House of LordsThe House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House ofCommons, it ...
often considered to be the "Model Parliament" (held in 1295), which included archbishops, bishops, abbots,earls, barons, a...
Queen Anne addressing the House of Lords, c. 1708–14, by Peter Tillemans.The rejection of the Peoples Budget, proposed by ...
An important vote: the House of Lords voting for the Parliament Act 1911.[edit]19th centuryThe 19th century was marked by ...
The Labour Party had for most of the twentieth century a commitment, based on the partys historicopposition to class privi...
cross-party committee discussed Lords reform, with the aim of reaching a consensus: its findings werepublished in early 20...
[edit]RoleRelationship with the GovernmentThe House of Lords does not control the term of the Prime Minister or of the Gov...
Former judicial roleHistorically, the House of Lords held several judicial functions. Most notably, until 2009 the House o...
motivated in part by concerns about the historical admixture of legislative, judicial, and executive power. Thenew Supreme...
ceased to be a part of the Church of England in 1920 and was simultaneously disestablished inWales.[26]Accordingly, bishop...
the Prime Minister, but were formally appointed by the Sovereign. A Lord of Appeal in Ordinary had to retireat the age of ...
and Wales only), or if he or she is adjudged bankrupt (in Northern Ireland), or if his or her estate issequestered (in Sco...
the House of Commons, on ceremonial occasions. This is no longer a requirement for the Lord Speakerexcept for State occasi...
The Lords Chamber is the site of many formal ceremonies, the most famous of which is the StateOpening of Parliament, held ...
There are two other motions which have grown up through custom and practice and which governquestionable conduct within th...
and collect evidence. Bills may be referred to Select Committees, but are more often sent to theCommittee of the Whole Hou...
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House of Lords

  1. 1. House of LordsThe House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House ofCommons, it meets in thePalace of Westminster.The House of Lords is the second chamber of Parliament. It is independent from, and complements the workof, the House of Commons – they share responsibility for making laws and checking governmentaction.[2]Bills can be introduced into either the House of Lords or the House of Commons and members ofthe Lords may also take on roles as Government Ministers.Unlike the House of Commons, members of the House of Lords are appointed.[3]Membership of the Houseof Lords is made up of Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal. There are currently 26 Lords Spiritual, who sit inthe Lords by virtue of their ecclesiastical role in the established Church of England.[4]The Lords Temporalmake up the rest of the membership; of these, the majority are life peerswho are appointed by the Monarchon the advice of the Prime Minister, or on the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.Membership was once a right of birth to hereditary peers but, following a series of reforms, as of 1 July2011 only 90 members sitting by virtue of a hereditary peerage remain.[6]The number of members is notfixed; as of 1 December 2011 the House of Lords has 788 members (plus 21 who are on leave of absence orotherwise disqualified from sitting),[1]as against the fixed 650-seat membership of the House of Commons.[1][The role of the House of Lords is primarily to act as a body of specialist knowledge that scrutinizes in greaterdetail bills that have been approved by the House of Commons.[8]It regularly reviews and amends bills fromthe Commons.[9]While the House of Lords is unable unilaterally to prevent bills passing into law (except incertain limited circumstances[10]), its members can severely delay bills that they believe to be misguided andthereby force the government, the Commons and the general public to reconsider their decisions.[11]In thiscapacity, the Lords acts as constitutional safeguard that is independent from the electoral process and thatcan challenge the will of the people when the majority’s desires threaten key constitutional principles, humanrights or rules of law.[12][13][14]In other countries, this role would often be performed by a Supreme Court butthe UK systems emphasis onParliamentary Sovereignty – rather than Judicial Review – means that thisfunction cannot be properly accomplished by the British court system as all judicial rulings can be overruledby parliament.[15]The Speech from the throne, often known as the Queens Speech, is delivered from the House of Lordsduring the State Opening of Parliament. The House also has a minor Church of England role in that throughthe Lords Spiritual Church Measures must be tabled within the House. The formal title of the House of Lordsis The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain andNorthern Ireland in Parliament assembled.[16][17]HistoryTodays Parliament of the United Kingdom largely descends, in practice, from the Parliament of England,though the 1706 Treaty of Union and the Acts of Union that ratified the Treaty created a new Parliament ofGreat Britain to replace the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. This new parliament was,in effect, the continuation of the Parliament of England with the addition of 45 MPs and 16 Peers to representScotland.The Parliament of England developed from the Magnum Concilium, the "Great Council" that advised the Kingduring medieval times.[18]This royal council came to be composed of ecclesiastics, noblemen, andrepresentatives of the counties (afterwards, representatives of the boroughs as well). The first Parliament is
  2. 2. often considered to be the "Model Parliament" (held in 1295), which included archbishops, bishops, abbots,earls, barons, and representatives of the shires and boroughs.The power of Parliament grew slowly, fluctuating as the strength of the monarchy grew or declined. Forexample, during much of the reign of Edward II (1307–1327), the nobility was supreme, the Crown weak,and the shire and borough representatives entirely powerless. In 1569, the authority of Parliament was forthe first time recognised not simply by custom or royal charter, but by an authoritative statute, passed byParliament itself.Further developments occurred during the reign of Edward IIs successor, Edward III. Most importantly, itwas during this Kings reign that Parliament clearly separated into two distinct chambers: the House ofCommons (consisting of the shire and borough representatives) and the House of Lords (consisting of thesenior clergy and the nobility). The authority of Parliament continued to grow, and, during the early fifteenthcentury, both Houses exercised powers to an extent not seen before. The Lords were far more powerful thanthe Commons because of the great influence of the aristocrats and prelates of the realm.The power of the nobility suffered a decline during the civil wars of the late fifteenth century, known asthe Wars of the Roses. Much of the nobility was killed on the battlefield or executed for participation in thewar, and many aristocratic estates were lost to the Crown. Moreover, feudalism was dying, andthe feudal armies controlled by the barons became obsolete. Henry VII (1485–1509) clearly established thesupremacy of the monarch, symbolised by the Crown Imperial. The domination of the Sovereign continuedto grow during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs in the 16th century. The Crown was at the height of itspower during the reign of Henry VIII (1509–1547).The House of Lords remained more powerful than the House of Commons, but the Lower House continuedto grow in influence, reaching a zenith in relation to the House of Lords during the middle 17th century.Conflicts between the King and the Parliament (for the most part, the House of Commons) ultimately led tothe English Civil War during the 1640s. In 1649, after the defeat and execution of King Charles I,the Commonwealth of England was declared, but the nation was effectively under the overall controlof Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England.[19]The House of Lords was reduced to a largely powerless body, with Cromwell and his supporters in theCommons dominating the Government. On 19 March 1649, the House of Lords was abolished by an Act ofParliament, which declared that "The Commons of England [find] by too long experience that the House ofLords is useless and dangerous to the people of England."[19]The House of Lords did not assemble againuntil the Convention Parliament met in 1660 and the monarchy was restored. It returned to its former positionas the more powerful chamber of Parliament—a position it would occupy until the 19th century.
