House of Lords

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House of Lords
House of Lords
Joint logo of the upper and lower houses Palace of Westminster (London)
logo Palace of Westminster (London)
Basic data
Seat: Palace of Westminster ,
Legislative period : 5 years
First session: January 22, 1801
MPs: 794
Current legislative period
Chair: Lord Speaker
Baron Fowler ( Tories )
House of Lords of the 56th British Parliament


Distribution of seats: As of February 8, 2020
  • Lord Speaker 1
  • Spiritual Lords
  • Bishops 26
  • Secular Lords
  • Tories 245
  • opposition
  • Labor 180
  • LibDems 92
  • DUP 4
  • UUP 2
  • Green Party 2
  • Plaid Cymru 1
  • Non- attached 49
  • Independent 6th
  • Crossbencher
  • Crossbencher 186
  • Website
    House of Lords Chamber

    The House of Lords (also House of Peers ), German  manor house , usually called the British upper house , is the upper house of the British Parliament . Parliament, the British sovereign , also includes the lower house , called the House of Commons , and the monarch . The House of Lords consists of two member classes, the secular Lords (Lords Temporal) and spiritual Lords (Lords Spiritual) . The vast majority of the current 794 members of the House of Lords (2020) are now nobles for life, known as life peers . They are appointed by the monarch on the proposal of the Prime Minister or the House of Lords Appointments Commission and cannot inherit their title. Up until the end of the 20th century, however, the Lords Temporal were nobles with a hereditary title (hereditary peers ) . It was not until the Life Peerages Act of 1958 that lords could be appointed with a seat in the House of Lords with no inheritable title. The House of Lords was fundamentally reformed by the House of Lords Act 1999 and the number of hereditary peers was limited to just 92 people. The spiritual lords are composed of two archbishops and 24 bishops of the Anglican Church . The Lords Spiritual have their seat as long as they hold their ecclesiastical offices. The worldly lords, however, have their seat for life.

    The House of Lords was formed in the 14th century and has existed almost continuously since then. The name was not used as a name for this organ until 1544. It was abolished in 1649 by the Revolutionary Government, which came to power during the English Civil War , but reinstated in 1660. It was once more powerful than the House of Commons, hence the name Upper House for the House of Lords and Lower House for the House of Commons. However, since the 19th century, its powers have steadily decreased. It now has far fewer powers than the House of Commons, which today has the last word on all questions: since the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, the House of Lords can only delay the entry into force of many laws for a maximum of twelve months; however, it can no longer make them fail entirely. Such a power is known in political science as a suspensive veto . The House of Lords has absolutely no influence on any laws regulating financial issues (money bills), including the state budget. Further reforms were carried out in the course of the House of Lords Act 1999 , which almost eliminated the inheritable seats of the hereditary peers . Through an electoral process within the House of Lords, 90 hereditary nobles were elected as representative peers for this group, who have since held just over a tenth of the seats in the House of Lords. Two other peers, maintained with an inherited title their seats because they one of the great offices of state ( great officer of state ) occupied. On March 7, 2007, a majority of the House of Commons voted for a motion that only provides for elected members for the House of Lords. The motion has not yet been passed as law, but could be implemented in a parliamentary reform without the approval of the House of Lords.

    The House of Lords once had judicial powers. It has long been the supreme auditor for the vast majority of legal proceedings in the UK. The judicial functions of the House of Lords were not exercised by the entire Chamber, but by a very small group of members with legal experience. These were Lord Justice (Law Lords) called. The House of Lords was not the only court of last resort in the United Kingdom. In some matters that role fell to the Privy Council ( Privy Council ) to. The Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 transferred the judicial functions of the House of Lords to a newly created Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ( Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ), which met for the first time in the fall of 2009.

    The full title of the House of Lords is: " The Right Honorable Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament." Assembled) . The House of Lords, like the House of Commons, meets at the Palace of Westminster in London .


