What type of peers are there in the House of Lords?
Until the second half of the 20th century the House of Lords was made up of men who had a peerage from the monarch, mostly large landowners, who passed their title and their place in the House of Lords onto their eldest son. By the late 19th century they overwhelmingly supported the Conservative Party. In 1999, the Labour Government removed the voting rights of almost all of these, but in a compromise to stop the Conservative peers from delaying the passage of the legislation needed to do this, 92 were left with the power to vote. They were elected by the other hereditary peers and when one dies the remaining peers of the same party elect a new one.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and 24 Bishops can speak and vote in the House of Lords. They are replaced when they retire by the new bishop. This means that the Church of England is represented as of right in the Lords. Members of other religions sit there but there is no requirement for these to be represented.
In 1958, the Conservative Government, conscious that a house of entirely of hereditary peers was becoming a problem in modern society, made it possible for new people from different walks of life to come into the Lords by introducing peers who were in the Lords until they died but could not pass their title on to their descendants. This was also the first time that women entered the House of Lords, as women had not been able to sit even if they inherited a title. Some people chosen are nominated by the political parties. Since 2000, there has been an independent House of Lords Appointments Commission which receives nominations for non-party people and vets these and the party nominees to make sure that they are suitable. The creation of Life Peers has brought into the House of Lords people with a range of professional expertise – former MPs and council leaders, diplomats, senior civil servants, academics, doctors, leaders of religious faiths, business people and so on. Large numbers have been appointed, however, and the House of Lords now has over 800 members making it the largest parliamentary assembly apart from the Chinese Parliament.
There are 200 Independent peers, called Crossbenchers in the Lords because of where they sit.