House of Lords

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A guide to
U.K. Politics
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The House of Lords refers to the United Kingdom's upper house of parliament and, until recently, its highest appeal court. The lower house is the House of Commons.

House of Lords – the judicial bit[edit]

The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords was, until October 2009, the highest court of appeal in the United Kingdom. Its members, the Law Lords (which would make a great band name) were also members of the legislative bit of the House of Lords. Despite a long standing convention that Law Lords take no part in debates on pieces of legislation, it was still generally felt that having judges as members of a legislature was a bit dodgy in a supposedly democratic nation. So, in 2005, they decided to move the Law Lords to a new Supreme Court, which opened in 2009. Basically nothing changed, but things look a bit more legit now.

House of Lords – the legislative bit[edit]

The Lords consists of roughly 750 "peers" who are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, which basically means "appointed by the Prime Minister". There has been a lot of modernisation over the 20th century, including:

  • The Parliament Act 1911, which reduced the power of the Lords to account for the fact that, at the time, it was full of evil landowning money-grabbing wankers who always voted with the Conservatives. Since, the Lords have only been able to delay Bills, not defeat them outright. This is a good thing, because peers are not elected, unlike members of the House of Commons.
  • The Life Peerages Act 1958 allowed the Prime Ministers to create "life" peers rather than having to justify creating a hereditary peer.
  • The House of Lords Act 1999 reduced the number of hereditary peers to 92, with plans to get rid of those too. This is definitely a good thing. This means that the majority of peers are now life peers, which means they get appointed and remain in the House until they die. This ensures that party politics is basically meaningless.

The modern House of Lords functions essentially as an expert advisory body, whose members are appointed for their services to business, to the arts, to technology, to basically anything.