    Middle Ages and early modern times

    Parliament developed in the Middle Ages from the council that advised the king. This Privy Council consisted of clerics , noblemen and representatives of the counties ( counties ) . The representatives of the cities and rural towns ( boroughs ) were added later. The model parliament, which met in 1295, is often seen as the first parliament. It included archbishops, bishops, abbots, counts, barons and representatives of the counties and boroughs. The power of parliament slowly increased and changed as the power of the crown increased or decreased. For example, during the reign of King Edward II from 1307 to 1327, the nobility was the most powerful authority in the empire, the crown was weak and the representatives of the counties and cities were completely powerless. In 1322, for the first time, the authority of parliament was recognized not by custom or a royal charter, but by a statute adopted by parliament that claimed legal validity. Further developments occurred during the reign of Edward III. , the successor of Edward II. At this time the parliament was for the first time clearly divided into two chambers: the House of Commons, in which the representatives of the counties and cities sat, and the House of Lords with the highest clergy and nobles. Parliament's authority continued to grow, and by the beginning of the 15th century both chambers wielded unprecedented power. The Lords were far more powerful than the House of Commons, due to the great influence of the aristocrats and prelates in the kingdom.

    Queen Anne delivers a speech from the throne in front of the House of Lords, ca.1708-14
    The Lords Chamber , the council chamber of the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster , in 1811

    The power of the nobility experienced a serious turning point during the wars of succession of the late 15th century, which went down in history as the Wars of the Roses . Most of the nobility either perished on the battlefields or were executed for participating in the War of Succession. Many noble possessions fell to the crown. The era of feudalism also came to an end, and the feudal armies controlled by the barons lost their importance. Therefore, the crown could easily regain absolute supremacy in the kingdom. The supremacy of the monarchs continued to grow during the reign of the Tudor monarchs in the 16th century. The crown reached its greatest power during the reign of Henry VIII (1509–1547).

    The House of Lords remained more powerful than the House of Commons, but the House of Commons was able to increase its influence. It reached the zenith of its power in relation to the House of Lords in the middle of the 17th century. The conflicts between the King and Parliament, and here especially with the House of Commons, eventually led to the English Civil War during the 1640s. In 1649, after the defeat and execution of King Charles I, a republic was proclaimed, the Commonwealth of England . But in reality the nation was under the dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell . The House of Lords degenerated into a largely powerless body. The government was controlled by Cromwell and his supporters in the House of Commons. On March 19, 1649, the House of Lords was abolished by an Act of Parliament which stated, among other things: “The [House of] Commons of England [is] based on long experience that the House of Lords is useless and dangerous for the people of England is. ”Thereupon the House of Lords did not meet until the Convention Parliament in 1660, when the monarchy was reinstated. It was restored to its previous position as the more powerful chamber of parliament. It retained this position until the 19th century.

    The 19th century brought several changes to the House of Lords. The number of members of the House of Lords, which had once been an organ with only 50 members, was due to the generosity of George III. and his successors in establishing nobility titles. The individual influence of a parliamentary lord had been reduced accordingly. In addition, the power of the House of Lords had waned compared to the House of Commons. Particularly noteworthy in the development of the leading position of the House of Commons was the reform law crisis of 1832. The electoral system for the House of Commons was not yet completely democratic at that time: only a part of the population had the right to vote due to certain property requirements and the electoral district boundaries had not been adapted to the actual population distribution for centuries. Entire cities like Manchester did not have a single representative in the House of Commons, while the 11 residents of Old Sarum were even allowed to elect two representatives. Small borough representatives were susceptible to bribery and were often under the control of a local patron whose candidate was guaranteed to always win the election. Some aristocrats were in this way even the cartridge of numerous "pocket boroughs" (pocket boroughs) . In this way they controlled a considerable number of MPs in the House of Commons.

