Contemporary context

Today the House of Lords is made up largely of Life Peers with experience in wide-ranging fields including medicine, education, science, the Armed Services, academia, the arts, business, industry, the charity sector and public life.

The House of Lords is a forum for independent expertise, and Members of the House of Lords play an essential role in making laws—scrutinising, revising and initiating legislation—as well as holding the Government to account.

In today's House of Lords you will see a greater diversity of membership with more women, ethnic and religious minorities and disabled representation.

Until July 2006 the role of the presiding officer in the House of Lords was carried out by the Lord Chancellor, but in line with the Government's commitment to revising the Lord Chancellor's various duties, the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 created the post of "Speaker of the House of Lords" and enabled it to be held by a Member of the Lords. A House of Lords Select Committee, chaired by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, reported to the Lords in December 2005 and recommended the powers, method of election and title of the new "Lord Speaker". The current Lords Speaker is Baroness D’Souza.

In 2012, a House of Lords Bill introduced by the Coalition Government was abandoned due to insufficient parliamentary support. However, two private member’s bills proposing incremental reforms became law in 2014 and 2015. The Acts provide for Members to retire or resign from the House; permit the expulsion of Members of the House in specified circumstances; and empower the House to expel or suspend members.

See House of Lords Library Notes on the House of Lords for further information.

Page last updated September 2016.

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