Life peers are elevated to the peerage by the monarch in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister. Opposition party leaders can also nominate Life Peers, submitting recommendations via the Prime Minister. These recommendations are though not always accepted.
In 2020, the Conservative government famously rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s nomination of the controversial ex Commons Speaker, John Bercow, for a Peerage.
Life peers tend to be the ‘great and the good’ of the day and are normally characterised by their expertise and experience in a particular field. It is though fair to say that experience in the field of politics, as a former MP or political advisor, is that which is most dominant amongst Life Peers.
An Appointments Commission, charged with making independent nominations of so-called ‘people’s peers’ also operates. It occasionally passes names to the Prime Minister for nomination.
New life peerages are announced each year in the honours’ lists. An additional special list follows the dissolution of a particular Parliament and normally includes veteran MPs who are retiring from the Commons.
Technically, there are two types of life peers. The majority are made under the 1958 Life Peerages Act. Previously, prior to a 2009 reform, former Law Lords became Life Peers when they retired under the 1876 Appellate Jurisdiction Act. After 2009, this right was changed so it no longer applied to so called Law Lords appointed after that date.
If a Life Peer dies, the right to a seat in the Lords is not passed on to anyone. There is no formal retirement age for members of the House of Lords. However, members can voluntarily retire under the provisions of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014.
The arguments surrounding reform of the House of Lords, and debate around an elected second chamber, are covered here.