  3. 3. Queen Anne addressing the House of Lords, c. 1708–14, by Peter Tillemans.The rejection of the Peoples Budget, proposed by David Lloyd George(above), precipitated a political crisis in 1909.
  4. 4. An important vote: the House of Lords voting for the Parliament Act 1911.[edit]19th centuryThe 19th century was marked by several changes to the House of Lords. The House, once a body of onlyabout 50 members, had been greatly enlarged by the liberality of George III and his successors in creatingpeerages. The individual influence of a Lord of Parliament was thus diminished.Moreover, the power of the House as a whole experienced a decrease, whilst that of the House of Commonsgrew. Particularly notable in the development of the Lower Houses superiority was the Reform Bill of 1832.The electoral system of the House of Commons was not, at the time, democratic: property qualificationsgreatly restricted the size of the electorate, and the boundaries of many constituencies had not beenchanged for centuries.Entire cities such as Manchester were not represented by a single individual in the House of Commons, butthe 11 voters of Old Sarum retained their ancient right to elect two Members of Parliament. A small boroughwas susceptible to bribery, and was often under the control of a patron, whose nominee was guaranteed towin an election. Some aristocrats were patrons of numerous "pocket boroughs", and therefore controlled aconsiderable part of the membership of the House of Commons.When, in 1831, the House of Commons passed a Reform Bill to correct some of these anomalies, the Houseof Lords rejected the proposal. The popular cause of reform, however, was not abandoned by the ministry,Lords in 1832. The Prime Minister, Earl Grey, then advised the King to overwhelm the opposition to the bill inthe House of Lords by creating about 80 new pro-Reform peers. William IV originally balked at the proposal,which effectively threatened the opposition of the House of Lords, but at length relented.Before the new peers were created, however, the Lords who opposed the bill admitted defeat, and abstainedfrom the vote, allowing the passage of the bill. The crisis damaged the political influence of the House ofLords, but did not altogether end it. Over the course of the century, however, the power of the Upper Houseexperienced further erosion, and the Commons gradually became the stronger House of Parliament.20th centuryThe status of the House of Lords returned to the forefront of debate after the election of a LiberalGovernment in 1906. In 1909, theChancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, introduced intothe House of Commons the "Peoples Budget", which proposed a land tax targeting wealthy landowners. Thepopular measure, however, was defeated in the heavily Conservative House of Lords.Having made the powers of the House of Lords a primary campaign issue, the Liberals were narrowly re-elected in January 1910. Asquith then proposed that the powers of the House of Lords be severely curtailed.After a general election in December 1910, the Asquith Government secured the passage of a bill to curtailthe powers of the House of Lords.The Parliament Act 1911 effectively abolished the power of the House of Lords to reject legislation, or toamend in a way unacceptable to the House of Commons: most bills could be delayed for no more than threeparliamentary sessions or two calendar years. It was not meant to be a permanent solution; morecomprehensive reforms were planned. Neither party, however, pursued the matter with much enthusiasm,and the House of Lords remained primarily hereditary. In 1949, the Parliament Act reduced the delayingpower of the House of Lords further to two sessions or one year.In 1958, the predominantly hereditary nature of the House of Lords was changed by the Life Peerages Act1958, which authorised the creation of life baronies, with no numerical limits. The number of Life Peers thengradually increased, though not at a constant rate.
