House of Lords

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House of Lords

in the constitutional law of the UK, one of the two chambers of Parliament, the other being the HOUSE OF COMMONS. It is composed of Lords Spiritual, being the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and other senior bishops. Until 1999 the rest of the membership was predominantly made up of hereditary peers of whom there were several hundred but very few of whom actually sat. The majority of the peers in attendance are the life peers and peeresses. There are over three hundred such peers. The Speaker of the House of Lords is the Lord Chancellor. At the end of the 1998-99 session, in accordance with Section 1 of the House of Lords Act 1999, 655 hereditary peers ceased to be members of the House while, under Section 2, 90 hereditary peers, the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain remained as members for their lifetime or until a subsequent Act provides otherwise. This change had the effect of reducing the total membership of the House from 1,330 in October 1999 to 669 in March 2000. A Royal Commission reported in 2000, and further reform to democratize and modernize the House seems inevitable. The House reviews legislation in often impressive debates. It can delay legislation, initiate non-controversial legislation and scrutinizes legislation of the EUROPEAN UNION.

The House of Lords is also the highest court in the land, although not in respect of criminal matters in Scotland where there is no appeal from the HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY (although the same individual law lords sitting on the constitutionally different Board of the PRIVY COUNCIL now can reverse the High Court on devolution issues, which may include human rights matters such as that to a fair trial). To make sure that there is an adequate number of sufficiently qualified persons to carry out this task, it has been possible since 1876 to appoint Law Lords.

Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

HOUSE OF LORDS. Eng. law. The English lords, temporal and spiritual, when taken collectively and forming a branch of the parliament, are called the House of Lords.
     2. Its assent is required to all laws. As a court of justice, it tries all impeachments.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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