This briefing was updated on 3 April 2024 to include recent votes on the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

1. What was the biggest Lords vote?

The biggest recorded vote saw 634 members, almost four in five of those eligible to participate, voting in a division on 7 March 2017. In this vote, the House of Lords voted at report stage on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill by 366 votes to 268 to agree to an amendment moved by Lord Pannick (Crossbench). This remains the largest total number of members voting in a single division on record.

The 7 March 2017 vote beat the previous largest vote of 621, recorded on 14 July 1993. In 1993, members voted by 445 to 176 against an amendment to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, which would have required a referendum to be held on the Maastricht treaty. The Times called it the “biggest turnout of peers in modern times”.[1] In terms of the proportion of members eligible to vote at that time, this represented about three in five.

Until 2017, the 1993 vote was thought to have been the largest since 1831. This has been widely assumed to mean a larger vote took place in 1831, possibly on the Great Reform Bill. However, the House was not large enough at that time to vote in such numbers: figures available for 1830[2] suggest the House had 399 members. However, in rejecting the Great Reform Bill on 7 October 1831 a total of 357 members voted.[3] On the basis that the House had around 400 members in 1831 this would have equated to almost nine in 10 members voting in that division.

Since 1999, there have been 152 divisions in the House of Lords where 500 or more members voted. 112 of these took place while members could only participate in votes remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Figure 1. Largest votes recorded during each parliamentary session

Bar chart showing the highest number of members voting in a division during each parliamentary session.
(House of Lords Library analysis)

2. Proportion of the house voting

Since 1999, the overall turnout for an average division has been around 300, about 40% of the eligible membership. However, turnout has increased significantly from the 2010–12 session. Prior to this, average division turnout was just over 30%. Since 2010–12, average turnout has been almost half the eligible membership.

Figure 2. Average participation rate in votes during each session, 1999–2000 to 2023–24

Bar chart showing that the average proportion of members participating in divisions  increased in 2010–12
(House of Lords Library analysis)

3. Introduction of remote voting

On 15 June 2020, the House of Lords held divisions using a remote voting system for the first time. The system was introduced as part of the House’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote voting for most members remained in place until September 2021.[4]

Participation reached 500 or more in 112 of the 367 remote votes held, almost a third of remote divisions. The largest of these was at committee stage of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on 9 November 2020. This division saw 598 members voting to disagree with a government motion that clause 42 (“Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market and customs territory”) stand part of the bill.

Figure 3. Number of members voting in each division, 1999–2000 to 2023–24

Scatter plot showing that the number of members participating in divisions increased when members had to vote remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
(House of Lords Library analysis)

4. What have the largest votes been on?

  • Four of the five largest votes on record have been on primary legislation about the UK leaving the EU. The other was on the Health and Social Care Bill in 2012.
  • Just over half of the largest votes have been on Brexit-related government bills introduced since 2017.
  • The largest vote before 1999 was also related to Europe: a vote of 445 to 176 against an amendment to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill on 14 July 1993. Another notable vote on Europe took place on 28 October 1971: 451 members to 58 voted in favour of a motion to join the European Communities.[5]
  • In total, 15 of the 152 largest votes have been on secondary legislation.

5. At what bill stage have the largest votes taken place?

Nearly two-thirds (90) of the votes have taken place at report stage on bills.

Six large votes have been at second reading, four at a bill’s third reading and four at committee stage. 32 were at ‘ping-pong’.

6. What has been the biggest margin of government defeat since 1999?

On 9 November 2020, the House voted by a margin of 268 votes to defeat the government on the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill.

The government was defeated by 259 votes on a further vote held the same day on the bill. It had previously been defeated by 226 votes in a vote on a regret motion at the bill’s second reading. The UCL Constitution Unit has described these as “the three largest Lords defeats since the chamber’s 1999 reform”.

Previously, the three biggest margins of government defeat were on the Counter-Terrorism Bill in 2008 (191), Prevention of Terrorism Bill in 2005 (187) and on proposed changes to Commons standing orders in 2015 (181).

On 7 July 1998, the then Labour government was defeated by a margin of 211 votes on the Teaching and Higher Education Bill [HL].

7. Largest votes during the 2023–24 session

The largest vote of the 2023–24 session so far (as at 3 April 2024) saw 515 members voting. This vote took place on 20 March 2024, when members voted 285 to 230 in favour of an amendment to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill at ‘ping pong’. The amendment concerned the status of Rwanda as a ‘safe country’. Later that day, 502 members voted 276 to 226 in favour of another amendment to the bill. These were the largest votes of the session so far and the first divisions in which 500 or more members had participated. The government was defeated in both votes. At the time of writing, proceedings on the bill are still ongoing. 

8. Explore the data

The data dashboard below presents further information about the largest votes recorded in the House of Lords.

If you would like to access a printable version or the original Excel data file, these can be downloaded using the buttons below. If you require an alternative format, please email and we will review your request.

Open a printable version

9. Data

This House of Lords Library analysis used data sourced from the House of Lords votes API.

The first Excel spreadsheet provided below details votes held since 11 November 1999 (the date of royal assent for the House of Lords Act 1999, which removed over 600 hereditary members) where the number of members voting totalled 500 or more. For simplicity, multiple votes with the same turnout have been given a joint ranking.

The second spreadsheet details government defeats in the House of Lords since 11 November 1999.

Largest votes recorded Excel spreadsheet (86 kb)

Size of government defeats Excel spreadsheet (172 kb)


  1. Times, ‘Former ministers line up against Thatcher demand’, 15 July 1993. Return to text
  2. Chris Cook and Brendan Keith, ‘British Historical Facts, 1830–1900’, 1975, p 104. Return to text
  3. HL Hansard, 7 October 1831, cols 340–1. Return to text
  4. House of Lords Library, ‘House of Lords: Timeline of response to Covid-19 pandemic’, 1 March 2022. Return to text
  5. HL Hansard, 28 October 1971, cols 840–956. Return to text