  5. 5. The Labour Party had for most of the twentieth century a commitment, based on the partys historicopposition to class privilege, to abolish the House of Lords, or at least expel the hereditary element. In 1968,the Labour Government of Harold Wilson attempted to reform the House of Lords by introducing a systemunder which hereditary peers would be allowed to remain in the House and take part in debate, but would beunable to vote. This plan, however, was defeated in the House of Commons by a coalition of traditionalistConservatives (such as Enoch Powell), and Labour members who continued to advocate the outrightabolition of the Upper House (such as Michael Foot).When Michael Foot attained the leadership of the Labour Party, abolition of the House of Lords became apart of the partys agenda; under Neil Kinnock, however, a reformed Upper House was proposed instead. Inthe meantime, the creation of hereditary peerages (except for members of the Royal Family) has beenarrested, with the exception of three creations during the administration of the Conservative MargaretThatcher in the 1980s.Whilst some hereditary peers were at best apathetic the Labour Partys clear commitments were not loston Baron Sudeley who for decades had been considered an expert on the House of Lords. In December1979 the Conservative Monday Club published his extensive paper entitled Lords Reform – Why tamper withthe House of Lords? and in July 1980 The Monarchist carried another article by Lord Sudeley entitled WhyReform or Abolish the House of Lords?.[20]In 1990 he authored a further booklet for The Monday Clubentitled The Preservation of the House of Lords.[edit]Lords Reform (1997–)Main article: Reform of the House of LordsThe Labour Party included in its 1997 General Election Manifesto a commitment to remove the hereditarypeerage from the House of Lords. Their subsequent election victory in 1997 under Tony Blair finally heraldedthe demise of the traditional House of Lords. The Labour Government introduced legislation to expel allhereditary peers from the Upper House as a first step in Lords reform. As a part of a compromise, however, itagreed to permit 92 hereditary peers to remain until the reforms were complete. Thus all but 92 hereditarypeers were expelled under the House of Lords Act 1999 (see below for its provisions), making the House ofLords predominantly an appointed house.Since 1999 however, no further reform has taken place. The Wakeham Commission proposed introducing a20% elected element to the Lords, but this plan was widely criticised. AJoint Committee was established in2001 to resolve the issue, but it reached no conclusion and instead gave Parliament seven options to choosefrom (fully appointed, 20% elected, 40% elected, 50% elected, 60% elected, 80%, and fully elected). In aconfusing series of votes in February 2003, all of these options were defeated although the 80% electedoption fell by just three votes in the Commons. Socialist MPs favouring outright abolition voted against all theoptions. In 2005 a cross-party group of senior MPs (Kenneth Clarke, Paul Tyler, Tony Wright, Sir GeorgeYoung and the late Robin Cook) published a report proposing that 70% of members of the House ofLords should be elected – each member for a single long term – by the single transferable vote system. Mostof the remainder were to be appointed by a Commission to ensure a mix of "skills, knowledge andexperience". This proposal was also not implemented. A cross-party campaign initiative called "Elect theLords" was set up to make the case for a predominantly elected Second Chamber in the run up to the 2005general election.At the 2005 election, the Labour Party proposed further reform of the Lords, but without specific details. TheConservative Party, which had, prior to 1997, opposed any tampering with the House of Lords, favoured an80% elected Second Chamber, while the Liberal Democrats called for a fully elected Senate. During 2006, a
  6. 6. cross-party committee discussed Lords reform, with the aim of reaching a consensus: its findings werepublished in early 2007.On 7 March 2007, members of the House of Commons voted ten times on a variety of alternativecompositions for the upper chamber. Outright abolition, a wholly appointed house, a 20% elected house, a40% elected house, a 50% elected house and a 60% elected house were all defeated in turn. Finally thevote for an 80% elected chamber was won by 305 votes to 267, and the vote for a wholly elected chamberwas won by an even greater margin: 337 to 224. Significantly this last vote represented an overall majority ofMPs, giving it huge political authority.Furthermore, examination of the names of MPs voting at each division shows that, of the 305 who voted forthe 80% elected option, 211 went on to vote for the 100% elected option. Given that this vote took place afterthe vote on 80% – whose result was already known when the vote on 100% took place – this shows a clearpreference for a fully elected upper house among those who voted for the only other option that passed. Butthis was nevertheless only an indicative vote and many political and legislative hurdles remained to beovercome for supporters of an elected second chamber. The House of Lords, soon after, rejected thisproposal and voted for an entirely appointed House of Lords.In July 2008 Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, introduced a white paper tothe House of Commons proposing to replace the House of Lords with an 80–100% elected chamber, withone third being elected at each general election, for a term of approximately 12–15 years. The whitepaper states that as the peerage would be totally separated from membership of the upper house, the name"House of Lords" would no longer be appropriate: It goes on to explain that there is cross-party consensusfor the new chamber to be titled the "Senate of the United Kingdom", however in order to ensure the debateremains on the role of the upper house rather than its title, the white paper is neutral on the title of the newhouse.In Meg Russell’s article; ‘Is the House of Lords already reformed?’ she states three essential features of alegitimate House of Lords. The first is that it must have adequate powers over legislation to make thegovernment think twice before making a decision. The House of Lords currently has enough power to makeit relevant. During Tony Blair’s first year he was defeated thirty-eight times in the Lords.[21]There has been little in the way of suggestions for reforming the power of the House of Lords over recentyears and it is unlikely that the coalition will want to introduce reform on this issue; however, as will beexplained, they may inadvertently have to. The next feature relates to the composition of the Lords. MegRussell suggests that the composition must be distinct from the Commons otherwise it would render theLords useless. The third feature is the perceived legitimacy of the Lords. She writes; ‘In general legitimacycomes with election.’[21]What will concern ministers in the coalition government is how these features are interlinked. If the Lordshave a distinct and elected composition, this would probably come about through fixed term proportionalrepresentation. If this happens then the perceived legitimacy of the Lords could arguably outweigh thelegitimacy of the commons. This would especially be the case if the House of Lords had been elected morerecently than the House of Commons as it could be said to reflect the will of the people better than theCommons.[21]In this scenario there may well come a time when the Lords twice reject a Bill from the Commons and it isforced through. This would in turn trigger questions about the amount of power the Lords should have andthere would be pressure for it to increase. This hypothetical process is known as the ‘circumnavigation ofpower theory’.[21]It infers that it would never be in any government’s interest to legitimise the Lords as theywould be forfeiting their own power.
