What is the House of Lords?

This is where Lords and Baronesses debate and vote. It looks similar to the House of Commons, but is entirely red.

Legend has it that the red dye showed off the wealth of its members. There are a few ways to be a member of the House of Lords. Far and away the biggest group are those who have been appointed for being experts in their field. Some are Bishops in the Church of England. Others have inherited their post from their family. No members of the House of Lords are elected by the public.

The House of Lords is the second chamber of Parliament, the first one being the House of Commons. The two Houses are independent but complement each other in their work. Because so many Lords and Baronesses have been appointed (not elected, like MPs in the House of Commons) based on their individual expertise, it’s been the traditional role of the House of Lords to scrutinise bills in detail, hold the government accountable, and think about broader issues in public policy. Very often, such scrutiny will take the form of questioning expert witnesses from the field of the particular issue — like health professionals and researchers, for example.

In recent years, the House of Lords has, for example, insisted that physical and mental health be given equal status; ensured that children with special needs have access to mainstream education; and protected the right to legal aid for people on welfare. It can very rarely actually prevent a bill from becoming law, but it has certain options of intervening and forcing the House of Commons to rethink their decisions.