The Composition of Parliament

  • John Alder
Part of the Macmillan Law Masters book series


There are no legal limits on the number of members of the House of Lords. Until the current House of Lords bill becomes law (below), there are about 1,270 members making the House of Lords the largest legislative chamber in the world. The dominant feature of the House of Lords is that all its members are unelected and are entitled to sit as a gift from the Crown acting today on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is uncertain whether in an extreme case, where for example a prime minister attempts to flood the Lords with his or her sycophants, the monarch can reject the prime minister’s advice. On two key occasions the monarch agreed to appoint sufficient hereditary peers to secure a government majority. These were the Reform Act 1832 which extended the Parliamentary franchise, and the Parliament Act 1911. In both cases the House of Lords was threatening to act contrary to the will of the Commons. In the case of the 1911 Act, George V agreed to appoint the peers only if the government’s policy was submitted to a general election. Where a prime minister seeks to act undemocratically it is arguable that the monarch has a personal power and duty to act as the ultimate constitutional check


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Further Reading

  1. Barnett, 589–603, and chapter 13.Google Scholar
  2. Brazier (1994) pp. 233–43.Google Scholar
  3. 5th Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life The Funding of Political Parties in the United Kingdom (1998) Cm 4057-I.Google Scholar
  4. Jowell and Oliver (1994) chapter 14.Google Scholar
  5. Mc Eldowney, Public Law chapter 6.Google Scholar
  6. Rawlings (1988).Google Scholar
  7. Report of the Independent Commission on Electoral Reform (Jenkins Report) (1998).Google Scholar
  8. Turpin, chapter 8.Google Scholar
  9. Wade and Bradley (1993) 162–183.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Alder 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Alder
    • 1
  1. 1.Newcastle Law SchoolUniversity of NewcastleUK

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