  7. 7. [edit]RoleRelationship with the GovernmentThe House of Lords does not control the term of the Prime Minister or of the Government. Only the LowerHouse may force the Prime Minister to resign or call elections by passing a motion of no-confidence orby withdrawing supply. Thus, the House of Lords oversight of the government is limited.Most Cabinet ministers are from the House of Commons, rather than the House of Lords. In particular, allPrime Ministers since 1902 have been members of the Lower House. (Alec Douglas-Home, who becamePrime Minister in 1963 whilst still an Earl, disclaimed his peerage and was elected to the Commons soonafter his term began.) In recent history, it has been very rare for major cabinet positions (except LordChancellor and Leader of the House of Lords) to have been filled by peers.Exceptions include Lord Carrington, who was the Foreign Secretary between 1979 and 1982, Lord Young ofGraffham (Minister without Portfolio, then Secretary of State for Employment and then Secretary of State forTrade and Industry from 1984 to 1989), and Lord Mandelson, who served as First Secretary ofState, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade. GeorgeRobertson was briefly a peer whilst serving as Secretary of State for Defence before resigning to take up thepost of Secretary General of NATO. From 1999 to 2010 the Attorney General for England and Wales was aMember of the House of Lords; the most recent was Baroness Scotland of Asthal.The House of Lords does remain a source for junior ministers and members of government. Like the Houseof Commons, the Lords also has a Government Chief Whip as well as several Junior Whips. Where agovernment department is not represented by a minister in the Lords or one is not available, governmentwhips will act as spokesmen for them.[edit]Legislative functionsLegislation, with the exception of money bills, may be introduced in either House.The House of Lords debates legislation, and has power to amend or reject bills. However, the power of theLords to reject a bill passed by the House of Commons is severely restricted by the Parliament Acts. Underthose Acts, certain types of bills may be presented for the Royal Assent without the consent of the House ofLords (i.e. the Commons can override the Lords veto). The House of Lords cannot delay a money bill (a billthat, in the view of the Speaker of the House of Commons, solely concerns national taxation or public funds)for more than one month.Other public bills cannot be delayed by the House of Lords for more than two parliamentary sessions, or onecalendar year. These provisions, however, only apply to public bills that originate in the House of Commons,and cannot have the effect of extending a parliamentary term beyond five years. A further restriction isa constitutional convention known as the Salisbury Convention, which means that the House of Lords doesnot oppose legislation promised in the Governments electionmanifesto.By a custom that prevailed even before the Parliament Acts, the House of Lords is further restrained insofaras financial bills are concerned. The House of Lords may neither originate a bill concerning taxation orSupply (supply of treasury or exchequer funds), nor amend a bill so as to insert a taxation or Supply-relatedprovision. (The House of Commons, however, often waives its privileges and allows the Upper House tomake amendments with financial implications.) Moreover, the Upper House may not amend any Supply Bill.The House of Lords formerly maintained the absolute power to reject a bill relating to revenue or Supply, butthis power was curtailed by the Parliament Acts, as aforementioned.
  8. 8. Former judicial roleHistorically, the House of Lords held several judicial functions. Most notably, until 2009 the House of Lordsserved as the court of last resort for most instances of UK law. Since 1 October 2009 this role is now held bythe newly created Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.The Lords judicial functions originated from the ancient role of the Curia Regis as a body that addressed thepetitions of the Kings subjects. The functions were exercised not by the whole House, but by a committee of"Law Lords". The bulk of the Houses judicial business was conducted by the twelve Lords of Appeal inOrdinary, who were specifically appointed for this purpose under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876.The judicial functions could also be exercised by Lords of Appeal (other members of the House whohappened to have held high judicial office). No Lord of Appeal in Ordinary or Lord of Appeal could sitjudicially beyond the age of seventy-five. The judicial business of the Lords was supervised by the SeniorLord of Appeal in Ordinary and his or her deputy, the Second Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.The jurisdiction of the House of Lords extended, in civil and in criminal cases, to appeals from the courts ofEngland and Wales, and of Northern Ireland. From Scotland, appeals were possible only in civil cases;Scotlands High Court of Justiciary is the highest court in criminal matters. The House of Lords was not theUnited Kingdoms only court of last resort; in some cases, the Judicial Committee of the PrivyCouncil performs such a function. The jurisdiction of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, however, isrelatively restricted; it encompasses appeals from ecclesiastical courts, disputes under the House ofCommons Disqualification Act 1975, and a few other minor matters. Issues related to devolution weretransferred from the Privy Council to the Supreme Court in 2009.The twelve Law Lords did not all hear every case; rather, after World War II cases were heard by panelsknown as Appellate Committees, each of which normally consisted of five members (selected by the SeniorLord). An Appellate Committee hearing an important case could consist of more than five members. ThoughAppellate Committees met in separate committee rooms, judgement was given in the Lords Chamber itself.No further appeal lay from the House of Lords, although the House of Lords could refer a "preliminaryquestion" to the European Court of Justice in cases involving an element of European Union law, and a casecould be brought at the European Court of Human Rights if the House of Lords did not provide a satisfactoryremedy in cases where the European Convention on Human Rights was relevant.A distinct judicial function—one in which the whole House used to participate—is that oftrying impeachments. Impeachments were brought by the House of Commons, and tried in the House ofLords; a conviction required only a majority of the Lords voting. Impeachments, however, are to all intentsand purposes obsolete; the last impeachment was that ofHenry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville in 1806.Similarly, the House of Lords was once the court that tried peers charged with high treason or felony. TheHouse would be presided over not by the Lord Chancellor, but by the Lord High Steward, an officialespecially appointed for the occasion of the trial. If Parliament was not in session, then peers could be triedin a separate court, known as the Lord High Stewards Court. Only peers, their wives, and their widows(unless remarried) were entitled to trials in the House of Lords or the Lord High Stewards Court; the LordsSpiritual were tried in Ecclesiastical Courts. In 1948, the right of peers to be tried in such special courts wasabolished; now, they are tried in the regular courts. The last such trial in the House was of Edward SouthwellRussell, 26th Baron de Clifford in 1935.The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 resulted in the creation of a separate Supreme Court of the UnitedKingdom, to which the judicial function of the House of Lords, and some of the judicial functions of theJudicial Committee of the Privy Council, were transferred. In addition, the office of Lord Chancellor wasreformed by the act, removing his ability to act as both a government minister and a judge. This was
