Since 1999, there have been 142 divisions in the House of Lords where 500 or more Members voted. 13 of these took place in 2018. There have been 112 divisions of such size since January 2020. This information is correct as at 27 July 2021.
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.
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. 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 111 of the remote votes held. 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.
What have the largest votes been on?
- Four of the five largest votes 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.
- In total, 14 of the 124 largest votes have been on secondary legislation.
At what bill stage have the largest votes taken place?
- Nearly two-thirds (89) of the votes have taken place at report stage on bills.
- 6 large votes have been at second reading, 4 at a bill’s third reading and 4 at committee stage. 24 were at “ping-pong”.
What was 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 and by 226 votes at the bill’s second reading on 20 October 2020. 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].
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.