House of Commons Library

Ministers in the House of Lords

Published Monday, September 4, 2017

This Commons Library briefing paper sets out the number of ministers in the House of Lords over recent years. It considers briefly the accountability arrangements for Cabinet Ministers in the Lords and it looks at the appointment of ‘outside’ ministerial appointments.

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Ministerial appointments

In theory a Government minister does not have to be a member of either House of Parliament.

In practice, however, convention is that ministers must be members of either the House of Commons or House of Lords in order to be accountable to Parliament.

From time to time, Prime Ministers appoint non-parliamentarians as ministers. In recent years such ministers have been appointed to the House of Lords. 

Number of ministers in the House of Lords

In Theresa May’s June 2017 administration, there was just one Cabinet Minister in the House of Lords (the Leader of the House of Lords).

25 out of the total 118 (21%) ministers in government were in the House of Lords. 

This compares to 23% at the start of the 2015 Cameron administration and 20% at the start of the 2010 Coalition Government. 

Recent interest in ministerial appointments to the Lords

As Prime Minister, Gordon Brown announced his intention to create a ‘government of all the talents’.  He appointed two departmental Secretaries of State from the House of Lords which raised some questions about the accountability of such ministers to the elected House. 

Gordon Brown also appointed a number of ministers directly to the House of Lords; a practice that also been occurred under other recent Prime Ministers. 


Commons Briefing papers SN05226

Author: Lucinda Maer

Topics: House of Lords, Members of the Lords, Ministers

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