House of Lords
The House of Lords is a
component of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also includes
the Sovereign and the House of Commons. The House of Lords is an
unelected body, consisting of 26 senior clerics of the Church of England
(the "Lords Spiritual"), as well as 669 members of the Peerage (the
"Lords Temporal"). Lords Spiritual serve as long as they continue to
occupy their ecclesiastical positions, but Lords Temporal serve for
life. Members of the House of Lords are known as "Lords of Parliament".
The House of Lords originated in the 14th century and has been in almost
continuous existence since. It was abolished in 1649 by the
revolutionary government that came to power during the English Civil
War, but was restored in 1660.
The House of Lords (the "Upper House") was once more powerful than the
elected House of Commons (the "Lower House"). Since the 19th century,
however, the powers of the House of Lords have been steadily declining;
now, the Upper House is far weaker than its parliamentary counterpart.
Under the Parliament Act 1911, most legislation passed by the House of
Commons can be delayed, but cannot be rejected, by the House of Lords.
Reforms were enacted under the House of Lords Act 1999, which removed
the automatic hereditary right of many peers to sit in the Upper House.
Additional reforms are contemplated by the current Labour Government,
but have not been passed into law.
In addition to performing legislative functions, the House of Lords also
holds judicial powers: it constitutes the highest court of appeal for
most cases in the United Kingdom. The judicial functions of the House of
Lords are not performed by the whole Chamber, but rather by a group of
members with legal experience, who are known as "Law Lords". The House
of Lords is not the only court of last resort in the United Kingdom; in
some cases, that role is fulfilled by the Privy Council.
The full, formal style of the House of Lords is: The Right Honourable
The Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland in Parliament Assembled. The House of Lords, like
the House of Commons, meets in the Palace of Westminster.