  9. 9. motivated in part by concerns about the historical admixture of legislative, judicial, and executive power. Thenew Supreme Court is located at Middlesex Guildhall.[edit]MembershipA distinct judicial function—one in which the whole House used to participate—is that oftrying impeachments. Impeachments were brought by the House of Commons, and tried in the House ofLords; a conviction required only a majority of the Lords voting. Impeachments, however, are to all intentsand purposes obsolete; the last impeachment was that ofHenry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville in 1806.Similarly, the House of Lords was once the court that tried peers charged with high treason or felony. TheHouse would be presided over not by the Lord Chancellor, but by the Lord High Steward, an officialespecially appointed for the occasion of the trial. If Parliament was not in session, then peers could be triedin a separate court, known as the Lord High Stewards Court. Only peers, their wives, and their widows(unless remarried) were entitled to trials in the House of Lords or the Lord High Stewards Court; the LordsSpiritual were tried in Ecclesiastical Courts. In 1948, the right of peers to be tried in such special courts wasabolished; now, they are tried in the regular courts. The last such trial in the House was of Edward SouthwellRussell, 26th Baron de Clifford in 1935.The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 resulted in the creation of a separate Supreme Court of the UnitedKingdom, to which the judicial function of the House of Lords, and some of the judicial functions of theJudicial Committee of the Privy Council, were transferred. In addition, the office of Lord Chancellor wasreformed by the act, removing his ability to act as both a government minister and a judge. This wasmotivated in part by concerns about the historical admixture of legislative, judicial, and executive power. Thenew Supreme Court is located at Middlesex Guildhall.[edit]MembershipLords SpiritualMembers of the House of Lords who sit by virtue of their ecclesiastical offices are known as LordsSpiritual.[22]Formerly, the Lords Spiritual were the majority in the House of Lords,[23]including the Church ofEnglands archbishops, diocesan bishops, abbots, and those priors who were entitled to wear a mitre. After1539, however, only the archbishops and bishops continued to attend, for the Dissolution of theMonasteries suppressed the positions of abbot and prior. In 1642, during the English Civil War, the LordsSpiritual were excluded altogether, but they returned under the Clergy Act 1661. The number of LordsSpiritual was further restricted by the Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847, and by later acts. The LordsSpiritual can now number no more than 26; these are theArchbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York,the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Durham, the Bishop of Winchester and the 21 longest-serving bishopsfrom other dioceses in the Church of England[24](excluding the dioceses of Sodor and Man and Gibraltar inEurope, as these lie entirely outside the United Kingdom).[25]The current Lords Spiritual represent only the Church of England. Bishops of the Church ofScotland traditionally sat in the Parliament of Scotland but were excluded in 1638 following the ScottishReformation. There are no longer bishops in the Church of Scotland in the traditional sense of the word, andthat Church has never sent memembers to sit in the Westminster House of Lords. The Church of Ireland didobtain representation in the House of Lords after the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.Of the Church of Irelands ecclesiastics, four (one archbishop and three bishops) were to sit at any one time,with the members rotating at the end of every parliamentary session (which normally lasted approximatelyone year). The Church of Ireland, however, was disestablished in 1871, and thereafter ceased to berepresented by Lords Spiritual. TheChurch in Wales originally had representation within the Lords, but
  10. 10. ceased to be a part of the Church of England in 1920 and was simultaneously disestablished inWales.[26]Accordingly, bishops of the Church in Wales were no longer eligible to be appointed to the Houseas bishops of the Church of England. Other ecclesiastics have sat in the House of Lords as Lords Temporalin recent times: Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits was appointed to the House of Lords (with the consent ofthe Queen, who acted on the advice of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher), and his successor ChiefRabbi Jonathan Sacks[27]does as well. In recognition of his work at reconciliation and in the Peace Process,the Archbishop of Armagh (the senior Anglican bishop in Northern Ireland), Lord Eames was appointed tothe Lords by John Major. Other clergymen appointed include the Reverend Donald Soper, theReverend Timothy Beaumont, and some Scottish clerics. There have been no Roman Catholic clergymenappointed, though it was rumoured that Cardinal Basil Hume was offered a peerage, but refused, andaccepted instead the Order of Merit, a personal appointment of the Queen, shortly before his death. RomanCatholics who have received Holy Orders are forbidden by Canon Law from holding offices connected withthe government of any state other than the Holy See, so it is unlikely that any Catholic cleric will ever sit inthe House of Lords. Former Archbishops of Canterbury, having reverted to the status of bishop but who areno longer diocesans, are invariably given life peerages and sit as Lords Temporal.By custom at least one of the Bishops reads prayers in each legislative day (a role taken by the chaplain inthe Commons).[23]They often speak in debates; in 2004 Rowan Williams,the Archbishop of Canterbury, opened a debate into sentencing legislation.[23]Measures (proposed laws ofthe Church of England) must be put before the Lords, and the Lords Spiritual have a role in ensuring that thistakes place.