Discuss the composition and power of House of lord under British Constitution?

(1) Introduction To House Of Lords:

House of Lords is the oldest second Parliamentary House in the world. It grew out of the Great Council. In 1295, people from different classes were summoned to attend meeting of one single assembly and this assembly was, in fact, Model Parliament of British King Edward I. After meeting of this assembly, those people started splitting up into three groups and those groups were Nobles, Clergy and Commons, Later on, Nobles and Clergy formed House of Lords. It means that House of Lords has assumed this present form after passing a period of evolution and this period has started almost thousand years ago.

(2) Composition Of House Of Lords:

House of Lords has very unique composition and its composition has gradually evolved. Following points are important as far as composition of House of Lords is concerned:


  • (i) Membership of House of Lords
  • (ii) Different categories of Members
  • (iii) Presiding officer of House of Lords

(i) Membership Of House Of Lords:

An important point is that membership of House of Lords is not fixed. In fact, number of its members varies from time to time. Sometimes, number of its members is reduced and sometimes, number of its members is increased.

(ii) Different Categories Of Members:

Its members can be classified into following categories:

  • (a) Hereditary peers
  • (b) Lords of Appeal
  • (c) Princes of royal blood
  • (d) Lords Spiritual
  • (e) Irish representative peers
  • (f) Life peers
  • (g) Scottish representative peers


(a) Hereditary Peers:

Among the members of House of Lords, number of hereditary peers is the largest one. Followings are important points about hereditary peers:

  • (a-1) Appointment of hereditary peers
  • (a-2) Hereditary peers through inheritance
  • (a-3) Women as hereditary peers  

(a-1) Appointment Of Hereditary Peers:

It is British Crown, who appoints hereditary peers and power of the Crown is unlimited to create peers.

(a-2) Hereditary Peers Through Inheritance:

Membership of Hereditary peers is hereditary one as eldest son inherits his father membership in House of Lord after death of a hereditary peer.

 (a-3) Women As Hereditary Peers:

Since 1963, eldest daughter inherits membership in House of Lords if a hereditary peer dies leaving no son.

(b) Lords Of Appeal:

Earlier British Crown chose some distinguished jurists and such jurists helped House of Lord in performance of judicial decisions. However, power of hearing appeal and making judicial decisions has been snatched from House of Lords after establishment of Supreme Court of Great Britain.

(c) Princes Of Royal Blood:

Some members of House of Lords belong to royal family. Followings are important points about such members:

  • (c-1) Male members of royal family
  • (c-2) Limited membership
  • (c-3) Less important role

(c-1) Male Members Of Royal Family:

All male members of the royal family, who are mature, are within specified degrees of relationship, and are conferred the te of Duke, are members of House of Lords

(c-2) Limited Membership:

Number of such members are very limited

(c-3) Less Important Role:

Such members do not play an important role in British Parliament because such members do not attend meetings of House of Lords regularly.

 (d) Lords Spiritual:

Lords Spiritual are from Archbishop and Bishops. Followings are important points about Lords Spiritual:

  •  (d-1) Number of Lords Spiritual
  • (d-2) Number of Archbishops
  • (d-3) Number of Bishops
  • (d-4) Selection of new Lords Spiritual

(d-1) Number Of Lords Spiritual:

Total numbers of Lords Spiritual are twenty-six in House of Lords.

(d-2) Number Of Archbishops:

Out of twenty six Lords Spiritual, two are archbishops of York and Canterbury.

(d-3) Number Of Bishops:

Out of twenty six Lords Spiritual, twenty-four are senior bishops.

(d-4) Selection Of New Lords Spiritual:

On death or resignation of a sitting Bishop, the one, who is next on the seniority list, becomes Lord Spiritual.

(e) Irish Representative Peers:

Act of Union of the Great Britain and Ireland had given Irish peers right to elect their twenty eight representatives in House of Lords. However, no new Irish peer has been created after declaring Ireland as a free state. Consequently, no Irish peer is now member of House of Lords.

(f) Life peers:

A considerable number of Life Peers is present in House of Lords. Followings are important points about Life Peers:

  • (f-1) Male & female Life Peers.
  • (f-2) Creation of Life Peers
  • (f-3) Selection of Life Peers

(f-1) Male & Female Life Peers:

Earlier there were only male Life Peers. But now there are also female Life Peers. However, number of female Life Peers is very limited in British House of Lords.

(f-2) Creation Of Life Peers:

Life Peers are created by Life Peerages Act.

(f-3) Selection Of Life Peers:

Life Peers are usually selected from retired high officers but their selection is not on hereditary basis.

(g) Scottish Representative Peers:

 All Scottish peers are members of House of Lords on hereditary basis.

(iii) Presiding Officer Of House Of Lords:

Presiding officer of the House of Lords is called Lord Chancellor. He is a member of British Cabinet. Following points are important about Lord Chancellor:

Appointment of Lord Chancellor

  • (a) Appointment Of Lord Chancellor:
  • (b) Powers of Lord Chancellor

(a) Appointment Of Lord Chancellor:

On advice of Prime Minister, British King/Queen appoints Lord Chancellor, Lord Chancellor holds his/her office during the pleasure of Prime Minister.

(b) Powers Of Lord Chancellor:

Role of Lord Chancellor as Presiding officer of House of Lords is very formal. In fact, he/she possesses very insignificant powers. Shortly speaking. Lord Chancellor does not have such vast powers as those of Speaker of House of Commons.

(3) Powers Of House Of Lords:

As far as powers of House of Lords are concerned, this House historically enjoyed domination over House of Commons. However, situation started changing during 19th century. And finally Parliament Act of 1911 and Act of 1949 curtailed powers of House of Lords in favour of House of Commons. Even House of Lords has now been deprived of its status as Court of Appeal after establishment of Supreme Court of Great Britain. Presently House of Lords has following powers:

  • (i) Legislative power
  • (ii) Executive power
  • (iii) Power About Its Membership

(i) Legislative Power:

House of Lords though possesses legislative power, yes this legislative power is very limited as far as both Money Bill and non-ctioney Bill are coricerned:

  • (a) Legislation of non-money Bill
  • (b)  Legislation of Money Bill

 (a) Legislation Of Money Bill:

Money Bill is not initially introduced in House of Lords. Therefore, control of House of Lords over Money Bill is practically ineffective: If the House of Lords does not approve Money Bill during a period of more than a month, Money Bill can be presented to British King/Queen and can become a law after receiving Royal assent.

(b) Legislation Of Non-Money Bill:

Non-Money Bill can be initially introduced in House of Lords. However, if House of Commons passes a non-Money Bill in two successive sessions, but House of Lords rejects such non-Money Bill, such non-Money Bill can become law after receiving Royal assent.

(ii) Executive Power:

Lords can be members of British Cabinet. In addition to this, House of Lords possesses power to ask questions from British government and has a right to debate its policies. However, House of Lords does not have complete control over British government and cabinet: British Cabinet is not responsible to House of Lords.

 (iii) Power About Its Membership:

House of Lords is free to make decisions regarding its membership including hereditary membership; it can decide to deprive its member of his/her membership due to disqualification.

(4) Conclusion:

To conclude, it can be stated that composition and powers of House of Lords have been severely criticized. But reality is that its undemocratic composition has also paved a way for democratic development in Great Britain: If House of Lords had been made democratic in composition and equal in powers with House of Commons, the results would have been undemocratic.

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