House of Lords
The House of Lords refers to the United Kingdom's upper house of parliament and, until (relatively)[note 1] recently, its highest appeal court. The lower house is the House of Commons. Most of its members are appointed by the UK's reigning monarch on the advice of the prime minister. Non-party-political members must be recommended by the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission. The primary practical function of the House of Lords is to scrutinize laws and policies of the government. While it cannot prevent the passage of legislation, it can delay bills or force the House of Commons to hold another debate on previously passed legislation to reconsider.
The number of seats in the House of Lords is not fixed, and it is the only upper house of a legislature to have a larger number of seats than its corresponding lower house. Today, most of the members of the House of Lords are "life peers," individuals granted titles by the monarch who cannot pass these titles to their family. Of the hereditary peers, only 92 remain. The House of Lords also has 26 seats reserved for Bishops, known as 'Lords Spiritual'.
House of Lords – the judicial bit
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
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.
House of Lords – the other bit
The Lords are often accused of being up to no good. These roughly fall into three groups:
- Expenses scandals.
- Sex related scandals. Including claims one in five Parliamentary staff are sexually harrased, mainly aimed at members of the neighbouring House of Commons.
- Drug related scandals. Notably the incident of Lord Sewel.
Like most scandals, the media grabs hold of the smallest thing and blows it way out of proportion, leading to mass embarrassment whenever it happens.[citation NOT needed]
- Remember, almost a thousand years of continuous post-Norman governance, and the House of Lords' appellate function dates to about 1399.
- How members are appointed Parliament of the UK
- Carmichael, Paul; Dickson, Brice (1999). The House of Lords: Its Parliamentary and Judicial Roles. Hart Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-84113-020-0.
- Alan Siaroff, Comparing Political Regimes, University of Toronto Press 2013, chapter 6.
- Life Peers Parliament of the UK
- Hereditary Peers Parliament of the UK
- "Lords Spiritual and Temporal". Parliament of the United Kingdom.
- Ex-Tory peer Lord Taylor jailed for expenses fraud BBC News 31 May 2011
- Scandal of the 'silent peers' who claim more than £1.6m in expenses despite mimimal participation in House of Lords Daily Telegraph 29 Jul 2015
- House of Lords in fresh expenses row after 17 peers claim £400k despite minimal work Evening Standard 24 October 2017
- House of Lords rejects 'couch potato peers' allegation BBC News 21 September 2017
- House of Lords: New expenses row as 16 peers claim around £400,000 despite failing to contribute The Independent 24 October 2017
- 'Sexist' sign taken down from House of Lords bar amid Westminster sexual harassment scandal Evening Standard 2 November 2017
- Top 11 British sex scandals Daily Telegraph
- U.K. Lord Quits After Coke, Sex Scandal
- Westminster scandal: Report shows one in five people in Parliament have experienced sexual harassment The Independent 7 February 2018
- The real Lord Sewel scandal is financial, not sexual The Guardian 27 July 2015
- The undercover footage that allegedly shows peer Lord Sewel snorting cocaine with two prostitutes The Independent 27 July 2015