• In Focus

    Questions to the foreign secretary: 16 April 2024

    Members of the House of Lords will ask Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton a series of oral questions on 16 April 2024. Topics include the current state of freedom of religion or belief in India; what is being done to maintain support for Ukraine; when the UK will next hold a bilateral meeting with France on security issues; and whether the UK will mark the 75th anniversary of the Council of Europe.

  • In Focus

    Supply of affordable housing

    Affordable housing accounted for 27 percent of all new additions to the housing stock in England in 2022/23. In recent years, the government has introduced several initiatives to increase the supply of affordable housing. This includes launching the first homes scheme, which seeks to assist first-time buyers and key workers in purchasing properties at discounted rates. However, some housing stakeholders have called on the government to provide further funding towards the construction of affordable homes.

  • In Focus

    Supporting separating parents to resolve private family law disputes

    Some separating couples apply to the family court to resolve disputes, such as where their child should live. Research has shown the negative impact that parental separation involving conflict can have on a child’s mental health and life chances. In January 2024, the government announced a reform programme of the family justice system to support families to resolve private family law disputes more quickly and protect children from lengthy court cases.

  • In Focus

    Educational trips and exchanges: Budget challenges, post-Brexit travel, and the introduction of the Turing scheme

    Educational trips and exchanges can help young people develop language and life skills. However, school leaders, travel organisations, and the House of Lords European Affairs Committee have raised concerns that fewer trips are taking place, pointing to factors including travel complexities post-Brexit and budget considerations. The government has acknowledged the importance of trips and exchanges, highlighting the Turing scheme and the recent agreement to simplify travel requirements for school visits with France.

  • In Focus

    Strategies to address issues in the transport system

    The transport system in England consists of many elements, including local roads, the strategic road network, and local and national rail systems. Concern has been expressed by some that England’s transport system outside London is not working as well as it could. The government has published several different strategies to address issues in the transport system, such as its national bus strategy and transport decarbonisation plan.

  • In Focus

    AI in Weapon Systems Committee report: Proceed with caution

    A House of Lords special inquiry committee has recommended that the government proceeds with caution on the development and use of artificial intelligence in weapon systems. This includes adopting an operational definition for autonomous weapon systems and ensuring human control at all stages of such systems’ lifecycle. The government has committed to ensuring meaningful human control and accountability throughout the lifecycle of AI-enabled military systems, but not to adopting an operational definition.

  • In Focus

    The UK economy in the 1970s

    This briefing is the third of a series on the post-war history of the UK economy, focusing on the 1970s. Following a brief economic boom, inflation and unemployment reached post-war highs and the economy entered a prolonged recession, before slowly recovering towards the end of the decade. Despite this volatility, real household incomes grew significantly over the course of the decade.

  • In Focus

    Customs and traditions: The mace

    The mace is a staff of office symbolising the authority of the sovereign in Parliament. A mace is carried to the Lords and the Commons chambers in a procession at the beginning and end of each sitting day. In the Lords, it rests on the woolsack behind the lord speaker during proceedings. As is the case in the Commons, the Lords may not conduct business in the chamber whilst it is not present. But where did this custom and tradition come from and are maces found in other parliaments?

  • In Focus

    UK-India relations: 2030 roadmap and future trade partnership

    The UK and India have a complex and multifaceted history. In recent years, their relationship has focused on political and economic cooperation. Both countries have agreed to a framework setting out future relations and are currently negotiating a free trade agreement. With India’s next general election scheduled to take place between April and June 2024, this briefing analyses the potential trajectory of UK-India relations.

  • In Focus

    From the Hansard archives: Fixing a date for Easter?

    In 1928, Parliament passed legislation that set the date of Easter on “the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April”. This was subject to an order in council that specified that, before any commencement order, “regard” be given to “any opinion officially expressed by any church or other Christian body”. The act has never been commenced. It remains on the statute book. This briefing delves into the Hansard archives to find that 25 years ago the House debated the merits of bringing that act into force.

  • In Focus

    Ministers in the House of Lords: Role and accountability to Parliament

    Ministers are needed in the House of Lords to take legislation through the House and answer for the government during questions and debates. Some cabinet ministers are appointed from the Lords. For example, the current foreign secretary is Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton. The leader of the House of Lords is always a member of the Lords. This briefing looks at the role of ministers in the House of Lords and how they are scrutinised.

  • In Focus

    Built Environment Committee report: Impact of environmental regulations on development

    The government has committed to increase house building and improve the UK’s infrastructure while also protecting and improving the natural environment. The balance between these two objectives has been considered by the House of Lords Built Environment Committee in a report on the impact of environmental regulations on development. This article summarises the committee’s conclusions and the government’s response ahead of a House of Lords debate on the report.

  • In Focus

    Horticultural Sector Committee report: ‘Sowing the seeds: A blooming English horticultural sector’

    In a report published in November 2023 the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee highlighted the importance of the horticultural sector to the UK. The report detailed impacts of the sector on the economy, food supply, wellbeing and net zero ambitions. However, it said the industry faced a number of challenges and was not being given the attention or support it deserved. The committee’s report listed 93 recommendations for the government to help the sector meet these challenges and realise its potential.

  • In Focus

    Children looked after by local authorities in England

    Under the Children Act 1989, a child is looked after by a local authority if they are provided with accommodation, for a continuous period of more than 24 hours, are subject to a care order or are subject to a placement order. There were 83,840 looked-after children in England in March 2023. This was an increase from 78,140 in 2019. The Local Government Association has said councils face challenges around the availability of suitable residential and fostering placements. The government is currently implementing its 2023 children’s social care strategy to reform care in England.

  • In Focus

    Long-term sustainability of the NHS: Options for systems and funding

    In response to recent pressures in the NHS, there has been debate about the sustainability of the NHS and its funding model. In preparation for a House of Lords debate on this topic, this briefing examines the UK’s taxation-based health care model and alternative models (such as social health insurance and private health insurance) used in other countries.