    Reform Act of 1832

    The House of Commons tried to remedy these anomalies through a reform law in 1831. At first, the House of Lords was unwilling to pass the law. However, it was forced to give way when Prime Minister Charles Gray, 2nd Earl Gray advised King William IV to appoint a large number of new members to the House of Lords who were positive about the law. At first the king shied away from the proposal, but then accepted it. Before the king could act, however, the Lords passed the Act of 1832. The Lords who opposed the Reform Act admitted defeat and abstained so that the law could be passed. The Reform Act of 1832 deprived the crumbling into insignificance cities ( rotten boroughs ) the right to vote, created similar choice conditions in all cities and towns awarded with many residents adequate representation. However, it preserved many of the pocket-sized boroughs. In the years that followed, the House of Commons increasingly claimed decision-making powers, while the House of Lords' influence had suffered as a result of the reform law crisis. The power of the cartridge in the pocket boroughs had also declined. The lords were now more and more reluctant to reject laws that had been passed by large majorities in the House of Commons. It also became a generally accepted political practice that the support of the House of Commons was sufficient for the Prime Minister to remain in office.

    Parliamentary Act of 1911

    Throne in the Lords Chamber, from where the British monarch gives his opening speech
    The new Lords Chamber (recorded between 1870 and 1885)
    Vote in the House of Lords on the Parliament Act of 1911.

    The status of the House of Lords came back into focus in 1906 when the Lords - for the last time in British history - overturned a law. The Liberal government elected that same year (1906), led by Herbert Henry Asquith , introduced a series of social welfare programs in 1908. Coupled with the costly arms race with Germany, this forced the government to raise its revenue through tax increases. That is why the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury Secretary) David Lloyd George presented a so-called “People's Budget” in 1909, which provided for higher taxes for wealthy landowners. This measure, which was unpopular with the aristocracy, was rejected in the predominantly conservative House of Lords.

    In the election campaign for the 1910 elections, the Liberals made the powers of the House of Lords their main campaign issue and thus achieved their re-election. Asquith then suggested that the powers of the House of Lords should be severely restricted. The legislative process was briefly interrupted by the death of King Edward VII , but resumed soon after under George V. After further elections in December 1910, the Asquith government was able to pass a law in both chambers that provided for a massive curtailment of the powers of the House of Lords. In order to break the foreseeable resistance of the Lords, a threat had been resorted to: the Prime Minister proposed, with the approval of the monarch, that the House of Lords could be flooded with the creation of 500 new, liberal peers if it refuses to pass the law should. This threatened pair push was the same political vehicle that had already promoted the adoption of the Reform Act of 1832, and forced the lords to agree to their de facto disempowerment. The Parliament Act of 1911 came into force soon after, removing the legislative equality of the two houses of parliament. From then on, the House of Lords was only allowed to postpone most legislative acts for a maximum of three parliamentary sessions, or for a maximum of two years. Laws regulating financial issues could only delay it for a maximum of one month. The parliamentary act of 1911 was not intended as a permanent solution; rather, further measures were to be taken in the period that followed. Neither party, however, pursued the matter with zeal, and membership in the House of Lords in particular remained largely hereditary. With the Parliamentary Act of 1949, the suspensive power was further restricted to either two parliamentary sessions or a maximum of one year. With the passage of the Parliament Act , the House of Commons had become the predominant branch of Parliament, both in theory and in practice.

    Life Peerages Act of 1958

    In 1958, the predominantly hereditary character of the House of Lords was changed by the Life Peerages Act (Act on Nobility for Life). This allows the creation of non- inheritable baronies for life, without numerical upper limits. In 1968, under the Labor administration of Harold Wilson , a reform was attempted, according to which the hereditary peers would still be allowed to remain in the House of Lords and participate in the debates, but no longer have the right to vote. However, this reform failed in the House of Commons due to a combination of traditionalist conservatives such as Enoch Powell and Labor MPs, who campaigned for the complete abolition of the House of Lords. When Michael Foot took over the leadership of the Labor Party, the abolition of the House of Lords became part of the party's program. Instead, under the leadership of Neil Kinnock , reform of the House of Lords was proposed. In the meantime, the creation of hereditary nobility titles largely stalled. Exceptions were the awards of nobility titles to members of the royal family and three nobility titles during the reign of the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The last hereditary baronet title so far was conferred on Denis Thatcher in 1991 .