[23][edit]Lords TemporalSince the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Lords Temporal have been the most numerous group in theHouse of Lords. Unlike the Lords Spiritual, they may be publicly partisan, aligning themselves with one oranother of the political parties that dominate the House of Commons. Publicly non-partisan Lords arecalled crossbenchers. Originally, the Lords Temporal included several hundred hereditary peers (that is,those whose peerages may be inherited), who ranked variously as dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts,and barons(as well as Scottish Lords of Parliament). Such hereditary dignities can be created by the Crown,in modern times on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day.In 1999, the Labour government brought forward the House of Lords Act removing the right of severalhundred hereditary peers to sit in the House. The Act provided a temporary measure that only 92 individualsmay continue to sit in the Upper House by virtue of hereditary peerages. Of these, two remain in the Houseof Lords because they hold royal offices connected with Parliament: the Earl Marshal and the Lord GreatChamberlain. Of the remaining 90 members of the House of Lords sitting by virtue of a hereditary peerage inthe House of Lords, 14 are elected by the whole House and 74 are chosen by fellow hereditary peers in theHouse of Lords, grouped by party.The number of peers to be chosen by a party reflects the proportion of hereditary peers that belonged to thatparty (see current composition below) in 1999. When an elected hereditary peer dies, a by-election is held,with a variant of the Alternative Vote system being used. If the recently deceased hereditary peer waselected by the whole House, then so is his or her replacement; a hereditary peer elected by a specific partyis replaced by a vote of elected hereditary peers belonging to that party (whether elected as part of that partygroup or by the whole house).The Lords Temporal also included the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, a group of individuals appointed to theHouse of Lords so that they could exercise its judicial functions. Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, more commonlyknown as Law Lords, were first appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876. They were selected by
  11. 11. the Prime Minister, but were formally appointed by the Sovereign. A Lord of Appeal in Ordinary had to retireat the age of 70, or, if his or her term was extended by the government, at the age of 75; after reaching suchan age, the Law Lord could not hear any further legal casesThe number of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (excluding those who were no longer able to hear cases becauseof age restrictions) was limited to twelve, but could be changed bystatutory instrument. Lords of Appeal inOrdinary traditionally did not participate in political debates, so as to maintain judicial independence. Lords ofAppeal in Ordinary held seats in the House of Lords for life, remaining members even after reaching thejudicial retirement age of 70 or 75. Former Lord Chancellors and holders of other high judicial office couldalso sit as Law Lords under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, although in practice this right was infrequentlyexercised.Under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the existing Lords of Appeal in Ordinary became judges of thenew Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in 2009 and are barred from sitting or voting in the House ofLords until they retire as judges. One of the main justifications for the new Supreme Court was to establish aseparation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature. It is therefore unlikely that future appointeesto the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will be made Lords of Appeal in Ordinary.The largest group of Lords Temporal, and indeed of the whole House, are life peers. Life peerages rank onlyas barons or baronesses, and are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958. Like all other peers, life peersare created by the Sovereign, who acts on the advice of the Prime Minister or the House of LordsAppointments Commission. By convention, however, the Prime Minister allows leaders of other parties toselect some life peers so as to maintain a political balance in the House of Lords. Moreover, some non-partylife peers (the number being determined by the Prime Minister) are nominated by an independent House ofLords Appointments Commission.If a hereditary peerage holder is given a life peerage, he or she becomes a member of the House of Lordswithout a need for a by-election. In 2000, the government announced it would set up an IndependentAppointments Commission, under Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, to select fifteen so-called "PeoplesPeers" for life peerages. However, when the choices were announced in April 2001, from a list of 3,000applicants, the choices were treated with criticism in the media, as all were distinguished in their field, andnone were "ordinary people" as some had originally hoped.In many historical instances, some peers were not permitted to sit in the Upper House. When Scotlandunited with England to form Great Britain in 1707, it was provided that the Scottish hereditary peers wouldonly be able to elect 16 representative peers to sit in the House of Lords; the term of a representative was toextend until the next general election. A similar provision was enacted in respect of Ireland when thatkingdom merged with Great Britain in 1801; the Irish peers were allowed to elect 28 representatives, whowere to retain office for life. Elections for Irish representatives ended in 1922, when most of Ireland becamean independent state; elections for Scottish representatives ended with the passage of the Peerage Act1963, under which all Scottish peers obtained seats in the Upper House.[edit]QualificationsSeveral different qualifications apply for membership of the House of Lords. No person may sit in the Houseof Lords if under the age of 21.[28]Furthermore, only citizens of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth citizens,and citizens of Ireland may sit in the House of Lords. The nationality restrictions were previously morestringent: under the Act of Settlement 1701, and prior to the British Nationality Act 1948, only natural-bornsubjects were qualified.Additionally, some bankruptcy-related restrictions apply to members of the Upper House. A person may notsit in the House of Lords if he or she is the subject of a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order (applicable in England
  12. 12. and Wales only), or if he or she is adjudged bankrupt (in Northern Ireland), or if his or her estate issequestered (in Scotland). A final restriction bars an individual convicted of high treason from sitting in theHouse of Lords until completing his or her full term of imprisonment. An exception applies, however, if theindividual convicted of high treason receives a full pardon. Note that an individual serving a prison sentencefor an offence other than high treason is not automatically disqualified.Women were excluded from the House of Lords until the Life Peerages Act, passed in 1958 to address thedeclining number of active members, made possible the creation of peerages for life. Women wereimmediately eligible and four were among the first life peers appointed. However, hereditary peeressescontinued to be excluded until the passage of the Peerage Act 1963. Since the passage of the House ofLords Act 1999, hereditary peeresses remain eligible for election to the Upper House; there are two amongthe 90 hereditary peers who continue to sit.