Select Committee on Privileges Second Report


Extracts from the Companion to the Standing Orders and guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords (1994), pp 3, 204, 215

p 3


  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 in Chancery.

  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 Parliament.

  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 of Parliament.

  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 Commonwealth country;

  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 pardon.

p 204


  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.

p 215


  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 Peers.

  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.

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