    House of Lords Act of 1999

    The House of Lords is on the left under the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster

    The return of Labor to government in 1997 under Tony Blair heralded a new round of reforms for the House of Lords. The Blair administration put forward legislative proposals to remove all hereditary lords from the House of Lords. This should be a first step in reform. However, as part of a compromise, the government agreed to allow 92 hereditary peers to remain in the House of Lords pending reforms. The remaining hereditary peers left when the House of Lords Act 1999 went into effect . Most of the Lords abstained from voting in the House of Lords. Only the Earl of Burford protested loudly and sat in protest on the Woolsack, which has been reserved for the Lord Chancellor since the 14th century .

    Since then, however, the reform project has stalled. The Wakeham Commission suggested that 20% of the Lords should come out of elections. However, this plan has been criticized by many. A Joint Committee of Parliament was set up in 2001 to settle the matter, but it did not come to a clear conclusion. Instead, the committee presented seven options to Parliament to choose from. According to these, the House of Lords should be appointed in full or elected to 20%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 80% or even all of them. After a confusing series of votes in February 2003, all of these proposals failed, although only three votes were missing to accept the proposal for an election by 80%. Those MPs who were in favor of complete abolition voted against all proposals. Another proposal was made by a group of MPs who favored a 70% elected House of Lords, while the remaining seats should be appointed by a commission based on their personal skills, knowledge and experience. This suggestion could not prevail either. This means that new peers can only be created through appointment.

    Attempts at Reform in the 21st Century

    The long-term aim of the reforms started by the Labor government under Tony Blair was the abolition of the House of Lords in its traditional form. A democratically legitimized second chamber of parliament should take its place.

    A first vote took place on February 5, 2003. The House of Commons rejected all possible reform proposals, which ranged from a completely appointed member to a House of Lords consisting entirely of elected members. A complete abolition of the House of Lords was also rejected by a large majority.

    In March 2007 there was another debate and subsequent votes in both houses of parliament on reforming the upper house. On March 7, 2007, the House of Commons voted on several reform options. The choices were the complete abolition of the House of Lords, or a House of Lords consisting of 0, 20, 40, 50, 60, 80 or 100 percent of elected members. Only the last two variants received a majority approval, the highest approval a fully elected upper house. Prime Minister Blair had voted for a half-elected House of Lords. The House of Lords itself rejected the vote of the House of Commons and on March 14, 2007 voted with a large majority for a future House of Lords, which will continue to consist entirely of appointed members.

    On November 1, 2014, then Labor Party leader Ed Miliband announced that if he won the general election in 2015 , his party would abolish the House of Lords in its current form and replace it with an elected Senate. The senators should be elected from the English regions , Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which should counteract the centralization of the country. However, since the 2015 election led to a victory for the Conservative Party , the Labor Party's reform plans are not expected to be implemented in the foreseeable future.

    A report by the Electoral Reform Society published on August 16, 2015 under the title House of Lords: Fact versus Fiction criticized that the House of Lords was by no means an assembly of experts, but rather one of professional politicians. It is a “shockingly out of date and unrepresentative institution” (“… a shockingly out of date and unrepresentative institution”). A third of its members are former politicians, more than half are over 70 years old and almost half are based in London or the south-east of England. The report also complained that some Lords had claimed expenses for services that they had proven not to have performed.

    In 2017, a committee of the House of Lords presented a list of recommendations for its reform. It is to be reduced in size and the members' lifelong mandate limited to 15 years. This project has been suspended since then.


    As part of the legislature

    The main job of the House of Lords is to review the laws passed by the House of Commons. It can propose changes or new laws. It has the right to postpone new laws for a year. However, the number of vetoes is limited by customary law. The Lords are not allowed to block the state budget or laws that have already passed the second reading (Salisbury Convention) . The repeated use of the right of veto can be prevented by the House of Commons with the Parliament Act .

