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House of Lords Act 1999

House of Lords Act 1999

Overview
The House of Lords Act 1999 (c. 34) was an Act
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 that was given Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

 on 11 November 1999. The Act reformed
Lords Reform
For more than a century, governments in the United Kingdom have attempted to find a way to undertake a comprehensive reform of the House of Lords, which is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

 the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, one of the chambers of Parliament. For centuries, the House of Lords had included several hundred members who inherited their seats
Hereditary peer
Hereditary peers form part of the Peerage in the United Kingdom. There are over seven hundred peers who hold titles that may be inherited. Formerly, most of them were entitled to sit in the House of Lords, but since the House of Lords Act 1999 only ninety-two are permitted to do so...

; the Act removed such a right. However, as part of a compromise, the Act did permit ninety-two hereditaries to remain in the House on an interim basis.
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Encyclopedia
The House of Lords Act 1999 (c. 34) was an Act
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 that was given Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

 on 11 November 1999. The Act reformed
Lords Reform
For more than a century, governments in the United Kingdom have attempted to find a way to undertake a comprehensive reform of the House of Lords, which is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

 the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, one of the chambers of Parliament. For centuries, the House of Lords had included several hundred members who inherited their seats
Hereditary peer
Hereditary peers form part of the Peerage in the United Kingdom. There are over seven hundred peers who hold titles that may be inherited. Formerly, most of them were entitled to sit in the House of Lords, but since the House of Lords Act 1999 only ninety-two are permitted to do so...

; the Act removed such a right. However, as part of a compromise, the Act did permit ninety-two hereditaries to remain in the House on an interim basis. Another ten hereditaries were created life peers to be able to remain in the House.

The Act decreased the membership of the House from 1,330 (October 1999) to 669 (March 2000). As another result of the Act, the majority of the Lords were now life peer
Life peer
In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the Peerage whose titles cannot be inherited. Nowadays life peerages, always of baronial rank, are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958 and entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as...

s, whose numbers had been gradually increasing since the Life Peerages Act 1958
Life Peerages Act 1958
The Life Peerages Act 1958 established the modern standards for the creation of life peers by the monarch of the United Kingdom. Life peers are barons and are members of the House of Lords for life, but their titles and membership in the Lords are not inherited by their children. Judicial life...

.

Background


The Lords was once the stronger of the two houses of Parliament. A process of gradual evolution combined with such moments of crisis as the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

s transferred the political control of England, first from the Crown
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 to the House of Lords and then to the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

. The rising wealth of the Commons eventually allowed it to wage two civil wars, dethrone two Kings, and gradually reduce the power of the Lords. Prior to the House of Lords Act 1999 the power of the Lords had been diminished by the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949
Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949
The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 are two Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which form part of the constitution of the United Kingdom. Section 2 of the Parliament Act 1949 provides that that Act and the Parliament Act 1911 are to be construed as one.The Parliament Act 1911 The...

 which stripped the Lords of the ability to block, or veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

, adoption of most bills; at most it could delay bills for one year. Furthermore, the Commons has absolute power when it comes to money bill
Money bill
In the Westminster system , a money bill or supply bill is a bill that solely concerns taxation or government spending , as opposed to changes in public law.- Conventions :...

s.

After eighteen years of Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 rule, the Labour party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 led by Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 won a landslide victory
Landslide victory
In politics, a landslide victory is the victory of a candidate or political party by an overwhelming margin in an election...

 at the 1997 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1997
The United Kingdom general election, 1997 was held on 1 May 1997, more than five years after the previous election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party ended its 18 years in opposition under the leadership of Tony Blair, and won the general...

, in the process inflicting the biggest defeat for the Conservatives since 1832
United Kingdom general election, 1832
-Seats summary:-Parties and leaders at the general election:The Earl Grey had been Prime Minister since 22 November 1830. His was the first predominantly Whig administration since the Ministry of all the Talents in 1806-1807....

