• In Focus

    Customs and traditions of the House of Lords: Self-regulation

    The origins of the House of Lords are traceable through the developments of the parliamentary system in England, with the term itself first used during the reign of Henry VIII. Although the House’s purpose, powers and composition have changed considerably over time, a constant has been the importance placed by the Lords on its customs and traditions. Many of these customs and traditions are unwritten and exist due to historical precedent, while some are written articles. However, all are important to the daily functioning of the House, and many have developed into their current form through a long process of ritual and tradition.

  • In Focus

    Peerages awarded to former UK prime ministers

    Former prime minister David Cameron was appointed to the House of Lords in November 2023 to serve as foreign secretary. This page lists former UK prime ministers who have held office since 1902, together with information on whether the individuals later received a peerage entitling them to sit in the House of Lords.

  • In Focus

    From the Hansard archives: Life Peerages Act 1958

    The Life Peerages Act 1958 received royal assent on 30 April 1958 and the first 14 life peers were announced later that year on 24 July. Prior to the act, the House of Lords was exclusively male and largely made up of hereditary peers, with the exception of the Lords Spiritual and a limited number of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary—judges who had been granted life peerages under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act of 1876. Although life peers had been created previously, historically they were not allowed to sit or vote in the House of Lords. The act would also allow women to sit in the Lords for the first time. This briefing looks back at second reading of the Life Peerages Bill in the House of Lords, 65 years ago.

  • In Focus

    From the Hansard archives: Peerage Act 1963

    The Peerage Act 1963 enabled hereditary peers to renounce their titles. Eighteen hereditary peers have disclaimed their peerages under the act. The first was Tony Benn, and those later disclaiming included Lord Hailsham and the Earl of Home, who both subsequently returned to the House of Lords as life peers. The act also allowed female hereditary peers to take seats and gave holders of Scottish peerages the same right to receive a writ of summons as holders of UK peerages. This briefing looks back at second reading of the Peerage Bill in the House of Lords, which took place on 4 July 1963.

  • In Focus

    From the Hansard archives: Parliamentary firsts at the 1958 Queen’s Speech

    The state opening of Parliament in 1958 would be the last of that parliament, taking place 12 months before the election the following year. In the six days of debate on the address that followed, members responded to the government’s legislative programme, an agenda set in a context of ongoing international and domestic economic challenges. However, its significance lay in it being the occasion for two parliamentary firsts. This briefing looks back to find that the subsequent debates on the address saw the first contributions of life peers. It was also the first state opening to be televised.

  • Research Briefing

    Lengths of prorogation since 1900

    Prorogation is the mechanism by which parliamentary sessions are ended. This House of Lords Library briefing sets out the start and end dates of each parliamentary session since 1900, together with the number of calendar days between the end of the previous session and the start of the new one.

  • In Focus

    Sovereigns’ first state opening speeches

    For centuries it has been custom for the monarch to deliver a speech at the state opening of Parliament. It is formally known as the ‘speech from the throne’. King Charles III will deliver his first speech as sovereign on 7 November 2023. This briefing discusses how the custom developed and looks at some of the themes in previous first state opening speeches.

  • In Focus

    The restoration and renewal programme: Recent developments and next steps

    The restoration and renewal programme was created to preserve the Palace of Westminster. In 2022, the commissions of the House of Commons and House of Lords decided to change its governance structure. The progress made in implementing these changes and progressing the programme is outlined in its first annual report, published in July 2023. This article gives an overview of the history of the programme and provides a summary of its annual report. It also highlights plans for both Houses to debate a shortlist of delivery options before the end of 2023.

  • In Focus

    Membership of the House of Lords: July 2023 update

    The House of Lords has no fixed number of seats, and numbers can change week by week based on those leaving or joining the House. This article provides a snapshot of membership and composition in July 2023 and statistics on appointments and departures since 2014. It also considers recent concerns about the increasing size of the House and calls for reform, including recommendations from the Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House.

  • In Focus

    New life peerages in 2023: Boris Johnson’s resignation list

    Seven new life peerages were announced on 9 June 2023 as part of Boris Johnson’s resignation honours. It was reported that Mr Johnson’s original list had included a further eight names, but concerns were raised about these by the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC). This article includes information on how new life peerages are recommended and approved. It also contains statistics on recent appointments to the House of Lords and resignation honours.

  • In Focus

    Draft Public Order Act 1986 (Serious Disruption to the Life of the Community) Regulations 2023: ‘Fatal’ and ‘regret’ motions

    In response to protests by groups such as Just Stop Oil, the government has introduced secondary legislation which would lower the threshold for what kind of protests are classed as “serious disruption” in England and Wales. The regulations are controversial because the government previously tried to introduce the same changes during parliamentary consideration of the Public Order Act 2023. The House of Lords rejected the proposed measures at that time. The House is now set to debate the regulations and motions to ‘regret’ or reject them.