Record

CodeNA10311
Person NameHouse of Lords
ActivityThe House of Lords is the second Chamber of the United Kingdom Parliament. It plays an important part in revising legislation and keeping a check on Government by scrutinising its activities. It complements the work of the House of Commons, whose members are elected to represent their constituents. Members of the Lords are not elected and are unpaid. The House also has a judicial role as the final Court of Appeal.The House of Lords has its origins in the witans, councils consulted by the Saxon kings of England which were attended by clergy, magnates and the king's principal officials. The king would have a small body of advisers with him on a daily basis, but from time to time a larger body would be summoned to give him counsel. By the 13th century there was a parliament in England attended by representatives of counties, cities and burghs as well as the clergy, magnates and officials. In the 14th century two distinct houses emerge. One, the Commons, had borough and shire representatives; the other, the Upper House, comprised the Lords Spiritual (the clergy) and Lords Temporal (magnates). The latter became hereditary peers during the 15th century. After the Reformation, the Lords Spiritual were limited to bishops, and were excluded from the House from 1642 to 1661. The House of Lords itself ceased to exist between 1649 and 1660 when its separate sittings resumed. The House of Commons now had pre-eminence in financial matters, and the 1689 Bill of Rights established the authority of parliament over the king.The Act of Union, 1707, between the English and Scottish parliaments entitled Scottish peers to elect representatives from among their number to sit in the Lords, as did the Act of Union, 1800, with Ireland. In the 19th century the number of bishops entitled to seats in the Lords was reduced. Under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 (39 & 40 Vict., c.59) the sovereign could create Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (Law Lords) to fulfill the House of Lords' judicial functions. The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. V, c.13) was a crucial act, in that it ended the Lords' power to reject legislation approved by the Commons. The main, constant element of the House of Lords had been hereditary peers, but under the Life Peerages Act 1958 (6 & 7 Eliz. II, c.21) it became possible for the sovereign to create peerages for life for men or women. Very few hereditary peerages were created thereafter. The House of Lords Act 1999 (c.34) removed the right of most hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House. Other changes to the composition of the House of Lords are under consideration.
Corporate NameHouse of Lords
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