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Since 1999, there have been 62 divisions in the House of Lords where 500 or more Members voted. 13 of these took place in 2018. There have been 32 divisions of such size since January 2020. This information is correct as 28 October 2020. 

What was the biggest Lords vote?

The biggest recorded vote saw 634 Members, almost 4 in 5 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. On this occasion, Members voted by 445 to 176 against an amendment to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, which would have required a referendum to be held. The Times called it the “biggest turnout of peers in modern times”. 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 suggest the House had 399 Members. However, in rejecting the Great Reform Bill on 7 October 1831 a total of 357 Members voted. On the basis that the House had around 400 Members in 1831 this would have equated to almost nine in ten of Members voting in that division.

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.

To date, Member turnout has reached 500 or more in 31 of the remote votes held. The largest of these was at second reading of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on 20 October 2020. This division saw 564 Members voting on a ‘motion of regret’. 

What have the largest votes been on? 

  • Three of the five largest votes have been on primary legislation about the UK leaving the EU. The others were on the Health and Social Care Bill in 2012 and on changes to tax credits in 2015, which were proposed through secondary legislation. 
  • Just over half of the largest votes have been on Brexit-related government bills introduced since 2017.
  • In total, nine of the 62 largest votes have been on secondary legislation. 

At what bill stage have the largest votes taken place?

  • Nearly two-thirds of the votes took place at report stage on bills.
  • Four large votes have taken place at a bill’s second reading, and four at a bill’s third reading. Two have been at committee stage and five at “ping-pong”. 

Data

The excel spreadsheet provided details votes held since 11 November 1999 (the date of royal assent for the House of Lords Act, 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. 


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