THE H  O  U  S  E   of   L  O  R  D  S - a brief guide - continued

Portcullis

A Message from the Lord Chancellor

Irvine of LaingOne of the most familiar images of the House of Lords is the State Opening of Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen. This is a splendid and colourful ceremonial occasion. The Queen’s Speech (written by the Government) sets out Parliament’s working agenda for the coming year.

But the House is not just a place where grand ceremonies take place. The House has existed as a separate chamber of Parliament since the 14th century, and is part of the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world. It is also one of the busiest, second only to the House of Commons in the number of days and hours it sits.
A major task is to examine and pass legislation. The House plays a key role in revising legislation sent from the Commons. It also initiates legislation, and so shares the burden of the legislative load.

Another important function is to act as a check on government by scrutinising its activities. The House does this by asking questions, debating policy, and through its Select Committees, taking evidence from Ministers and others.

The House also has an important judicial role as the highest court of appeal in the land.

Members of the House, collectively, have an enormous breadth of expertise and, individually, are characterised by independence of thought. They complement the work of the elected House of Commons, which reflects political and constituency interests and which, unlike the Lords, must spend a substantial amount of time on financial and public expenditure issues.

I hope this brief guide gives you a flavour of the House’s work and its contribution to Parliament and the country.

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Irvine of Lairg


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© Parliamentary copyright 1998
Prepared 2 November 1998