Coronavirus ends 300-year tradition in the House of Lords of officials wearing wigs

Coronavirus has ended the 300-year-old tradition of House of Lords officials wearing wigs.

During the pandemic, Parliament had to hire six more clerks to help elderly peers socially distance and arrange for others to join virtual proceedings.

But the authorities did not want to spend the £2,000 it would cost to buy each clerk horsehair headpieces as they were only temporary.

Nor were they willing to cough up £48,000 to kit them out with the two sets of full formal regalia they would need.

The temporary staff are now being kept on – but the authorities are still refusing to pay for their official outfits.

As a result, all 16 clerks have been given permission to dress down. Deputy Speaker Lord Gardiner of Kimble said: “Costs would be significant.

© Getty Images John Bercow
© Getty Images Jacob Rees-Mogg

“Full uniform will continue in ceremonial occasions and for State Opening, at which wigs will also be worn.”

But many peers believe they should have been asked about the decision first. Tory Lord Patrick Cormack, 82, said: “There should have been a vote. If it had been the majority view I would have spoken against, but accepted it. I am a democrat.”

The move puts the Lords in line with the Commons, which axed wigs in 2017 as then-Speaker John Bercow thought them old-fashioned.

The clerks also said they itched. But Tory bigwig Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “That’s feeble. They must have been itchy for centuries.”

A Lords spokesperson said: “We decided against full uniform. We could not justify so many at the same time.”

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