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Introduction (House of Lords)

In the House of Lords, certain new members must, before sitting, be ceremonially "introduced", the ceremony being known as Introduction. Introductions in the Lords are complicated procedures, being more elaborate than introductions in the House of Commons.

Table of contents
1 Origins
2 Introduced Peers
3 Lords Temporal Ceremony
4 Lords Spiritual Ceremony
5 External Links


Originally, the Sovereign created and invested new peers personally. The personal procedure, however, was abandoned during the seventeenth century. In 1621, the House of Lords began the ceremony of introduction. The ceremony has evolved over the years, generally growing more complex. However, in 1998, the Select Committee on Introductions suggested several reforms, which were generally adopted.

Introduced Peers

Ceremonial introductions were originally used for all new peers. However, in 1663, the House of Lords decided that peers who inherited a title be not introduced. Since the passage of the House of Lords Act in 1999, however, no peers can sit in the House of Lords if the title was inherited. Thus, at present, all new peers are introduced.

Lords Spiritual (twenty-six clergymen of the Church of England who sit in the House of Lords) are also introduced, though by a different ceremony, upon appointment. Also, if a Lord Spiritual is "translated" (transferred) to another see, he must be reintroduced.

Lords Temporal Ceremony

The ceremony of Introduction used prior to 1998 was much more complicated than the present ceremony. Originally, the Lord Chancellor in court dress, or a Deputy Speaker in parliamentary robes, would occupy the Woolsack. A procession would be formed outside the Chamber, with the members of the procession standing in the following order:

  1. The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod or his deputy
  2. The Garter Principal King of Arms or another herald
  3. The new peer's junior supporter
  4. The new peer
  5. The new peer's senior supporter

The supporters were members of the House of Lords of the same rank of peerage as the new peer. (In other words, Dukes would support Dukes, Marquesses would support Marquesses, and so forth.) The new peer and his supporters would wear parliamentary robes and special hats. The procession would proceed towards the Lord Chancellor, and the Garter Principal King of Arms would present the peer's letters patent, which are issued by the sovereign to create a new peerage, and the new peer would kneel before the Lord Chancellor and present his writ of summons, which is issued by the sovereign to command the peer's attendance in Parliament. A Clerk of the House of Lords would then read aloud the letters patent and the writ. The peer would take the Oath of Allegiance or the Solemn Affirmation, and would sign the Test Roll, at the top of which the same Oath is written.

Thereafter, the Garter Principal King of Arms would "place" the new peer and his supporters by leading them to the Lords bench traditionally occupied by those of the new peer's rank. The peer and supporters would, put on their hats, rise, doff their hats, and bow to the Lord Chancellor, and then repeat the previous practice two times. After bowing to the Lord Chancellor for the third time, the peers would, along with the Garter Principal King of Arms and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, leave the Chamber, with the new peer shaking hands with the Lord Chancellor as he left.

In 1998, the House of Lords constituted a Committee to modernise the entire ceremony. The Committee found that "Far from being dignified, the practice of kneeling to the Lord Chancellor is particularly awkward because the new peer, wearing robes, simply kneels down on the floor with nothing to lean on for support [We] see no need to retain the act of kneeling before the Lord Chancellor." The Committee also recommended that the reading of the writ of summons, which is of the same form for all peers, be ceased, though the reading of the Letters Patent, which are often unique to the peer, be continued. The Committee further suggested that the wearing of hats and the hat doffing ceremony, which "serves no symbolic purpose", also stop. Finally, it deemed that, since the seating of Lords in order of the degree of peerage was an outdated practice, the Lords instead sitting by party, the practice of placing the new peer stop.

The present ceremony involves the same procession as the former one, but, instead of proceeding to the Woolsack, it stops in front of the Table of the House. A Clerk reads the Letters Patent presented to him by the Garter Principal King of Arms, and administers the Oath of Allegiance or Solemn Affirmation to the new peer. The new peer and his supporters together bow to the Cloth of Estate, which is placed at the end of the House, behind the Queen's Throne and the Woolsack. The procession then proceeds out the Chamber, the new peer stopping at the Woolsack to shake hands with the Lord Chancellor. Upon returning to the Chamber, the new peer takes any seat he pleases, sitting with his party, or, if neutral, sitting amongst the cross-benchers.

Lords Spiritual Ceremony

The ceremony for Lords Spiritual has been significantly simpler, and was not affected by the recommendations of the 1998 Committee. The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod and the Garter Principal King of Arms do not take part. The supporters of the Lords Spiritual are, in all cases, other Lords Spiritual; the new member and the supporters wear their clerical robes. The procession, with the junior supporter in front and the senior supporter behind the new archbishop or bishop, arrives in front of the Table of the House. The new member then submits his writ of summons, which is read by a Clerk. (Archbishops and bishops do not present letters patent.) The Clerk then administers the Oath or Solemn Affirmation. Then, the procession progresses to the Woolsack, where the new archbishop or bishop shakes hands with the Lord Chancellor. Then, instead of leaving the Chamber, the new member and his supporters immediately take seats on the Bishops' Benches. (Archbishops and bishops do not sit with any particular party, though the two Bishops' Benches are on the same side of the Chamber as the seats for members of the Government party.)

External Links