    As a court (former function)

    The House of Lords has traditionally not only been part of the legislature , but also the highest court of appeal in civil matters for the whole of the United Kingdom and in criminal matters for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has its own highest criminal court). The identity of the House of Lords as a Chamber of Parliament and at the same time a court was, however, rather formal: since the 19th century it had been customary to appoint experienced lawyers to barons for the sole purpose of promoting them as judges to the House of Lords . There they were called Law Lords (officially: Lords of Appeal in Ordinary ) and formed a committee of the House of Lords ( Appellate Committee of the House of Lords ), which dealt with revisions instead of the plenary. Conversely, the practice developed that the Law Lords did not exercise their membership in the House of Lords in relation to its political functions in order to preserve their judicial independence. In practice, the functions of the House of Lords as a court and as a parliament were therefore separate, even if they were carried out by the same body in the constitutional fiction. The last time non-juridically educated members of the House of Lords voted in an appeal process was in 1832.

    In the course of the various constitutional reforms under New Labor , the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 also ushered in the end of the House of Lords' position as a court. Instead, a separate was Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (Supreme Court of the United Kingdom) created that assumes the judicial function of the House of Lords. It met for the first time in autumn 2009. The Law Lords became members of the new Supreme Court, which is headed by a President (President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom) . The judicial functions of the House of Lords as the highest court of appeal were transferred to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom . In return, the House of Lords Appellate Committee, which had previously been responsible for this, has ceased to exist since the Court of Justice began its work on October 1, 2009.


    Spiritual Lords

    Those members of the House of Lords, which take their seats because of their spiritual office will Spiritual Lords (Lords Spiritual) called. In earlier times the Lords Spiritual held the majority of the seats in the House of Lords. Among them were the archbishops , diocesan bishops , abbots and priors of England. After the abolition of the monasteries in 1539, only the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England remained in the House of Lords. In 1642, during the English Civil War, the Ecclesiastical Lords were completely expelled from the House of Lords. However, they returned to the House of Lords due to the Clergy Act of 1661. The number of Ecclesiastical Lords was later further reduced by the Act on the Diocese of Manchester of 1847 and other acts. Nowadays the maximum number of Spiritual Lords is set at 26. These include the five most important prelates of the Church, namely the Archbishop of Canterbury , the Archbishop of York , the Bishop of London , the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Winchester . Members of the House of Lords remain the 21 longest serving of the remaining Bishops in the Church of England.

    The Church of Scotland is not represented by a clergyman. As a Presbyterian institution, it does not have archbishops or bishops. The Anglican Scottish Episcopal Church has bishops, but was never a state church and is therefore not represented in parliament. The Anglican Church of Ireland received representation in the House of Lords after the Union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801; the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, with its much larger membership, was not represented in parliament. The House of Lords was made up of four clerics from the Church of Ireland. They took turns at the end of a session, which usually lasted a year. The Church of Ireland lost its status as a state church in 1871 and was no longer represented by ecclesiastical lords as a result. With the establishment of an independent church in Wales , the Anglican Church also lost the rank of a privileged state church ("Established Church") in Wales in 1920. Since then there have also been no Welsh bishops in the House of Lords. The current ecclesiastical lords therefore only represent the Church of England, which is still the state church today.

    Worldly Lords

    Since the dissolution of the monasteries, the Secular Lords (Lords Temporal) represent the numerically largest group in the House of Lords. Unlike the Spiritual Lords, they may publicly belong to a party. The publicly impartial lords are called crossbenchers . Originally, the Secular Lords were all peers , i.e. they belonged to the hereditary nobility. Their titles were respectively Duke , Marquess , Earl , Viscount , Baron or Lord of Parliament and were bestowed by the British Crown . Due to the Life Peerages Act passed in 1958, there have been numerous lords since then who only have their title and thus their seat in the House of Lords ad personam and consequently cannot bequeath them. Such appointments are made at the suggestion of the incumbent Prime Minister.

    The reform, which went into effect in 1999, resulted in several hundred hereditary peers having to give up their seats in the House of Lords. The descendants of the hereditary peers who no longer belong to the House of Lords, however, keep their titles of nobility and are still called Lords . The House of Lords Act of 1999 means that only 92 people remain in the House of Lords by virtue of their hereditary title. Two hereditary peers remain in the House of Lords for exercising hereditary offices related to Parliament: the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain . Of the remaining 90 hereditary peers in the House of Lords, 15 are elected by the entire House of Lords. 75 hereditary peers are elected from the remaining hereditary peers according to their party affiliation. The number of peers selected by a party corresponds to the ratio of hereditary peers belonging to that party. Once an elected hereditary peer dies, a by-election is held. The election takes place according to the instant runoff voting process. If the deceased peer was elected by the entire House of Lords, this procedure also applies to his successor. If a hereditary peer has been determined by a certain party, his successor will also be determined by a choice of the hereditary peers belonging to that party.

