The House of Lords of the United Kingdom
, referred to ceremonially as the House of Peers
, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons
, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is: The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled
Unlike the elected House of Commons, all members of the House of Lords (excluding 90 hereditary peers elected among themselves and two peers who are ex officio
members) are appointed. The membership of the House of Lords is drawn from the peerage and is made up of Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal
. The Lords Spiritual are 26 bishops in the established Church of England
. Of the Lords Temporal, the majority are life peers who are appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister, or on the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. However, they also include some hereditary peers including four dukes. Membership was once an entitlement of all hereditary peers, other than those in the peerage of Ireland, but under the House of Lords Act 1999, the right to membership was restricted to 92 hereditary peers. Very few of these are female since most hereditary peerages can only be inherited by men.
While the House of Commons has a defined 650-seat membership, the number of members in the House of Lords is not fixed. There are currently 805 sitting Lords. The House of Lords is the only upper house of any bicameral parliament to be larger than its respective lower house
The House of Lords scrutinises bills that have been approved by the House of Commons. It regularly reviews and amends Bills from the Commons. While it is unable to prevent Bills passing into law, except in certain limited circumstances, it can delay Bills and force the Commons to reconsider their decisions. In this capacity, the House of Lords acts as a check on the House of Commons that is independent from the electoral process. Bills can be introduced into either the House of Lords or the House of Commons. Members of the Lords may also take on roles as government ministers. The House of Lords has its own support services, separate from the Commons, including the House of Lords Library.
The Queen's Speech is delivered in the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament. In addition to its role as the upper house, until the establishment of the Supreme Court in 2009, the House of Lords, through the Law Lords
, acted as the final court of appeal in the British judicial system. The House also has a Church of England role, in that Church Measures must be tabled within the House by the Lords Spiritual.