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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.

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