    Hereditary peers who had distinguished themselves particularly politically, and in particular all those who were the first to achieve their hereditary peer status, were formally given a life peerage in order to remain in the House of Lords. This practice met with criticism in the case of the Earl of Snowdon , who had received his peerage not as a politician but because of his marriage to the royal family.

    The secular lords also included the lord judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal in civil matters (Lords of Appeal in Ordinary) until 2009 . This was a group of people appointed to the House of Lords so that they could exercise its judicial powers. These judges, also known as Law Lords, were first appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act of 1876. They were selected by the Prime Minister and then formally appointed by the monarch. A lord judge had to retire at the age of 70. At the request of the government, the retirement age could be extended to 75 years. Upon reaching this age, the Lord Judge was no longer allowed to participate in proceedings. The number of active lord judges was limited to twelve, but could be changed by a statute. The lord judges traditionally did not take part in political debates in order to preserve the impartiality of their judicial office and the separation of powers. The Lord Justices retained their upper house seats for life even after they retired. Former lord judges and incumbents of other high judicial offices could also participate in proceedings as lord judges. In practice, this right was rarely exercised. After the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 went into effect , Lord Justices became Judges in the United Kingdom Supreme Court . They have not been in the House of Lords since 2009, although those appointed up to then retained their peer status.

    The largest group of the Secular Lords and of the entire House of Lords today are the Life Peers . These are appointed nobles for life whose titles are not inheritable. These life peers are ranked on a par with barons and are appointed under the Life Peerages Act 1958 . In contrast to numerous hereditary lords, the Life Peers do not have higher titles of nobility. Like all other peers, they are appointed by the monarch, who acts on the proposal of the prime minister. According to custom, the Prime Minister allows the opposition leaders to propose some candidates as well, in order to preserve the political balance in the House of Lords. Furthermore, some non-party peers, the number of which is determined by the Prime Minister, are appointed on the proposal of an independent nomination committee of the House of Lords. If a hereditary peer also receives a life peerage, he or she remains a member of the House of Lords without first having to be elected.

    There are many examples in history of some peers being prevented from sitting in the House of Lords. When Scotland with England in 1707 to Great Britain merged, it was determined that the Scottish hereditary peers only 16 chosen from among its representatives ( representative peers were allowed to send) in the upper house. The term of office of such a representative peer lasted until the next election. A similar arrangement came into effect with regard to Ireland when that kingdom was incorporated into Great Britain in 1801. The Irish peers were allowed to elect 28 representatives, who would serve for life. The elections for Irish representatives ended in 1922 when most of Ireland gained independence . The election of Scottish representatives ended with the passage of the Peerage Act of 1963 , which gave all Scottish peers seats in the House of Lords.

    Personal requirements of the members

    Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay in the red and white robes of a member of the House of Lords (painting by George Hayter , 1830)

    A member of the House of Lords must be over 21 years of age and be a citizen of the United Kingdom, a British Overseas Territory or other Commonwealth State. These restrictions were enshrined in the British Nationality Act . Before that, the conditions were even stricter: According to the Act of Settlement of 1701, only those who had become British citizens at birth were allowed to sit in the House of Lords. Peers will be excluded from the House of Lords if they are subject to restrictions from personal bankruptcy (Bankruptcy Restrictions Order) . This applies to members from England and Wales. Northern Irish peers are excluded if declared bankrupt and Scottish if their property is subject to foreclosure. Peers found guilty of high treason may not sit in the House of Lords until they have served their sentence in full or until they have been fully pardoned by the Crown. A prison sentence for any other misdemeanor or crime does not automatically lead to expulsion from the House of Lords.