. The Labour Party had for years endorsed abolition of the unelected House of Lords in its election platforms, though since 1992 this had changed to a policy of reforming the House
Lords Reform
For more than a century, governments in the United Kingdom have attempted to find a way to undertake a comprehensive reform of the House of Lords, which is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

 instead.

During the 20th century successive Labour governments proposed many bills that were opposed by the traditionally Conservative House of Lords. In the first year of Tony Blair's government the Lords rejected Labour bills thirty-eight times. The rejection considered the most contentious was of the European Elections Bill
European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999
The European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its long title is "An Act to amend the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 so as to alter the method used in Great Britain for electing Members of the European Parliament to make other amendments...

, which the Lords voted down an unprecedented five times. Blair claimed that the Conservatives were using the hereditary peers to "frustrate" and "overturn the will of the democratically elected House of Commons". Here Blair found an opportunity to implement one of Labour's campaign promises, "reforming" the Lords.

On 24 November 1998, in opening the second session of Parliament
State Opening of Parliament
In the United Kingdom, the State Opening of Parliament is an annual event that marks the commencement of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is held in the House of Lords Chamber, usually in November or December or, in a general election year, when the new Parliament first assembles...

, the Queen delivered her annual Speech from the Throne
Speech from the Throne
A speech from the throne is an event in certain monarchies in which the reigning sovereign reads a prepared speech to a complete session of parliament, outlining the government's agenda for the coming session...

; the Speech is written for her by the ruling party and outlines that party's legislative agenda for the upcoming year. In it, she suggested that her Government (i.e. the ruling Labour Party) would pursue a reform of the House of Lords. These remarks were followed by shouts of "Hear! Hear!" from supportive Labour Members of Parliament, and by similar shouts of "Shame! Shame!" from Conservative peers; such outbursts were unprecedented, for the Queen's Speech is traditionally heard by a silent Parliament.

The House of Lords Bill


The House of Lords Bill was expected to face a tough fight in the House of Lords. Several Lords threatened to disrupt the Government's other bills if they continued with the plan to abolish the hereditaries' right to sit in the House of Lords. The Earl of Onslow
Michael Onslow, 7th Earl of Onslow
Michael William Coplestone Dillon Onslow, 7th Earl of Onslow , styled Viscount Cranley from 1945 to 1971, was a British Conservative politician.-Background and education:...

, for instance, said, "I'm happy to force a division
Division (vote)
In parliamentary procedure, a division of the assembly is a voting method in which the members of the assembly take a rising vote or go to different parts of the chamber, literally dividing into groups indicating a vote in favour of or in opposition to a motion on the floor...

 on each and every clause of the Scotland Bill
Scotland Act 1998
The Scotland Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is the Act which established the devolved Scottish Parliament.The Act will be amended by the Scotland Bill 2011, if and when it receives royal assent.-History:...

. Each division takes 20 minutes and there are more than 270 clauses." Lords had plenty of other means by which they could obstruct the Government's programme.

In order to convince some peers to vote for reform, Tony Blair announced that he would compromise by allowing a number of hereditary peers to remain in the House of Lords on an interim basis. On 2 December 1998, the Conservative Leader of the Opposition, William Hague
William Hague
William Jefferson Hague is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001...

, rose in the House of Commons to attack Tony Blair's plans. He suggested that Mr Blair's changes indicated his lack of principles. Hague further suggested that the Conservative Party would never agree to such constitutional reforms that were "based on no comprehensive plan or principle." Mr Hague's remarks backfired when Blair revealed that the Conservative Party in the House of Lords, rather than oppose his reforms, would definitely support them, and that he had done a secret deal with the Conservative leader in the House of Lords, Viscount Cranborne. Mr Hague immediately removed Viscount Cranborne from office, but, in protest, several Conservative Lords who held front-bench positions resigned.

On 19 January 1999, the Leader of the House of Commons
Leader of the House of Commons
The Leader of the House of Commons is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons...

