Once upon a time, wealthy men would pay to get into the House of Lords. Now they give up their seats in the legislature to avoid paying their fair share of tax to the Exchequer. Yesterday we learnt that three Conservative peers – Lord Bagri, Lord Laidlaw and Lord McAlpine – have resigned their seats, rather than rescind their privileged non-domiciled tax status. So much for noblesse oblige.
The instinctive response from most people to the departure of these individuals from public life will be: good riddance. But this episode should also raise a question: what were these characters doing in the House of Lords in the first place?
One would like to think that membership of the House of Lords represented a pinnacle of achievement and a privilege beyond anything that could be acquired through wealth alone. But it seems that in the case of these three lords, it's money that matters more than the honour of being able to influence public life from the red benches of the upper chamber.
Yet perhaps these non-dom peers have done us a favour. They have made the case for a fundamental overhaul of the House of Lords more effectively than any number of speeches by Nick Clegg.