    There were further prerequisites for the lord judge: Only those who had previously held another high judicial office for at least two years or had practiced as a lawyer for fifteen years could be appointed lord judge. The highest judicial office was the work at the Court of Appeal (Court of Appeal) of England and Wales, the Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland or the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. The powers of the former lord judges have passed to the judges at the newly established Supreme Court of the United Kingdom .

    Women were previously barred from sitting in the House of Lords, even if they held their title of nobility as a peer in their own right. It was not until 1958 that women were admitted to the House of Lords. The Life Peerages Act passed that year allowed female nobles to take their seats in the House of Lords for life. Hereditary peeresses were excluded until the 1963 Peerage Act was passed. Hereditary peeresses have continued to be elected to the House of Lords since the House of Lords Act was passed in 1999.


    Lord Chancellor

    Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham as Lord Chancellor. Lord Chancellor wore black and gold robes as chairman of the house.

    Unlike in the House of Commons, the House of Lords elected its speaker of parliament until 2006 yourself. Instead, was ex officio the Lord Chancellor (Lord Chancellor) , the Chairman, the last Lord Falconer of Thoroton . The Lord Chancellor was not only the Speaker of the House of Lords but also a member of the Cabinet. His department was called the Constitutional Affairs Department. In addition, the Lord Chancellor was the Head of Justice of England and Wales and the President of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. The Lord Chancellor was thus part of all three state powers: the legislature , the executive and the judiciary .

    The Lord Chancellor could be represented as chairman by one of his assistants. The chairman of the committees, the first vice chairman of the committees, and several vice chairmen of the committees are each elected by the House of Lords. It is customary for the Crown to appoint each of these alternates in addition to alternate spokesmen for the House of Lords. There was no legal requirement that the Lord Chancellor or his deputies should be members of the House of Lords, but this had long been the custom.

    Lord Speaker

    Baroness Hayman was the first female Lord Speaker (2006-2011)

    The Lord Speaker is the Speaker of Parliament. In June 2003, the Blair government announced its intention to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor, as the various powers are mixed in his office. However, the abolition was rejected in the House of Lords. The constitutional reform act passed in 2005 receives the office of Lord Chancellor, albeit with modified tasks. The record no longer guarantees the incumbent that he is the chairman of the House of Lords. Instead, the Lords are allowed to elect their own Speaker of Parliament. Helene Hayman, Baroness Hayman was elected to the office of Lord Speaker on July 4, 2006. From September 1, 2011, Frances D'Souza, Baroness D'Souza was Lord Speaker. Since September 1, 2016, Norman Fowler, Baron Fowler, has been Lord Speaker.


    Another officer in the House of Lords is the Leader of the House of Lords. This is a peer chosen by the Prime Minister. The Leader of the House of Lords is responsible for directing government laws through the House of Lords. He is also a member of the cabinet. The Führer also advises the House of Lords on procedural issues if this is necessary. However, this advice is not binding. A deputy head of the House of Lords is also appointed by the Prime Minister and takes on the aforementioned duties if necessary.


    The Secretary (Clerk) of Parliament is the Chief Secretary and an official of the House of Lords. But he is not a member of the House of Lords himself. The secretary is appointed by the crown and advises the chairman on procedural questions, signs instructions and official pronouncements, countersigns laws and is the secretary for both houses of parliament. In addition, the Secretary of Parliament is responsible for organizing by-elections of the hereditary peers if necessary. The Deputy Parliamentary Secretaries are selected by the Lord Chancellor and appointed after the approval of the House of Lords.

    Black Rod

    The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is also an officer of the House of Lords. The title of office comes from the symbol of his office, a black stick. He is responsible for ceremonial acts and is responsible for the caretakers of Parliament. At the request of the House of Lords, he can also remove disturbances and unrest in the chamber. He also holds the office of Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Lords and in this capacity assists the Lord Chancellor. The duties of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod can also be delegated to the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod or the supporting Serjeant-at-Arms.


