60 years of women in the House of Lords

The Mother of Parliaments had seen many fine sons, not least those who sat on the Liberal benches, but the number of daughters was far too few for the health of the nation.

Elizabeth Shields, Liberal MP for Ryedale (1986-87)

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Life Peerages Bill, which enabled women to sit in the House of Lords. Since that time 250+ women have sat on the red benches in Parliament, this represents something like 18% of all life peer appointments since 1958. The House of Lords is currently 26% female, so things are (slowly) improving, but the House of Lords lags behind every other UK legislature in the proportion of women members. In the Commons 32% of MPs are women, in Scotland 35% of MSPs, 42% of Welsh AMs, and 30% of MLAs in Northern Ireland are women. The proportion of women MEPs and Councillors is also higher.

Every government from Macmillan’s onward have appointed at least twice as many men as women to the Lords. Theresa May’s government has appointed very few female life peers (two of eleven between March 2017 and January 2018). The answer to this is simple – appoint more women, so we have set up a petition calling for legislation to ensure that in future appointments of life peers, the numbers of men do not exceed women.

Although we have a longstanding commitment to more drastic political reform, this initiative is consistent with Liberal Democrat policy passed in 2011 which called for Parliamentarians to

ensure any further interim appointments mitigate, rather than perpetuate, the current gender imbalance, and, if an appointed element is retained.

We don’t believe that our commitment to electing a second chamber by STV should stand in the way of campaigning for smaller reforms that, arguably, have a better chance of happening.

If you think a Parliament that reflects the diversity of the population is be better able to represent the people, please sign up to the thunderclap and the petition.

* Helen, Christina and Tad are Liberal Democrat members in Nottinghamshire.

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This entry was posted in News and Parliament.


  • Richard Underhill 30th Apr '18 - 9:23am

    “30% of MLAs in Northern Ireland are women.”
    No, only if the Assembly exists. It needs to meet. Theresa May should do more to ensure democracy there.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Apr '18 - 4:23pm

    One problem (of several) is that there are 92 hereditaries still in the House. There are very few female hereditaries (a small handful from Scottish peerages) and only one now in the House – The countess of Mar (Margaret Mar).

  • @Richard
    I take your point. I guess May has enough on her plate without the difficulties of Northern Ireland.

  • @Tony
    Completely agree. Bishops are another, although there’s the Lords Spiritual (Women) Act 2015.

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