, Margaret Beckett
Margaret Beckett
Margaret Mary Beckett is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Derby South since 1983, rising to become the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party under John Smith, from 18 July 1992 to 12 May 1994, and briefly serving as Leader of the Party following Smith's death...

, introduced the House of Lords Bill into the House of Commons. The House of Commons passed the bill by a vote of 340 to 132 on 16 March. The next day it was presented to the House of Lords, where debate on the bill was far longer. One significant amendment made to the Bill was the so-called Weatherill Amendment, named for the Lord Weatherill
Bernard Weatherill
Bruce Bernard Weatherill, Baron Weatherill, PC, DL, KStJ was a British Conservative Party politician who became Speaker of the House of Commons.-Tailor:...

, the former Speaker of the House of Commons
Speaker of the British House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Commons is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom's lower chamber of Parliament. The current Speaker is John Bercow, who was elected on 22 June 2009, following the resignation of Michael Martin...

. The Weatherill Amendment put into place the deal agreed to by the Prime Minister and Viscount Cranborne, and allowed ninety-two hereditary peers to remain members of the House of Lords.

Several controversies relating to the technicalities of the bill were brought up in the House of Lords. One issue regarded the language used in clauses 1 to 7, which was described by Lord Mayhew of Twysden
Patrick Mayhew
Patrick Barnabas Burke Mayhew, Baron Mayhew of Twysden, PC is a British barrister, and Conservative Party politician.He was educated at Tonbridge School and Balliol College, Oxford...

 as "uncertain in its effects and would leave the position of most hereditary Peers uncertain if the Bill was enacted." A second issue was related to the Acts of Union 1707
Acts of Union 1707
The Acts of Union were two Parliamentary Acts - the Union with Scotland Act passed in 1706 by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland - which put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706,...

 uniting Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 into the Kingdom of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

. After lengthy debates, both matters were referred to the House of Lords Committee on Privileges
House of Lords Committee on Privileges
The Committee for Privileges and Conduct is a select committee of the House of Lords in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The committee's remit is to make recommendations to the House on complaints of breach of parliamentary privilege....

.

Under the Acts of Union 1707
Acts of Union 1707
The Acts of Union were two Parliamentary Acts - the Union with Scotland Act passed in 1706 by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland - which put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706,...

, Scottish Lords
Peerage of Scotland
The Peerage of Scotland is the division of the British Peerage for those peers created in the Kingdom of Scotland before 1707. With that year's Act of Union, the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England were combined into the Kingdom of Great Britain, and a new Peerage of Great Britain was...

 would be entitled to elect sixteen representative peers to sit on their Lordships' behalf in the House of Lords. In 1963, the Peerage Act
Peerage Act 1963
The Peerage Act 1963 is the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that permitted peeresses in their own right and all Scottish hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, and which allows newly inherited hereditary peerages to be "disclaimed".-Background:The Act resulted largely from the...

 was passed, allowing all Scottish peers to sit in the House, not just sixteen of them. It was felt that removing all Scottish representation would breach the Articles. The Government, however, responded that the Articles did envisage a change in the election of representative peers. It was argued that some portions of the Treaty were entrenched, while others were not. For instance, Scotland and England were united "forever," the Scottish Court of Session
Court of Session
The Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland, and constitutes part of the College of Justice. It sits in Parliament House in Edinburgh and is both a court of first instance and a court of appeal....

 was to "remain in all time coming within Scotland as it is now constituted," and the establishment of the Church of Scotland
Church of Scotland
The Church of Scotland, known informally by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is a Presbyterian church, decisively shaped by the Scottish Reformation....

 was "effectually and unalterably secured." However, it was suggested, the election of Scottish representative peers was not entrenched, and therefore could be amended. Furthermore, the Government argued that Parliament was entirely sovereign and supreme, and could at its will change the Articles of Union. For example, the Treaty of Union
Act of Union 1800
The Acts of Union 1800 describe two complementary Acts, namely:* the Union with Ireland Act 1800 , an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, and...

 joining Great Britain and Ireland required that the two nations be united "for ever." Nonetheless, in 1922, by an Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

, most of Ireland was made independent as the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

. Thus, even entrenched clauses were argued to be open to amendment by the authority of Parliament. The Committee agreed and reported to the House on 20 October 1999, that the Bill was indeed lawful in this regard.

