Questions and Answers

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How many members are there in the House of Lords?

There are currently over 800 members in the House of Lords. This is made up primarily of Life peers. There are 92 hereditary peers and 26 Bishops seated in the upper house.

 

What is the average age of a member of the House of Lords?

As of December 2017, the average age of a member in the upper house is 69 years.

 

Who is the current leader of the House of Lords?

The current leader is Baroness Evans of Bowes Park

 

What is the role of the Lord Speaker?

House of Lords elects a Lord Speaker. This position is politically impartial, the main responsibility of the Lord Speaker is to act as an ambassador for the work of the Lords both in the United Kingdom and abroad.

 

What happens if the Speaker falls ill or is unable to be at the House?

The Speaker has three deputies. The principal deputy speaker is known by the title of Chairman of Ways and Means and the other two as the First and Second Deputy Chairs of Ways and Means. Even during normal business weeks at Westminster the Speaker does not spend all his time in the chamber so the deputys preside over proceedings on a rota basis. In the event that the Speaker was ill or otherwise indisposed, the deputies would cover all the duties.

 

What is a Clark of Parliament and what do they do?

A Clerk of Parliament is appointed by the Crown and is the permanent head of administration for the House of Lords. In practice this means that the Clerk of Parliament is the procedural adviser to the house and is therefore responsible for all aspects of services provided to members, to the public and to other interested parties.

 

Who is Black Rod?

Black Rod is a senior officer of the House of Lords. A representative of the Queen, Blackrod is responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the house and its precinct.

The Queen has recently appointed miss Sarah Clarke as Lady Usher of the Black Rod, Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain and Sergeant at Arms of the House of Lords.

Blackrod carries out ceremonial duties for The Crown in Parliament. During the state opening of Parliament the Queen, commands Black Rod to summon MPs to hear the Queen’s Speech.

 

How are people nominated for membership of the House of Lords?

In the year 2000, the government established the House of Lords Appointments Commission. This commission has two main functions and that is firstly to make recommendations to the Queen for the appointment of non-political peers and to background check, for suitability, all nominations for peerages.

Anyone seeking more information about the role of the commission should visit: http://lordsappointments.independent.gov.uk/

 

What is a bill

A bill is a proposal/draft for a new law. This can be an entirely new subject area or a proposal to change an existing law. A bill is the proposal for legislation as presented for debate before Parliament.

 

What are the different types of Bills?

There are three types of Bill: Public, Private, and hybrid bills.

Bills can be introduced by:

  • The government
  • Individual Lords
  • Individual MPs
  • Private groups or private organisations

 

How does a Bill become law?

It is possible for a bill to start in either house, but each must go through a prescribed set of stages and importantly all bills must be approved by both houses before they can become law. Once a bill has passed through the committee stages and debate stages of both houses it is sent to the Queen as Sovereign to receive the Royal Assent that makes it law.

 

How many bills passed through the House of Lords each year?

Between 2015 and 2016 the House of Lords handled 78 bills.

 

How long does it take for a bill to go through the parliamentary system?

The length of time for a bill to go through the Lords and Commons varies with each case. Therefore, bills must always be treated as individual items. To find out more about bills currently before the house please follow this link: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/

 

What is the difference between a bill and an act?

As mentioned above a bill is draft legislation proposed by a member of Parliament or the Government itself. On the other hand, a bill that has become law, thus having received the consent of both houses and the Crown, becomes an Act.

 

How many days per year does the House of Lords sit in session?

This varies depending on the business of the house, but between 2016 and 2017 the House of Lords sat for 141 days.

 

How long is the average sitting day in the House of Lords?

In 2016/17 the average time at which the house sat for was 6 hours and 38 minutes?

 

What is a division?

A division is when the House of Commons or the House of Lords votes on a matter of business.

 

What was the largest division to take place in the House of Lords?

The largest division (vote) in House of Lords, was a division on a change to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal Bill) on the 7th of March 2017. In this division a total of 634 peers voted.

 

Why don’t MPs vote electronically instead of going through the lobbies? 

One of the key reasons why MPs – particularly backbenchers – like the current system is that it requires Ministers to be physically present in the voting lobby each day. This gives backbenchers a valuable opportunity to talk to them, in private, about constituency or policy issues. However, 650 MPs voting personally in the lobby does take up a lot of time and can be disruptive to Ministers’ diaries during the day.

The Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission calculated that if 3 minutes per vote had been saved in the 2010-12 session, it would have saved each MP 27 hours of time. It has recommended that in future smart identity cards should be used by MPs to record their votes electronically. This would enable the votes to be recorded and published more quickly – but the card readers would be placed only in the voting lobbies to ensure that MPs have to be present thereby retaining the advantage of the present system. You can read more about this in the Commission’s report, ‘Open up!‘.

 

What is the House of Lords?

