House of Lords
Members of the House of Lords are not elected and are made up of peers, who have been appointed by the House of Lords Appointment Commission (HLAC), and life peers. The HLAC is an independent body which was established by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in 2000. Peers have a wide range of knowledge through experience gained during their professional careers, such as in the legal or academic professions, business, health and in various roles in public service. They utilise their occupational experience by contributing to matters which are debated in the House of Lords, such as education, health and public services. The function of the House of Lords is important as it contributes to the democratic process by scrutinising and revising proposed legislation that has been proposed by the current government, but as you will see later on in this course their power to block legislation is curtailed by the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949.
Members of the House of Lords do not have to be in a political office, such as being a member of a political party and, therefore, do not have to adhere to the convention of being either collectively responsible for a party policy or supporting proposed legislation. They may have a personal political persuasion and have previously held a ministerial role within a political party but this does not take away their independence as a member of the House of Lords. This places them in a position where they may either support or challenge a piece of proposed legislation by holding the government of the day to account, by questioning the MPs and undertaking formal enquiries which relate to the specific aspects of the new legislation. However, although members of the House of Lords may delay proposed legislation and bring the matter to the attention of the media and general public, they cannot defeat a piece of legislation. The reasoning behind this position, which is outlined below, is that members of the House of Lords are not democratically elected to this chamber. Whether a piece of legislation succeeds should be according to the will of the people, which is represented in the House of Commons and not by the members of the House of Lords. The bicameral structure of Parliament – the House of Commons and the House of Lords – produces a checks and balance system whereby power is not held by one body: the principle is that there should be transparency during the debate of any proposed legislation.