Extracts from the Companion to the Standing
Orders and guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords (1994),
pp 3, 204, 215
WRITS OF SUMMONS
A Lord may not take his seat until he has obtained
his Writ of Summons. Writs of Summons are issued by direction
of the Lord Chancellor from the office of the Clerk of the Crown
New writs are issued before the Meeting of each
Parliament to all Lords spiritual and temporal who have established
their right to them. Writs in a different form are also issued
to all Peers who are newly created or who, having succeeded to
a peerage, establish their right to one during the course of a
In order to receive a writ, a Peer on succession
applies to the Lord Chancellor, with evidence in support of his
claim. If the Lord Chancellor is satisfied, the writ is issued;
but if the Lord Chancellor has any doubts, he declines to issue
the writ. The Peer may then petition the Crown, and the matter
may be referred to the Committee for Privileges.
Writs are not issued to Peers who are known
to be disqualified from sitting.
An Archbishop, on appointment or translation,
and a Bishop who has become entitled to sit, applies for a writ
in the same way; so too does a Bishop who already has a seat and
is translated to another see.
Writs, called Writs of Assistance or Writs of
Attendance, are also sent to the following: the Attorney General,
the Solicitor General, the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the
Rolls, the President of the Family Division, the Vice-Chancellor,
the Lords Justices of Appeal and the Justices of the High Court.
The attendance of judges is now confined to the State Opening
If a Peer possesses more than one hereditary
peerage, the Crown has the power to accelerate the descent of
one of the peerages so as to make it pass during the life of the
holder to his eldest son and heir apparent. A writ issued to an
eldest son in this way is called a Writ in Acceleration, and entitles
the son to a seat in the House of Lords.
The following are disqualified from membership
of the House of Lords:
1. Aliens. By the Act of Settlement 1701,
s 3, "no person born out of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland
or Ireland, or the Dominions thereunto belonging. . . (except
such as are born of English parents)" may be a member of
either House. By virtue of an amendment made by the British Nationality
Act 1981, Schedule 7, this provision does not apply to Commonwealth
citizens or citizens of the Republic of Ireland. Under the latter
Act, s 37, "Commonwealth citizen" means a British citizen,
a British Dependent Territories citizen, a British Overseas citizen,
a British subject under that Act, or a citizen of an independent
2. Those under the age of twenty-one;
3. Bankrupts. Under the Insolvency Act 1986,
s 427, a Lord adjudged bankrupt, or in Scotland a Lord whose estate
is sequestered, is disqualified from sitting and voting in the
House of Lords or in any committee of the House; and a writ is
not issued to any Lord while so disqualified. The court certifies
the bankruptcy or sequestration to the Speaker of the House of
Lords and record thereof is entered in the Journals. Disqualification
ceases in accordance with the provisions of s 427 of the 1986
Act, or, where appropriate, any of the statutory provisions which
that section replaced;
4. Lords convicted of treason. The Forfeiture
Act 1870 provides that anyone convicted of treason shall be disqualified
from sitting or voting as a member of the House of Lords until
he has either suffered his term of imprisonment or received a
The House refers to this Committee questions
regarding its privileges and claims of peerage and of precedence.
The Committee consists of sixteen Lords, together with any four
Lords of Appeal. In any claim of peerage, the Committee may not
sit unless three Lords of Appeal are present.
This Committee hears and makes recommendations
upon any matter of privilege, or claim of peerage, referred to
it by the House.
By the Union with Ireland Act 1800, Peers of
Ireland were accorded the same privileges as other Peers of the
United Kingdom, provided that they did not waive them by becoming
Members of the House of Commons. By a Resolution of 1806 the House
of Lords declared itself the guardian of the privileges of Irish
A claim to a Peerage of Ireland is made by petition
to the House of Lords, and the petition is referred to the Lord
Chancellor. He considers it and reports to the House upon it.
If the Lord Chancellor is not satisfied as to the claim, the matter
may be referred to the Committee for Privileges. Claims to Irish
Peerages in abeyance are governed by SO 77.