Legislation affecting the House of Lords

What are the Parliament Acts?

The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 define the powers of the House of Lords in relation to Public Bills (including Private Members' Bills).

The general rule is that all Bills have to be passed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords except in certain circumstances.

Money Bills: certified by the Speaker and deal with taxation of public expenditure.

Money Bills start in the Commons and must receive Royal Assent no more than a month after being introduced in the Lords even if the Lords has not passed them.

Most other Commons Bills: the Lords can hold up a Bill it disagrees with for about a year but ultimately the elected House of Commons can reintroduce it in the following session and pass it without the Lords' consent.

Bills which are not subject to the Parliament Acts are:

  • Bills prolonging the length of a parliament beyond 5 years
  • Private Bills
  • Bills sent up to the Lords less than a month before the end of a session
  • Bills which start in the Lords.

Although rarely invoked, the Parliament Acts provide a framework and a means of solving disagreement between the Commons and Lords.

When have the Parliament Acts been used since 1949?

  • War Crimes Act 1991
  • European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999
  • Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000
  • Hunting Act 2004

What did the Life Peerages Act 1958 do?

The Life Peerages Act 1958 permitted the creation of peerages for life, with no limit on numbers, to persons of either sex.

What did the Peerage Act 1963 allow?

The Peerage Act 1963 allowed hereditary peeresses to be Members of the Lords, hereditary peerages to be disclaimed for life and for all Scottish peers to sit.

What happened under the House of Lords Act 1999?

The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the right of most hereditary peers to sit and vote in the Lords. 92 hereditary peers remain in the House until full reform.

Where can I find information on House of Lords reform?

The government published its draft Bill and White Paper on House of Lords reform in May 2011 setting out options for a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords. Key proposals include:

  • a reformed House with 300 members, each eligible for a single term of three Parliaments
  • elections using the single transferable vote (STV), electing a third of members each time with elections normally taking place at the same time as General Elections
  • multi-member electoral districts, to be drawn up independently based on national and county boundaries
  • a continuation of the presence of Bishops of the Church of England in the House of Lords, reducing their number from 26 to 12
  • a transition to the new membership staggered over the course of three electoral cycles.

    The first elections would take place in 2015.
     
  • House of Lords Reform Draft Bill (PDF 395 KB) (House of Lords Library Note, 16 June 2011) - setting out the Government‘s proposals and the reactions in parliament, the press and from a range of commentators
  • House of Lords Reform 1997-2010: A Chronology (PDF 312 KB) (House of Lords Library Note, 28 June 2010) - a summary of the principal developments of 1997-2010
  • Possible Implications of the House of Lords Reform (PDF 274 KB) (House of Lords Library Note, 25 June 2010) - an assessment of the impact of reform on the House itself, its relationship with the House of Commons and Government
  • Bibliography on Lords Reform (PDF 458.7 KB) (PDF PDF 368 KB) (House of Lords Library Note, 26 April 2012) - summarises a selection of the literature published on the subject of Lords reform
  • Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill - First Report (published 23 April 2012) - pre-legislative scrutiny on a draft Bill to reform the House of Lords.

How does the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 affect the Lords?

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 received Royal Assent in March 2005 and provides for the separating of the judiciary (legal system) from the legislature (Parliament) and the executive (government).

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005:

  • reformed the office of the Lord Chancellor who, as head of the judiciary, appoints judges
  • established an independent Judicial Appointments Commission
  • sets up a supreme court, independent from the House of Lords, with its own appointments system, staff, budget and building (from October 2009).