The house of lords
Unlike the House of Commons, the House of Lords, which is the second -and upper- chamber in the Parliament of the UK, is not representative of the people. Indeed, its members are not elected but designated by birth or chosen by prime-ministers. As a consequence, nowadays it has less power than the House of Commons and no longer plays the important role it had retained until the early 20th century.
The House of Lords has legislative but also judicial functions as it is the ultimate court of appeal in the UK.
In recent decades Labour governments had called its existence into question and a radical reform was initiated by Tony Blair in 1999.
I. The powers and functions of the House of Lords
The legislative powers of the House of Lords were greatly reduced in the first half of the 20th century. The 1911 Parliament Act deprived it of the right to amend money bills and limited the period during which it could delay a bill (using its « veto ») to two years. This was further reduced to one year only, in 1949.
The main legislative function of the House of Lords consists in examining the bills which have been discussed, amended and voted in the House of Commons, a task which it fulfills meticulously as many of its members are former highly qualified lawyers.
The House of Lords can propose amendments too, but cannot impose them, as they have to be accepted by the House of Commons. Consequently they tend to be limited amendments, concerning a point of procedure, for example.
To sum up, the House of Lords cannot defeat legislation voted by the House of Commons, but can only delay it.
The House of Lords is also the highest court of appeal in the UK (except for Scottish criminal cases).
II. The composition of the House of Lords
The members of the House of Lords, like the members of the royal family, cannot vote nor stand for election. They remain members of the House until their deaths (except the Lords