Parties (Lords)

All the major political parties have representation in the Lords. Until the removal of the hereditary peers, the Conservatives had a substantial in-built majority, which continues to remain to an extent. In practice, the Conservatives and Labour are now reasonably in terms of working peers, with the Liberal Democrats having sufficient numbers to swing key votes.

The key difference in party composition in the Upper House is the existence of the Cross-Benchers. The Cross-Benchers are peers who accept no party allegiance. They speak and vote independently on each issue and tend to have accumulated a great deal of experience in their field. The cross-benches include former civil servants, retired defence chiefs of staff and ex-Speakers of the Commons.

Although the Cross-Benchers are not whipped, there is some organisation, chiefly for the dissemination of information. A convenor is elected who speaks on behalf of the independent peers on key occasions.