Donate IconDonate

The different houses

What are the different houses, and what do they do?

In UK parliament, there are two different houses – the House of Commons and the House of Lords.  

The House of Commons is a publicly elected house within parliament, consisting of 650 members of parliament. These MPs represent the constituency in which they were elected. They also take part in debates on current issues and government policies and can consider and propose new laws. 

The House of Lords is the second chamber of UK parliament. It is independent of the House of Commons, and unlike the Commons, it is not publicly elected. There are currently 781 sitting members. In order to appoint members, there is an independent House of Lords Appointments Commission that acts as an advisory panel for appointing members. Members can be suggested to the Commission by the public, or by political parties, and can be from all walks of life with varying backgrounds. The Commission reviews the suggestions to ensure individuals will add value and a high standard of knowledge to the Lords, and then recommends them for appointment as non-party-political life peers to the Prime Minister. Once approved by the Prime Minister, recommended appointments are passed to the King to formalise and make official. Members can also be appointed under special circumstances. For example, some MPs may be appointed peers once they leave the House of Commons, the Prime Minister may be recommended for ‘resignation honours,’ former speakers of the House of Commons can be appointed, and 26 Church of England Archbishops and Bishops can sit in the Lords. 

The House of Lords complements the work of the House of Commons, also making and considering new laws and challenging government proposals.  

Most of the work conducted in the House of Commons and House of Lords takes place within committees. Committees are usually made up of between 10 to 50 MPs or Lords, and there are four main types of committee, as illustrated in the table below. 

House of Commons roles and responsibilities

Commons Select Committees examine the work of government departments throughout parliament. There is a Commons Select Committee for each government department. The main aspects they examine are spending, policies and administration.

General Committees sit only within the House of Commons. They are appointed on a routine basis and consider proposed legislation in detail. The number of MPs from each party in the committee reflects the number of MPs in the Commons as a whole, meaning the elected government always has the majority.


Joint Committees are made up of MPs from the Commons, and members from the Lords. Like Select Committees, Joint Committees can conduct investigations into a particular area, or on a specific issue.

Grand Committees are different depending on whether they are in the Lords or the Commons.

In the Commons, Grand Committees are appointed to debate issues that affect a specific country or region within the UK. 

Grand Committees have been appointed for: 

  • Wales 
  • Scotland 
  • Northern Ireland 
  • East Midlands 
  • East of England 
  • North East 
  • North West 
  • South East 
  • South West 
  • West Midlands 
  • Yorkshire and the Humber 

House of Lords roles and responsibilities

Lords Select Committees investigate specialist subjects rather than shadowing government departments, in order to utilise the greater expertise of peers in the Lords.

There are two types of Lords Select Committees: 


  • Re-appointed at the start of each new session of parliament 
  • Run inquiries and reports on issues within their specific area

Special inquiries 

  • Look at more specific issues outside of the Permanent Committee’s areas 
  • Complete work within a year 

Joint Committees are made up of MPs from the Commons, and members from the Lords. Like Select Committees, Joint Committees can conduct investigations into a particular area, or on a specific issue.

In the Lords, a Grand Committee is a secondary debating chamber, open to any member of the Lords to attend. Bills that are debated in the Lords are often debated in the Grand Committee if it is not being debated as a whole House.

To receive updates from FRAME, please enter your details.