Why do we have the House of Lords?
The Lords started off as an advisory council to the king. In 1215, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, sharing power with the nobility. Trade became more and more important which lead to the rise of a new merchant class, and by the 14th century Edward III had two groups of advisors divided into chambers, the Lords and the Commons, made up of lesser knights and merchants. This is why we have two houses in Parliament. As time passed, the Commons became increasingly dominant and the King became less powerful.
Who is in the House of Lords?
As society moved on and cultures changed, the question arose, how had these people earned their place? How can they represent the public? In 1958 the Life Peerages Act introduced women into the House and radically changed who was in the Lords. From then on, any man or woman could enter the House based on what they had achieved in their career. The Lords Act of 1999 reduced the number of hereditary members in the House and stopped them passing their seat to their own family.
Now the Lords is made up of people from all walks of life, political peers, cross-bench peers, as well as hereditary peers and bishops. They all use their experience from inside and outside of Parliament to check and challenge the Government.
What does the House of Lords do?
The House of Lords has three main functions. To question and challenge the work of the Government, to work with the House of Commons to shape laws and to investigate issues through committees and debates to help improve the way the country is governed.
The House of Lords is currently the second busiest legislative chamber in the world, right after the House of Commons. Each chamber is laid out in the same way as the Commons, the Government party on the one side, the opposition on the other. Members who don’t belong to any political party are known as cross-benchers.