representative peers

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated

representative peers. At the time of the negotiations for Union in 1707, there were more than 130 Scottish peers to 170 English ones. To unite them in one House would have given the Scots disproportionate influence. By the Act of Union, Scotland was awarded 16 representative peers, to be elected by their colleagues before each session. Since the Scottish peerage was not replenished, the constituency was constantly shrinking until by 1800 there were fewer than 70 electors. The practice soon developed of circulating government and opposition lists and, under normal circumstances, the Scottish representative peers were useful allies of government in the House of Lords. A similar formula was adopted at the Union with Ireland in 1801. There were then some 260 English peers and 170 Irish. The Act gave Ireland 28 representative peers and four spiritual peers. But the lay Irish peers, unlike the Scots, were elected for life and those who were not chosen could sit in the House of Commons. The four bishops lost their seats when the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869 and no elections for Irish peers were held after the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. The last Irish representative peer, Lord Kilmorey, died in 1961. By the Peerage Act of 1963 all the remaining Scottish peers were declared members of the House of Lords. Irish peers were still excluded but were made eligible to sit in the Commons for any constituency.

J. A. Cannon