House of Lords: (some of) the stats have arrived!

The UK’s last session was a mammoth one – two years long, standing at 293 sitting days or 2106 hours. I know this because the Sessional Statistics for the House of Lords are finally out (html, pdf).

Some interesting bits and bobs:

  • Attendance is massively up. It had hovered around the 400 mark since at least 2004-05, but this session is up to 475. This is mainly due to the huge influx of new peers.
  • The number of Private Notice Questions (PNQs) – a Lords equivalent of the urgent question that has stayed true to its roots as simply an extra question rather than an extended session on a subject – has gone down in relative terms. Before 2008-9 session, PNQs were very rare; you’d have one every fifty sitting days or more. After then, they were on a downward trend, with one every 19.2 and then 13.6 days. Now we’ve gone back up to one every 30 days despite a report calling for them to be accepted more often by the Lord Speaker.
  • This session also hosted the first recall of the House of Lords since 2001-2, to respond to the London riots.
  • Despite a record number of defeats on some bills – eleven defeats on the Legal Aid and Punishment of Offenders bill, the most in at least fifty years – defeats are less frequent than during the last Labour government (median of 4.21 sitting days between defeats), with defeats now (6.1) at rates similar to the final years of the unreformed House when it had a hereditary Tory majority* (7.9 and 5.85). It seems a safe assumption that this is due to the fact that most political peers are now on the government’s side, an advantage Labour never had.
  • Peers also have a smaller likelihood to defeat the government. In 2005-6, any given division had a 58% chance of having succeeded. This fell over the last parliament to 33%, briefly rose to 45%, then plummeted to 24% before rebounding to 29% and 33%. That was last parliament. Now, there is only a 20% chance of a given division having defeated the government. Again, this is partly because of the increase in government supporters, but there must be other factors at work because it has been falling regardless of the percentage of government supporters.
  • Peers spend more time scrutinising each bill than they have for many years (online records only go back to 2004-5). Doing a rough headcount of bills, they spent an average of 25 hours on each bill compared to 20 hours in 2007-8 and 2008-9, nearer 13 hours in 2005-6 and 2006-7**.

The coalition has definitely had some negative effects on the House of Lords, but there are some positive signs, including the length of time spent per bill.

There will be more stats up when the Public Bill statistics are put up, and whenever the House of Commons finishes preparing its sessional information.

*With one exception: the very short 2000-1 session which had only 2 defeats in 76 sitting days
**Data available suggests that in short final sessions of parliament, much less time is spent per bill – just over 8 hours in 2004-5 and 2009-10.
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