Documents to download

This briefing provides statistics on the size of the House of Lords and recent statements about reducing the size of the House.

On 20 November 2020, the size of the absolute membership was 820. However, excluding those currently ineligible to attend (eg those on leave of absence) the size of the actual membership was 799. Excluding bishops, the actual membership was made up of:

  • Conservatives: 259 members
  • Crossbench: 182
  • Labour: 178
  • Liberal Democrats: 88
  • Other/non-affiliated: 66

Although the size of the House is still lower than it has been in recent years, it was an increase on the membership figures at the end of the 2017–19 session. Indeed, 43 life peers had joined the House so far in 2020, which was the largest number since 2015. However, 32 members had also left the House this year.

Concerns have been raised about the increasing size of the House of Lords, resulting in the Lord Speaker setting up a committee to look at the issue in December 2016. The committee, chaired by Lord Burns (Crossbench), published a report in October 2017 setting out recommendations for how the size of the House could be reduced to and maintained at a membership of 600. It called on the House and the Government to work together to achieve the reduction but did not propose any legislation. The report was supported by most speakers in a House debate on 19 December 2017. 

Since then, the committee have published two follow-up reports, one in 2018 and one in 2019. These commended the work being done to reduce the size of the House of Lords and thanked the then prime minister, Theresa May, for her support for some of the proposals. For example, she indicated that she would continue to exercise ‘restraint’ on appointing new members. However, the Government has stated that it does not believe that an actual cap on the membership is appropriate.

Reacting to the announcement of 36 new life peers in July 2020, the Lord Speaker described it as a “lost opportunity” to reduce the size of the House and a “policy U-turn”. However, the Government has said that it still accepts the need to address the size of the House, but that the new appointments were necessary to refresh the membership.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Peerages created following prime ministerial resignations

    UK prime ministers may draw up a resignation honours list on their departure from office, in which they may request that the reigning monarch grant honours to any number of people. Such honours may include peerages, knighthoods and damehoods, or other awards. However, not all have chosen to draw up such a list. This article lists those prime ministers who have requested that peerages be conferred on their departure from office.

    Peerages created following prime ministerial resignations
  • Hereditary by-elections: Results

    Hereditary peer by-elections are held within the House of Lords to replace excepted hereditary peers who have retired or died. This Lords Library briefing provides a list of hereditary peers’ by-election results since the passing of the House of Lords Act 1999, including information on turn out and the number of candidates.

    Hereditary by-elections: Results