    The UK Parliament sets up committees for a variety of purposes. A common purpose is to review laws. Committees from both chambers of parliament examine the laws in detail and can propose changes. In the House of Lords, legislation is often reviewed in the Committee of the Whole House , which includes all members of the House of Lords. This committee meets in the Chamber of Lords and is chaired not by the Lord Speaker, but by the Chairman of the Committees or a Vice-Chairman. The rules of procedure in this committee are different from those in normal House of Lords meetings. Thus the Lords can speak more than once on each proposal. The Grand Committees are similar to the entire House Committee . Any member can participate in these committees. Such a grand committee does not meet in the Lords Chamber, but in certain committee rooms. No mutton jump (division) is carried out to count the votes. Any proposed amendment to a law must be passed unanimously in this body. That is why only indisputable laws are brought into the Grand Committee.

    Laws can also be placed on a Public Bill Committee that has between twelve and sixteen members. A Public Law Committee is formed specifically for a particular law. A bill can also be referred to a Special Public Bill Committee . In contrast to the first committee, this committee may also hold hearings and collect evidence. These types of committees are even less likely to convene than the House Committee or the Grand Committees.

    The House of Lords also has several Select Committees . The members of these committees are appointed by the House of Lords at the beginning of each session and serve until the beginning of the next. The House of Lords can also appoint a committee chairman. If it does not exercise this power, the chairman of the committees or one of his deputies can chair the meeting. Most supervisory committees are permanent. The House of Lords can also set up supervisory committees on a case-by-case basis. These end their work when their task is fulfilled, for example the committee for the investigation of the reform of the upper house. The primary function of the oversight committees is to scrutinize and monitor the work of government. To accomplish this task, they are allowed to hold hearings and collect evidence. Laws can also be referred to the oversight committees, but typically they are submitted to the House Committee or the Grand Committees.

    The House of Lords committee system also includes several Domestic Committees , which oversee the procedures and administration of the House of Lords . One such committee is the selection committee, which is responsible for appointing individual members to the many other upper house committees.

    See also


    • Clyve Jones (Ed.). A Pillar of the Constitution. The House of Lords in British Politics, 1640–1784. Hambledon, London 1989, ISBN 1-85285-007-8 .
    • Lord Longford: A history of the House of Lords. Sutton, Stroud 1999, ISBN 0-7509-2191-9 .
    • Donald Shell: The House of Lords , 3rd. Edition, Manchester University Press , 2007, ISBN 0-7190-5443-5 .
    • Philip Vernon Smith: The House of Lords and the nation , London 1884
    • Severin Strauch: House of Lords. History and position of the highest court in the United Kingdom (= Münsteraner Studies for Comparative Law. Vol. 107). Lit, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-8258-7151-7 (also: Münster, Universität, Dissertation, 2003).
    • Arthur Stanley Turberville: The House of Lords in the XVIIIth century. Clarendon Press, Oxford et al. 1927.

    Web links

    Commons : House of Lords  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

    Individual evidence

    1. a b Lords by party, type of peerage and gender., accessed February 8, 2020 .
    2. Parliament and Crown ( Memento of January 17, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
    3. Lords by party, type of peerage and gender (as of February 2020)
    4. ^ The Wall Street Journal: A UK Court Without the Wigs (accessed March 16, 2010)
    5. a b Jochen Buchsteiner: The Chamber. The British House of Lords has lost its luster. The “Lords” are criticized for collecting a lot of money and hardly working. Now they are planning a reform. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung from December 31, 2017, p. 2.
    6. House of Lords reform on
    7. Berliner Zeitung, October 28, 1999
    8. Lords reform left in disarray. BBC News, February 5, 2003, accessed June 6, 2020 .
    9. ^ MPs back all-elected Lords plan. BBC News, March 7, 2007, accessed June 6, 2020 .
    10. Nick Assinder: Peers reject Lords reform plans. BBC News, March 14, 2007, accessed June 6, 2020 .
    11. Elected senate would replace House of Lords under Labor. BBC News, November 1, 2014, accessed November 1, 2014 .
    12. Expenses: Lords who do not vote claim £ 100k - report. BBC News, August 16, 2015, accessed August 16, 2015 .