House of Lords

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The House of Lords is the Upper House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is also commonly referred to as "The Lords".

The UK Parliament comprises the Monarch, The Lords, and the House of Commons which is the lower house and referred to as "The Commons".

Traditional House

Membership of the House of Lords was until 1999 a hereditary right for Peers of the Realm, the traditional British aristocracy, dating uninterruptedly back to the Norman Conquest. Even the Anglo-Saxons had a similar assembly, the Witenagemot, the Witan comprising the wise men of the kingdom, usually a mixture of prelates and clergy, sometimes described as "the King's friends and dependents.". The Normans replaced this with a curia or concilium of Barons. Qualification was replaced by tenure.[1] The most authoritative and biographical examination of the hereditary peers throughout this period is The Complete Peerage[2].


Throughout the twentieth century those on The Left of politics have worked diligently against the House of Lords with a series of what they termed "reforms", designed to undermine The House, to remove its power and attack the hereditary aristocracy.[3] This would remove also the traditional balance in the British parliament. The most serious of these was the 1911 Parliament Act, by the Liberal Party, followed by the post-World War II Parliament Act of the Labour Party. Liberals (in both the now egalitarian Conservative Party and the Liberal Party) and socialists continued to attack the Upper House with demands for "reform",[4][5] while others, notably the hereditary Peer Lord Sudeley, wrote extensively against it. [6][7][8]

Worse was to come. The Labour Party under Tony Blair, in an act of Class War[9], expelled all but 92 of the hereditary Peerage in 1999.[10] The debate had raged prior to that, with Labour continuing to call for anything up to abolition. However, No.10 Downing Street stated in June 1991 that the House of Lords "does work quite well. It would be difficult to justify a second chamber constituted like the Commons......the Prime Minister does not foresee the government having plans to alter either the composition or the power of the House of Lords."[11] But by the late 1990s the now confused and liberal 'Conservative' Party failed to support The Lords. Traditional Tory Member of Parliament and former Government Minister Alan Clark condemned his party, and described the "reforms" as "monstrous", with another Conservative M.P., Dr. Liam Fox declaring it was "the greatest act of betrayal in the history of the Tory party".[12] By 2002 the Conservative Party were proposing that 80% of Peers be elected.[13] The House now consists almost entirely of appointed members, who are Life Peers.[14]

Fringe political pressure groups, such as the Traditional Britain Group, and some hereditary peers, continue to call for the repeal of Blair's legislation and the restoration of the pre-1999 status quo.


  1. Round, J.Horace, M.A., LL.D., The Origin of the House of Lords', in "Peerage and Pedigree", London, 1910, pps:324-362.
  2. Cockayne G.E., with several expert editors, The Complete Peerage, vols. 1 to 13, London, 1910 - 1959.
  3. Phillips, Gregory D., The Diehards - Aristocratic Society and Politics in Edwardian England, Harvard University Press, & London, 1979.
  4. Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1969.
  5. Wyndham, William, Peers in Parliament Reformed, London, 1998, ISBN: 1-899163-43-3
  6. Sudeley, The Lord, "The Role of Heredity in Politics" in Monday World magazine, Winter, 1971/72.
  7. Sudeley, The Lord, Lords Reform - Why Tamper with the House of Lords, A Conservative Monday Club Policy Paper, December 1979.
  8. Sudeley, The Lord, The Preservation of the House of Lords, A Monday Club booklet, London, 1991.
  9. The Times newspaper, December 31, 1996, p.4.
  10. Mitchell, Austin, Farewell My Lords, London, 1999, ISBN: 1902301439
  11. Letter from the Prime Minister's Office to Dr.Mark Mayall, Chairman of the Conservative Monday Club, dated 17th June 1991.
  12. Clark, Alan, and Trewin, Ion, editor, The Last Diaries, London, 2002, p.280-1.
  13. The Daily Telegraph, January 10, 2002, p.8.