[edit]OfficersTraditionally the House of Lords did not elect its own speaker, unlike the House of Commons; rather, the exofficio presiding officer was the Lord Chancellor. With the passage of theConstitutional Reform Act 2005, thepost of Lord Speaker was created, a position to which a peer is elected by the House and subsequentlyappointed by the Crown. The first Lord Speaker, elected on 4 May 2006, is Baroness Hayman, a formerLabour peer. As the Speaker is expected to be an impartial presiding officer, Baroness Hayman hasresigned from the Labour Party.[29]This reform of the post of Lord Chancellor was made due to the perceived constitutional anomalies inherentin the role. The Lord Chancellor was not only the Speaker of the House of Lords, but also a member of theCabinet; his or her department, formerly the Lord Chancellors Department, is now called the Ministry ofJustice. The Lord Chancellor is no longer the head of the judiciary of England and Wales. Hitherto, the LordChancellor was part of all three branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.The overlap of the legislative and executive roles is a characteristic of the Westminster system, as the entirecabinet consists of members of the House of Commons or the House of Lords; however, in June 2003, theBlair Government announced its intention to abolish the post of Lord Chancellor because of the officesmixed executive and judicial responsibilities. The abolition of the office was rejected by the House of Lords,and the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 was thus amended to preserve the office of Lord Chancellor. TheAct no longer guarantees that the office holder of Lord Chancellor is the presiding officer of the House ofLords, and therefore allows the House of Lords to elect a speaker of their own.Charles Pepys as Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor wore black and gold robes whilst presiding over the House of Lords.The Lord Speaker may be replaced as presiding officer by one of his or her deputies. The Chairman ofCommittees, the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, and several Chairmen are all deputies to theLord Speaker, and are all appointed by the House of Lords itself at the beginning of each session. Bycustom, the Crown appoints each Chairman, Principal Deputy Chairman and Deputy Chairman to theadditional office of Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords.[30]There was previously no legal requirement thatthe Lord Chancellor or a Deputy Speaker be a member of the House of Lords (though the same has longbeen customary).Whilst presiding over the House of Lords, the Lord Chancellor traditionally wore ceremonial black and goldrobes. Robes of black and gold are now worn by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice in
  13. 13. the House of Commons, on ceremonial occasions. This is no longer a requirement for the Lord Speakerexcept for State occasions outside of the chamber. The Speaker or Deputy Speaker sits on the Woolsack, alarge red seat stuffed with wool, at the front of the Lords Chamber.When the House of Lords resolves itself into committee (see below), the Chairman of Committees or aDeputy Chairman of Committees presides, not from the Woolsack, but from a chair at the Table of theHouse. The presiding officer has little power compared to theSpeaker of the House of Commons. He or sheonly acts as the mouthpiece of the House, performing duties such as announcing the results of votes. This isbecause, unlike in the House of Commons where all statements are directed to "Mr/Madam Speaker", in theHouse of Lords they are directed to "My Lords", i.e. the entire body of the House.The Lord Speaker or Deputy Speaker cannot determine which members may speak, or discipline membersfor violating the rules of the House; these measures may be taken only by the House itself. Unlike thepolitically neutral Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chancellor and Deputy Speakers originallyremained members of their respective parties, and were permitted to participate in debate; however, this isno longer true of the new role of Lord Speaker.Another officer of the body is the Leader of the House of Lords, a peer selected by the Prime Minister. TheLeader of the House is responsible for steering Government bills through the House of Lords, and is amember of the Cabinet. The Leader also advises the House on proper procedure when necessary, but suchadvice is merely informal, rather than official and binding. A Deputy Leader is also appointed by the PrimeMinister, and takes the place of an absent or unavailable Leader.The Clerk of the Parliaments is the chief clerk and officer of the House of Lords (but is not a member of theHouse itself). The Clerk, who is appointed by the Crown, advises the presiding officer on the rules of theHouse, signs orders and official communications, endorses bills, and is the keeper of the official records ofboth Houses of Parliament. Moreover, the Clerk of the Parliaments is responsible for arranging by-electionsof hereditary peers when necessary. The deputies of the Clerk of the Parliaments (the Clerk Assistant andthe Reading Clerk) are appointed by the Lord Speaker, subject to the Houses approval.The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is also an officer of the House; he takes his title from the symbol ofhis office, a black rod. Black Rod (as the Gentleman Usher is normally known) is responsible for ceremonialarrangements, is in charge of the Houses doorkeepers, and may (upon the order of the House) take actionto end disorder or disturbance in the Chamber. Black Rod also holds the office of Serjeant-at-Arms of theHouse of Lords, and in this capacity attends upon the Lord Speaker. The Gentleman Usher of the BlackRods duties may be delegated to the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod or to the Assistant Serjeant-at-Arms.[edit]ProcedureBenches in the House of Lords Chamber are coloured red. In contrast, the House of Commonsis decorated in green.See also the stages of a bill section in Acts of Parliament in the United KingdomThe House of Lords and the House of Commons assemble in the Palace of Westminster. The LordsChamber is lavishly decorated, in contrast with the more modestly furnished Commons Chamber.Benches in the Lords Chamber are coloured red. The Woolsack is at the front of the Chamber; theGovernment sit on benches on the right of the Woolsack, while members of the Opposition sit on theleft. Crossbenchers, sit on the benches immediately opposite the Woolsack.[31]
