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.

Read more by or more about , or .
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.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAlex Macfie 5th Dec - 5:53pm
    Andrew T: Actually we have a tight targeting strategy. as reflected in constituency polls indicating large surges in seats we are targeting (e.g. F&GG, Esher...
  • User AvatarJames Brough 5th Dec - 4:25pm
    My thanks to Ollie for an interesting and thoughtful article. Great shame that some prefer to rest on their laurels and criticise, rather than offer...
  • User AvatarMatthew Huntbach 5th Dec - 4:24pm
    Peter Theresa May managed to preside over a completely shambolic attempt to deliver the referendum result. then The call for a second vote was yet...
  • User AvatarJohn Hall 5th Dec - 4:21pm
    Let us not forget that the Thatcherites quietly introduced PR for local elections into N Ireland to give minorities a fair voice, well before being...
  • User AvatarAndrew T 5th Dec - 4:14pm
    I'm dreading party infighting over a "poor" result. FPTP and the fact we are miles behind in all but a handful of constituencies combined with...
  • User AvatarPeter 5th Dec - 4:03pm
    A referendum is a mechanism for letting the people decide on an important single issue in an unambiguous way. It is normal convention for parliamentarians...
Tue 10th Dec 2019