Annual Report and Accounts 1999-2000

Annual Report 1999-2000

Part I - Review of the Year


1.  The Annual Report of the House of Lords for the period 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000 covers both the work of the House and the administration which supports that work.

2.  Part I describes some of the significant events of one of the busiest years in the history of the House: a year dominated by the passage of the House of Lords Bill, which made major changes to the constitution of the House when it received Royal Assent in November 1999. It also describes other business taken in the Chamber and in committees; important aspects of the administration of the House; and how the administration has responded to changes in the House. Finally, Part I explains how the House managed and spent the money voted for it.

3.  Part II describes the purpose and organisation of each of the offices which support the administration of the House, their main activities over the year and their financial performance.

4.  Appendices B to G provide comprehensive statistics and other information on the business and composition of the House over the year and on the staff complement.

5.  Pages 53 to 83 set out the five House of Lords Accounts for the year ended

31 March 2000. Significant financial developments and trends are summarised in paragraphs 77 to 91.

6.  The Report was approved by the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee of the House of Lords Offices Committee, one of four Sub-Committees which oversee, and are responsible for, the domestic affairs of the House - such as expenditure, accommodation and the upkeep of the Palace of Westminster, staffing levels and salaries. The Offices Committee is chaired by the Chairman of Committees, Lord Boston of Faversham. The Sub-Committees and their Chairmen are listed in Appendix A.


7.  There were historic changes in the membership of the House during the year. At the end of the 1998-99 session, in accordance with section 1 of the House of Lords Act, 655 hereditary peers ceased to be members of the House while, under section 2, 90 hereditary peers, together with the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain, remained as members for their lifetime or until a subsequent Act provides otherwise. This major change had the effect of reducing the total membership of the House from 1,330 in October 1999

--the highest figure ever recorded--to 669 in March 2000 (see Appendix B for full


8.  A further 92 life peers were created or announced during the year, bringing the total number of life peers created in the present Parliament to 201. The new life peers included 17 hereditary peers excluded from the House under the terms of the House of Lords Act.

9.  Daily attendances at the House remained high throughout the 1998-99 session. The average figure for the period 1 April to the end of the session in November 1999 was 438 and on 26 October, the day of the Third Reading of the House of Lords Bill, 752 Peers attended the House. In the new session, the average daily attendance inevitably fell (to 345 at 31 March 2000) but by a much smaller percentage than the reduction in the membership of the House. This reflects the fact that many Members now attend the House on a regular basis. These figures and recent trends in the membership of the House are illustrated below.

Life peers, Hereditary peers and Elected Hereditary peers

Average daily attendance before and after passing of House of Lords Act 1999

House of Lords Act 1999

Passage of the House of Lords Bill

10.  The passage of the House of Lords Bill--"a bill to restrict membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage"--dominated much of the year and attracted great interest in the House and outside. The Bill was brought from the House of Commons (where it completed all stages in three months) on 17 March; and consideration in the Lords began with a two day debate on Second Reading lasting 24 hours and in which 180 Lords took part.

11.  Although originally less than two pages long, the Bill attracted 385 amendments and took up seven days in Committee, three days on Report and one day on Third Reading. 24 amendments were made to the Bill, including Government approved amendments to enable 92 hereditary peers to retain their rights to sit and vote in the House after the enactment of the Bill (the "Weatherill amendments"[1]). On its return from the Commons, the remaining Lords' amendments were not insisted upon and the Bill received Royal Assent and came into immediate effect on 11 November, the last day of the 1998-99 session.

12.  Shortly before Prorogation on 11 November, tributes were paid to the hereditary peers for their major contribution and their dedication to Parliament and the nation over the centuries. Thereafter, a reception was held by the House in the Royal Gallery to mark the occasion.

13.  Several unusual procedures occurred during the passage of the Bill. Examples were the motions, agreed to (on division), to refer two questions about the effect of the Bill to the Committee for Privileges. The referred questions were:

  • whether the Bill would, if enacted, affect the rights of those hereditary peers who have answered to their Writ of Summons before the Bill receives Royal Assent to continue to sit and vote throughout the present Parliament; and

  • whether the Bill would, if enacted, breach the provisions of the 1706 Treaty of Union between England and Scotland, in particular the provision in the Treaty guaranteeing 16 seats to representative peers of Scotland.

14.  The Committee met in October and, after hearing counsel, reported, in respect of the first reference, that the Bill as drafted would achieve its objective of removing the rights to sit and vote from all hereditary peers who had answered to their Writs from the end of the session; and, in respect of the second reference, that the Bill, if enacted, would not breach the provisions of the Treaty.

Election of Hereditary Peers

15.  The work involved in agreeing procedures for the elections of 90 hereditary peers and in making the arrangements for these unique events was considerable both for members and staff. Proposals were first discussed in an official working group, which was chaired by the Cabinet Office and included the Clerk of the Parliaments and representatives of the political parties and the Cross Bench Peers. Their recommendations were then submitted to the Procedure Committee which agreed two new Standing Orders with the following key provisions:

  • peers elected by the Labour hereditary peers;

  • peers elected by the Conservative hereditary peers,;

  • peers elected by the Liberal Democrat hereditary peers;

  • peers elected by the Cross Bench hereditary peers;

  • peers elected by the whole House from among those ready to serve as Deputy Speakers; and

  • peers holding the office of Earl Marshal or Lord Great Chamberlain.

  • A peer was required to register in order to stand for election or to qualify as an elector.

  • A vacancy occurring through a death among the elected peers up to the end of the first session of the next Parliament would be filled by the nearest runner up in the relevant election. Thereafter, a vacancy would be filled by by-elections.

16.  The detailed arrangements for the elections included a requirement for peers to vote for the total number of vacancies in order of preference; in addition, a code of conduct for candidates and voters was issued which allowed candidates to submit up to 75 words in support of their candidacies.

17.  The election for those ready to serve as Deputy Speakers was held on 27 and 28 October and the party elections on 3 and 4 November. There were 33 candidates for the first election and 410 candidates for the second. The results were announced in the House on 29 October and 5 November respectively.

18.  The Clerk of the Parliaments acted as Returning Officer and responsibility for running the elections lay with the Journal Office under the leadership of the Clerk Assistant. Valuable advice and assistance were provided by Electoral Reform Ballot Services and the count took place at their offices in North London under the scrutiny of nominees from each of the parties. It was the first occasion on which electronic counting methods had been used in connection with an election for members of Parliament.

19.  In December 1999, the House agreed that certain facilities should be granted to the hereditary peers excluded from the House. These included access to one of the galleries and, on an experimental basis, the right to sit on the Steps of the Throne; limited access to the Library; and certain limited rights to use the Refreshment Department.

After Lord Weatherill, then Convenor of the Cross Bench Peers, who first proposed that some hereditary peers should remain members of the House. Back

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