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This briefing presents information on the size of the House of Lords, focusing on developments since the establishment of a Lord Speaker’s committee to look at this issue at the end of 2016. The committee had been set up following a House of Lords debate which showed strong support for reducing the size of the House.

Reporting in October 2017, the committee expressed concerns about the House’s increasing size, fearing it may exceed a membership of 1,000 in the coming years. It described this scenario as unacceptable to the public and to the Lords itself, also believing it would make the House increasingly costly and inefficient. On this basis, it made recommendations as to how the House of Lords could reduce its membership to within a proposed cap of 600, and how the cap could be maintained whilst ensuring regular new appointments were still possible. This included the recommendation of 15-year term limits for new Members, and for appointments to be made on a “two-out, one-in” basis until the cap was achieved, and then a “one-out, one-in” basis thereafter. It also recommended that party appointments were made in line with the results of the most recent general election, and that the Crossbench group be maintained at a minimum of 20 percent of the House. The report was broadly welcomed in a subsequent House of Lords debate on 19 December 2017.

In a follow-up report published in October 2018, the committee welcomed the progress the House was making towards reducing its size, stressing that the number of departures were exceeding its suggested targets. It also welcomed statements by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, indicating support for aspects of the committee’s recommendations, particularly her willingness to exercise restraint over the number of appointments to the House. The report of the Lord Speaker’s committee was also been welcomed by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which believed it set out “an achievable system for reducing the size of the House of Lords without need for legislation”.

As at 18 January 2019, the total membership of the House of Lords was 807. This included 22 Members currently ineligible to sit (for example, due to being on leave of absence or disqualified due to a specific position held). This represented a reduction in the total membership from the end of the last session and from the size of the House at the time of publication of the two Lord Speaker’s committee reports.

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