  14. 14. The Lords Chamber is the site of many formal ceremonies, the most famous of which is the StateOpening of Parliament, held at the beginning of each new parliamentary session. During the StateOpening, the Sovereign, seated on the Throne in the Lords Chamber and in the presence of bothHouses of Parliament, delivers a speech outlining the Governments agenda for the upcomingparliamentary session.In the House of Lords, members need not seek the recognition of the presiding officer before speaking,as is done in the House of Commons. If two or more Lords simultaneously rise to speak, the Housedecides which one is to be heard by acclamation, or, if necessary, by voting on a motion. Often,however, the Leader of the House will suggest an order, which is thereafter generally followed.Speeches in the House of Lords are addressed to the House as a whole ("My Lords") rather than to thepresiding officer alone (as is the custom in the Lower House). Members may not refer to each other inthe second person (as "you"), but rather use third person forms such as "the noble Duke", "the nobleEarl", "the noble Lord", "my noble friend", "The most Reverend Primate" etc.Each member may make no more than one speech on a motion, except that the mover of the motionmay make one speech at the beginning of the debate and another at the end. Speeches are not subjectto any time limits in the House; however, the House may put an end to a speech by approving a motion"that the noble Lord be no longer heard". It is also possible for the House to end the debate entirely, byapproving a motion "that the Question be now put". This procedure is known as Closure, and isextremely rare.Once all speeches on a motion have concluded, or Closure invoked, the motion may be put to a vote.The House first votes by voice vote; the Lord Speaker or Deputy Speaker puts the question, and theLords respond either "Content" (in favour of the motion) or "Not Content" (against the motion). Thepresiding officer then announces the result of the voice vote, but if his assessment is challenged by anyLord, a recorded vote known as a division follows.Members of the House enter one of two lobbies (the "Content" lobby or the "Not-Content" lobby) oneither side of the Chamber, where their names are recorded by clerks. At each lobby are two Tellers(themselves members of the House) who count the votes of the Lords. The Lord Speaker may not takepart in the vote. Once the division concludes, the Tellers provide the results thereof to the presidingofficer, who then announces them to the House.If there is an equality of votes, the motion is decided according to the following principles: legislation mayproceed in its present form, unless there is a majority in favour of amending or rejecting it; any othermotions are rejected, unless there is a majority in favour of approving it. The quorum of the House ofLords is just three members for a general or procedural vote, and 30 members for a vote on legislation.If fewer than three or 30 members (as appropriate) are present, the division is invalid.[edit]Disciplinary powersBy contrast with the House of Commons, the House of Lords has not had an established procedure forputting sanctions on its members. When a cash for influence scandal was referred to the Committee ofPrivileges in January 2009, the Leader of the House of Lords also asked the Privileges Committee toreport on what sanctions the House had against its members.[32]After seeking advice from the AttorneyGeneral for England and Wales and the former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern, thecommittee decided that the House "possessed an inherent power" to suspend errant members, althoughnot to withhold a Writ of summons nor to expel a member permanently.[33]When the Housesubsequently suspended Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn for their role in the scandal, theywere the first to meet this fate since 1642.[34]
  15. 15. There are two other motions which have grown up through custom and practice and which governquestionable conduct within the House. They are brought into play by a member standing up, possiblyintervening on another member, and moving the motion without notice. When the debate is gettingexcessively heated, it is open to a member to move "that the Standing Order on Asperity of Speech beread by the Clerk". The motion can be debated,[35]but if agreed by the House, the Clerk of theParliaments will read out Standing Order 33 which provides "That all personal, sharp, or taxing speechesbe forborn".[36]The Journals of the House of Lords record only four instances on which the House hasordered the Standing Order to be read since the procedure was invented in 1871.[37]For more serious problems with an individual Lord, the option is available to move "That the noble Lordbe no longer heard". This motion also is debatable, and the debate which ensues has sometimes offereda chance for the member whose conduct has brought it about to come to order so that the motion can bewithdrawn. If the motion is passed, its effect is to prevent the member from continuing their speech onthe motion then under debate.[38]The Journals identify eleven occasions on which this motion has beenmoved since 1884; four were eventually withdrawn, one was voted down, and six were passed.[39][edit]Leave of absenceIn 1958, to counter criticism that some peers only appeared at major decisions in the House and therebyparticular votes were swayed, the Standing Orders of the House of Lordswere enhanced.[40]Peers whodid not wish to attend meetings regularly or were prevented by ill health, age or further reasons, werenow able to request Leave of Absence.[41]During the granted time a peer is expected not to visit theHouses meetings until either its expiration or termination, announced at least a month prior to theirreturn.[42][edit]CommitteesUnlike in the House of Commons, when the term committee is used to describe a stage of a bill, thiscommittee does not take the form of a public bill committee, but what is described as Committee of theWhole House. It is made up of all Members of the House of Lords allowing any Member to contribute todebates if he or she chooses to do so and allows for more flexible rules of procedure. It is presided overby the Chairman of Committees.[43]The term committee is also used to describe Grand Committee, where the same rules of procedureapply as in the main chamber, except that no divisions may take place. For this reason, business that isdiscussed in Grand Committee is usually uncontroversial and likely to be agreed unanimously.[44]Public bills may also be committed to pre-legislative committees. A pre-legislative Committee isspecifically constituted for a particular bill. These committees are established in advance of the bill belaid before either the House of Lords or the House of Commons and can take evidence from the public.Such committees are rare and do not replace any of the usual stages of a bill, including committeestage.[45]The House of Lords also has several Select Committees. The members of these committees areappointed by the House at the beginning of each session, and continue to serve until the nextparliamentary session begins. The House of Lords may appoint a chairman for a committee; if it doesnot do so, the Chairman of Committees or a Deputy Chairman of Committees may preside instead.Some of the Select Committees are also granded the power to co-opt sub-committee members, such asthe European Union Committee.[46]Most Select Committees are permanent, but the House may alsoestablish ad hoc committees, which cease to exist upon the completion of a particular task (for instance,investigating the reform of the House of Lords). The primary function of Select Committees is toscrutinise and investigate Government activities; to fulfil these aims, they are permitted to hold hearings
  16. 16. and collect evidence. Bills may be referred to Select Committees, but are more often sent to theCommittee of the Whole House and Grand Committees.The committee system of the House of Lords also includes several Domestic Committees, whichsupervise or consider the Houses procedures and administration. One of the Domestic Committees isthe Committee of Selection, which is responsible for assigning members to many of the Houses othercommittees.[

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