Some are born great: five peers and how they came by their titles

Lord Vestey, Britain's third richest man, who voted in favour of the poll tax. He was able to have his say because his grandfather bought a peerage from Lloyd George, even though a scandal caused by his attempts to avoid tax on his meat business during the First World War had led the usually stolid George V to condemn his "disgraceful" behaviour. The Vestey family was at the centre of another controversy about its use of a tax loophole in 1980.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford, 76, once a Labour MP, was one of many Conservative journalists ennobled by Margaret Thatcher. He warned the Lords that it would be suicide for peers to oppose the poll tax and became a strong supporter of John Major. Earlier this year Opposition MPs attacked the Government's allegedly political decision to reappoint him to the pounds 95,000-a-year quango post of chairman of the Tote. The job was not advertised.

Marquess of Blandford, heir to the Duke of Marlborough, was stripped of the right to manage his family's Blenheim estates after court action by his father. "There's a black sheep in all families," said the Duke, "There's nothing new about that." His son has a history of drug convictions and has served several jail sentences. He will still be able to serve in the House of Lords when his father dies as his right to hold the title was unaffected by the legal moves against him.

Lord Carnock, 74, is one of many peers who attend the Lords, draw expenses but say little or nothing. When asked why he had not spoken during the 1993/94 session, the Conservative peer replied that his expenses were modest. "I should have done more," he added. "But it is not idleness. I find it difficult to get stuck into a subject and have a lot of other things on my mind. I'm busy with extensive improvements to my garden which I'd like to open to the public."

Lord Kagan, who died earlier this year. His friend Harold Wilson created him a life peer in his notorious 1976 resignation honours list. Four years after his introduction to the House of Lords, Kagan was jailed for theft and false accounting. He was stripped of a knighthood but not his peerage and was able to attend the Lords where he spoke regularly and with feeling on prison reform.

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