After the Committee's first and second reports were considered, the Lords passed the bill 221 to 81 on 26 October 1999. Once the Lords settled the differences between their version of the bill and the Commons version thereof, the Bill received Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

 on 11 November 1999 and became an Act of parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

. The Act then came into force the same day.

Membership of the House of Lords


The House of Lords Act 1999 provides firstly that "No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage." (The Act treats the Principality of Wales
Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales is a title traditionally granted to the heir apparent to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the 15 other independent Commonwealth realms...

 and the Earldom of Chester
Earl of Chester
The Earldom of Chester was one of the most powerful earldoms in medieval England. Since 1301 the title has generally been granted to heirs-apparent to the English throne, and from the late 14th century it has been given only in conjunction with that of Prince of Wales.- Honour of Chester :The...

 as hereditary peerages, though those titles, granted normally to the heir-apparent, are never inherited.) The Act then provides that ninety-two peers, including the Earl Marshal
Earl Marshal
Earl Marshal is a hereditary royal officeholder and chivalric title under the sovereign of the United Kingdom used in England...

, the Lord Great Chamberlain
Lord Great Chamberlain
The Lord Great Chamberlain of England is the sixth of the Great Officers of State, ranking beneath the Lord Privy Seal and above the Lord High Constable...

 and ninety other peers elected in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House would be excepted from the exclusion of hereditary peers, and that after the first session of the next Parliament, whenever one of these seats fell vacant, the Lords would have to proceed to a by-election
By elections to the House of Lords
Following passing of the House of Lords Act 1999 the number of hereditary peers entitled to sit in the House of Lords was reduced to ninety-two. The first ninety-two were elected by all hereditary peers before the passing of the reform...

. The Act also provided that a hereditary peer would be entitled to vote in elections for, and sit in, the House of Commons, unless he or she was a member of the House of Lords. Previously, hereditary peers had been constitutionally disqualified from being electors to, or members of, the House of Commons. The first hereditary peer to gain a seat in the Commons under this provision was John Thurso
John Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso
John Archibald Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso , known as John Thurso, is a Scottish businessman and Liberal Democrat politician...

.

The Act prevents even hereditary peers who are the first to hold their titles from sitting automatically in the House of Lords. The Government did agree, however, to give life peer
Life peer
In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the Peerage whose titles cannot be inherited. Nowadays life peerages, always of baronial rank, are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958 and entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as...

ages (the titles of which are indicated in parentheses) to four such new hereditary peers: Toby Austin Richard William Low, 1st Baron Aldington (Baron Low), Frederick James Erroll, 1st Baron Erroll of Hale (Baron Erroll of Kilmun), Francis Aungier Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford, 1st Baron Pakenham (Baron Pakenham of Cowley) and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon
Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon
Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, GCVO, RDI is an English photographer and film maker. He was married to Princess Margaret, younger daughter of King George VI and younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II....

 (Baron Armstrong-Jones). Additionally, life peerages were created for former Leaders of the House of Lords: John Julian Ganzoni, 2nd Baron Belstead (Baron Ganzoni), Peter Alexander Rupert Carington, 6th Baron Carrington (Baron Carington of Upton), Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscount Cranborne
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury
Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury, PC, DL , is a British Conservative politician. During the 1990s, he was Leader of the House of Lords under his courtesy title of Viscount Cranborne...

 (Baron Gascoyne-Cecil), George Patrick John Rushworth Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe (Baron Jellicoe of Southampton), Malcolm Shepherd, 2nd Baron Shepherd
Malcolm Shepherd, 2nd Baron Shepherd
Malcolm Newton Shepherd, 2nd Baron Shepherd [Hereditary] and also Baron Shepherd of Spalding [Life Peerage] PC , was a British Labour politician and peer who served as Leader of the House of Lords under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.Shepherd was the son of the Labour politician George...