The House of Lords is the upper house of the UK Parliament. It is often referred to as the second chamber. The House of Lords therefore works with the House of Commons to make the laws of the land, to challenge the actions of the government and to provide independent expertise on matters of national importance.

 

What happens in the House of Lords chamber?

Each day members of the government are held to account by peers in the House of Lords. By doing this, peers have the opportunity to find out what the government are doing, or proposed to do on any subject via oral questions.

In addition to this the chamber is a place of debate were peers may examine and improve draft legislation and vote when the house comes to a Division.

 

What is Hansard?

Hansard is the transcript of everything that is said within the chamber of the House of Lords. This also includes when a lord asks the government about a specific issue in writing, as the answers also form part of Hansard.

 

What are oral questions?

Everyday up to four questions are presented to the government in the chamber. This allows any member of the upper house to ask a question on any subject. The Minister for the appropriate policy area will answer each question and they can then be challenged or asked further questions about the answers that they then give.

 

Can members of the public attend debates in the House of Lords?

 

Yes, members of the public are permitted to the public gallery of the house. For more information about attending a debate in the house please follow this link: https://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/This said continuous live and archival footage of all the debates and committee proceedings can be found online by this link: http://parliamentlive.tv/Lords

 

Who can sit in the House of Lords?

In order to sit in the House of Lords a person must be over the age of 21. In addition to this only citizens of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth citizens and citizens of the Republic of Ireland may sit in the House of Lords.

 

Where is the House of Lords based?

The House of Lords assembles in the Palace of Westminster London.

 

What is Peer?

Members of The House of Lords are often referred to as Peers.

 

What is a life peer?

Life peerages are awarded by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day. This enables the holder of the peerage to take up a seat in the House of Lords.

 

Is the Upper House more important than the commons?

No, while the House of Lords undertakes important scrutiny work and is a key part to the system of governance within the United Kingdom, the Commons can overrule the Lords by invoking the Parliament Act of 1911.

 

How old is the House of Lords?

The upper chamber of Parliament was defined in the reign of Edward III. Since then it has been in continuous existence, except between 1649 and 1660 when it was abolished under the Protectorate Oliver Cromwell.

 

What is affirmation?

Before anyone takes a seat in the UK Parliament, after a general election or a by-election or by appointment to the House of Lords, they are required to take an oath of Allegiance to the crown. This oath is known as “the affirmation”.

 

What is an allowance?

Members of The House of Lords, unlike their counterparts in the House of Commons are not paid salaries. Allowances are there for sums of money paid by the House of Lords to its members in place of a salary to help compensate the member for work-related costs. For more information about members allowances please follow this link http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/members-allowances/house-of-lords/

 

What is the “other place”?

By convention, members of the Lord’s do not mention the House of Common by name and therefore in debates will refer to the House of Commons as “the other place”.

 

What are lobbies?

Lobbies are the corridors situated to the left and right of the Chamber in both houses. During divisions these lobbies are where members cast their vote by walking through the one lobby or the other and in doing so their vote is counted.

In the House of Commons members may walk through the “Aye” or “No” lobbies, whereas in the Lords members will vote as “Content” or “Not Content”.

 

What is a backbencher?

Backbencher is the term used to refer to either MPs or members of the House of Lords that are neither government ministers nor opposition spokespersons.

 

What is the bar of the house?

The bar of the house is the boundary of the Chamber beyond which guests, visitors and staff may not pass when either house is at work.

 

What is the code of conduct for members of The House of Lords?

As part of the introduction on joining the House of Lords and during the swearing in process at the start of any new Parliament, members of the House of Lords are required to sign the code of conduct for Members of The House of Lords. This code provides guidance and sets out to members of The Upper House the standards of conduct expected of them in their public duties.

 

What is a committee motion?

When called a committee motion is a proposal that a bill before either house should next be considered by a committee.

 

What is a crossbench peer?

A Crossbench Peer is a non-party political peer and by convention sits on the benches that cross the chamber of the House of Lords

 

What is the prerogative of the crown?

 

The prerogatives of the Crown are powers used by the Monarch, or more commonly by Ministers acting in the Monarch’s name. These powers may be used without the consent of either the Commons or the Lords. For more information about the royal prerogative please follow this link to the parliamentary website: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN03861

 

What is the front bench?

The front bench or front benchers are either a government minister or an opposition shadow spokesperson. In both houses these senior parliamentarians occupy the front benches on either side of the Chamber when the house is in session.

 

What is a hereditary peer?

Prior to the House of Lords reforms of 1999, the majority of members in the upper house were there by virtue of their birth. The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the entitlement of the majority of hereditary peers to sit participate and vote in the House of Lords. There are currently 92 hereditary peers who retained their right to participate in the business of the Lords. These hereditary peers are elected by their fellow hereditary peers.

 

What is the mace?

The mace in Parliament is the symbol of the Crown. The symbol of royal authority and without it neither house can meet or pass laws. The only time that the House of Lords meets without the mace present is during the State Opening when the Monarch is in the chamber in person.