereditary peer dies or resigns his position, then the other Tory peers elect a successor from a select list. It was in a by-election such as this that Younger was elevated to the Lords in 2010 to fill the seat made vacant by the death of David Carnegie.

Younger’s father, George Younger, was awarded a life peerage in 1992 before he could inherit his hereditary one. He had been a key member of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, serving first as Scotland and later defence secretary.

A UK Government spokesperson said: "There is a longstanding precedent across successive governments to appoint peers into ministerial roles to ensure each department has a spokesperson in the House of Lords."