 (Baron Shepherd of Spalding) and David James George Hennessy, 3rd Baron Windlesham (Baron Hennessy).

Life peerages were also offered to members of the royal family with new hereditary peerages, but declined: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

; Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir apparent and eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Since 1958 his major title has been His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. In Scotland he is additionally known as The Duke of Rothesay...

; Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Prince Andrew, Duke of York KG GCVO , is the second son, and third child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

; Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
The Duke of Kent graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on 29 July 1955 as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Greys, the beginning of a military career that would last over 20 years. He was promoted to captain on 29 July 1961. The Duke of Kent saw service in Hong Kong from 1962–63...

 and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex KG GCVO is the third son and fourth child of Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh...

.

Before the granting of Royal Assent, the Lords had adopted a Standing Order making provision for the election of peers. The Order provided that there be elected:
  • Two peers by the Labour peers
  • Three peers by the Liberal Democrat peers
  • Twenty-eight Crossbench peers
  • Forty-two Conservative peers
  • Fifteen peers, to serve as Deputy Speakers and in other offices, by the entire House of Lords

The elections for officers of the House were held on 27 and 28 October 1999, while those for peers elected by party were held on 3 and 4 November; the results were proclaimed to the House on 29 October and 5 November. Voters were required to rank in order of preference, on a ballot prepared by the Clerk of the Parliaments, as many candidates as there were places to be filled. The candidates receiving the greatest number of votes (without regard to the ranking on the ballots, so in effect block voting
Plurality-at-large voting
Plurality-at-large voting is a non-proportional voting system for electing several representatives from a single multimember electoral district using a series of check boxes and tallying votes similar to a plurality election...

) were declared elected. Only if there were ties would the ranking be examined. Thereafter, until November 2002, if a vacancy occurred, the next-highest vote-getter (the rankings being examined, again, only in the case of ties) in the original election would fill the seat.

Since November 2002, by-elections have been held to fill vacancies. Two by-elections were held in 2003, one in 2004, four in 2005, one in each of 2007, 2008 and 2009, two in 2010 and four in 2011 (see By elections to the House of Lords
By elections to the House of Lords
Following passing of the House of Lords Act 1999 the number of hereditary peers entitled to sit in the House of Lords was reduced to ninety-two. The first ninety-two were elected by all hereditary peers before the passing of the reform...

). Voting is by preferential voting, with peers ranking the candidates in order of preference. As many or as few preferences as desired may be indicated. To win the election, a peer must receive a majority of first preference votes. If no candidate receives such a majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first preference votes is eliminated, with each of his votes being redistributed according to the second preference marked on the ballot (see Instant-runoff voting
Instant-runoff voting
Instant-runoff voting , also known as preferential voting, the alternative vote and ranked choice voting, is a voting system used to elect one winner. Voters rank candidates in order of preference, and their ballots are counted as one vote for their first choice candidate. If a candidate secures a...

). The process is continued until one candidate receives a majority.

The Labour Government expected to eventually present a bill to remove the remaining 92 hereditary peers from the House of Lords as part of a second stage of Lords reform, and in 2009 introduced the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, which would end by-elections to replace hereditaries thereby removing them through attrition. However, in order to ensure the passage of the bill through Parliament before the 2010 general election, this clause was dropped from the bill entirely, along with other clauses relating to the exclusion and suspension of House of Lords peers.

See also

  • House of Lords
    House of Lords
    The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

  • Reform of the House of Lords
  • Roll of the Peerage
    Roll of the Peerage
    The Roll of the Peerage is a public record registering peers in the peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom...

  • List of excepted hereditary peers under the House of Lords Act 1999
  • By elections to the House of Lords
    By elections to the House of Lords
    Following passing of the House of Lords Act 1999 the number of hereditary peers entitled to sit in the House of Lords was reduced to ninety-two. The first ninety-two were elected by all hereditary peers before the passing of the reform...


External links