Lady Mar is a crossbench peer elected as one of the 92 hereditary peers to remain in the House as a deputy speaker in 1999. She is also the holder of the oldest peerage in the United Kingdom; the Earldom of Mar, or Mormaer, which was first created some time in the 12th Century.
Born Margaret Alison Lane in 1940, Lady Mar was the daughter of James Clifton Lane, later 30th Earl of Mar, who was first cousin once removed of Lionel Erskine-Young, 29th Earl of Mar. Lady Mar abandoned her surname, along with her two younger siblings, in 1959 when her father was recognised in the style of ‘of Mar’.
When her brother died in 1967, she was thereafter styled as Mistress of Marr and, following the death of her father in 1975, succeeded to the earldom as 31st Countess, making her maiden speech in April 1976 when, drawing on her experience working in the Post Office, she addressed the noble lords on the importance of technical training.
Since that time, Lady Mar has held positions in the House as Deputy Chair of Committees between 1997 and 2007, a member of the
Select Committee on European Communities Sub-Committee C (Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection) between 1997 and 1999,
Deputy Speaker between 1999 and 2007 and a member of the
Select Committee on European Union Sub-Committee D (Environment, Agriculture, Public Health and Consumer Protection / Environment and Agriculture) between 2001 and 2005.
A Black Country farmer, Lady Mar is a specialist cheese producer and has her own breed of ‘Mar goats’ on her Worcester estate. In the summer of 1989, while dipping her sheep through a tank of organophosphorous chemicals, she was subjected to a splash of chemicals on her foot, and three weeks later developed headaches and muscular pains.
She was eventually diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and, since that time, has used her seat in the House almost exclusively to press the government to provide care and support for patients with similar long-term and poorly understood medical conditions, as well as to better regulate the use of organophosphates.
This also led to her membership on the EU sub-committees listed above and her founding Forward-ME, an organisation to co-ordinate the activities of charities and voluntary organisations working with patients suffering from the condition.
In January this year, Lady Mar courted controversy by arguing low food prices were to blame for the staggering amount of food wasted in the United Kingdom, telling the House: “Food in this country is too cheap. It costs the price of its production in most cases. If it gave the farmers a bit more profit, householders, housewives perhaps, who prepare food would be more careful about wasting it.”
The heiress presumptive to the Earldom of Mar is Lady Mar’s daughter from her first marriage to Edwin Noel Artiss, Susan Helen of Mar, Mistress of Mar. She has since married twice more and has two grandchildren, Isobel and Frances.