Clerk of the Parliaments

The Clerk of the Parliaments is the chief clerk of the House of Lords in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The position has existed since at least 1315, and duties include preparing the minutes of Lords proceedings, advising on proper parliamentary procedure and pronouncing the Royal Assent. Many of the Clerk's duties are now fulfilled by his deputies and the Clerk of the Parliaments' Office.

Clerk of the Parliaments
Simon Burton

since 2 April 2021
Clerk of the Parliaments' Office
AppointerElizabeth II

The Under Clerk of the Parliaments is the formal name for the Clerk of the House of Commons.[1]

The term Clerk of the Parliaments is also used as a formal alternative title by the Clerk of the Senate of Canada[2] and the Clerks of the Legislative Councils of New South Wales[3] and Western Australia.[4] In the Australian state of Victoria the title is given to the longer-serving of the Clerks of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly.[5] The title was also formerly used for the Clerk of the Australian Senate[6][7] and the longer-serving of the Clerks of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of South Australia.[8]


The position has existed since at least 1315, when records from the parliament held by Edward II at Lincoln make reference to a clerk nominated by the king to serve as a "special deputy".[9] This clerk was tasked with reading out the titles of bills and the responses from Parliament. In later parliaments starting with those under Richard II, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery would read the titles, and the Clerk of the Parliaments the responses.[10] The actual term "Clerk of the Parliaments" did not come into use until the reign of Henry VIII, and the plural (parliaments, rather than Parliament) signifies that it is a life appointment – the clerk is appointed for all parliaments, not just the one currently sitting.[9] On 12 March 1660 a deputy clerk was appointed for the first time after the clerk (Mr Bowyer) was too ill to attend Parliament.[11] The Clerk of the Parliaments Act 1824 defined the clerk's duties for the first time in statute, and the Act is still in force and binding on current clerks.[12]

Appointment and dutiesEdit

The Clerk of the Parliaments is appointed by letters patent from the sovereign, who also holds the sole power to remove him or her.[13] The Clerk has a variety of tasks within the House of Lords. Appointees were originally ecclesiastical figures, although the nineteenth century saw a shift towards members of the legal profession.[14] He is assisted by two other clerks – the Clerk Assistant and the Reading Clerk.[15]

The Clerk of the Parliaments, or another clerk, sits in the chamber at the table of the house during sittings, and calls on items of business. At the start of a sitting all three table clerks (Clerk of the Parliaments, Clerk Assistant and Reading Clerk) are normally present. When at the Table the Clerk wears court dress (including a tail coat and waistcoat), a gown and a wig. The wig worn by the Clerk of the Parliaments is a bench wig as worn by a High Court judge; other clerks wear a barrister's wig.[16] Male clerks wear a wing collar and white bow tie, and female clerks bands as worn by barristers.

As well as providing advice on procedure, the clerk also prepares the minutes of proceedings in the Lords, signs all official documents and communications, returns bills to the House of Commons and pronounces the Royal Assent.[17] The clerk also supervises several offices, including his own (the Clerk of the Parliaments' Office), Black Rod's Department, which deals with security in the Lords, the Committee Office, which gives legal and procedural advice to committees within the Lords, and formerly (until 2009) the Judicial Office, which advised and assisted the Law Lords.[18] Since the nineteenth century many of these duties have been performed by his deputies and his own office.[11]

Office holdersEdit

Term Name[12][19] Notes
?1280–1290 John Kirkby
1290–1314 Gilbert of Rothbury
1315 Robert of Ashby
1316– William of Airmyn
c1327 – post 1334 Henry of Edenstowe
c1340–1346 Thomas of Brayton
in office 1351 & 1352 John of Coddington
in office 1377 Geoffrey Martin
in office 1377 Edmund Brudenell
?1372–1386 Richard de Ravenser
?c1381 John de Waltham
ante 1384–1394 John de Scarle
1394–1414 John Rome
1414–1423 John Frank
1424–1436 William Prestwyke
1437–1438 John Bate
1438–1447 Thomas Kirkby
1447–1470 John Fawkes
1470–1471 Baldwin Hyde
1471–1483 John Gunthorpe
1483–1485 Thomas Hutton
1485–1496 John Morgan
1496–1509 Richard Hatton
1509–1523 John Taylor
1523–1531 Brian Tuke
1531–1540 Edward North
1540–1541 Thomas Soulemont
1541–1543 William Paget
NA[clarification needed] Thomas Knight
1550–1551 John Mason
1574–NA[clarification needed] Francis Spelman
1574–1597 Anthony Mason
1597–1609 Thomas Smith Knighted 1603
1609–1621 Robert Bowyer
1621–1635 Henry Elsynge
1635–1637 Thomas Knyvett
1637–1638 Daniel Bedingfield
1638–1644 John Browne
1644 Edward Norgate
1649–1660 Henry Scobell
1660–1691 John Browne
1691–1716 Matthew Johnson
1716–1740 William Cowper
1740–1788 Ashley Cowper
1788–1818 George Rose
1818–1855 George Henry Rose
1855–1875 John Shaw-Lefevre
1875–1885 William Rose
1885–1917 Sir Henry Graham
1917–1930 Sir Arthur Thring
1930–1934 Sir Edward Alderson
1934–1949 Sir Henry Badeley
1949–1953 Sir Robert Overbury
1953–1959 Sir Francis Lascelles
1959–1963 Sir Victor Goodman
1963–1974 Sir David Stephens
1974–1983 Sir Peter Henderson
1983[20]–1990 Sir John Sainty
1991–1997 Sir Michael Wheeler-Booth
1997 – 13 July 2003 Sir Michael Davies
14 July 2003[21] – 3 November 2007 Sir Paul Hayter Knighted 2007
4 November 2007[22][23] – 15 April 2011 Sir Michael Pownall Knighted 2011
16 April 2011[24] – 15 April 2017[25] Sir David Beamish Knighted 2017
18 April 2017[26] – 1 April 2021 Sir Edward Ollard Knighted 2021
2 April 2021[27] – present Simon Burton


  1. ^ "Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992, Section 2". The National Archives. Retrieved 14 January 2017. The individual who for the time being is by letters patent appointed to the office of the Under Clerk of the Parliaments (and who is customarily referred to as the Clerk of the House of Commons) shall be the Corporate Officer of the Commons.
  2. ^ "Officers and Officials of Parliament". Parliament of Canada. Archived from the original on 28 June 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Structure of the Department of the Legislative Council". Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  4. ^ "Clerks of the Houses" (PDF). Parliament of Western Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  5. ^ "Fact Sheet H3: The Clerk". Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  6. ^ "Administration - The Parliamentary Departments". Parliament of Australia. 2009. Archived from the original on 6 January 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Chapter 20 - Bills: 137 Presentation for assent". Parliament of Australia. 2010. Archived from the original on 5 May 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Statistical Record of the Legislature 1836-2007" (PDF). Parliament of South Australia. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 March 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  9. ^ a b Macqueen (1842) p.63
  10. ^ Pollard (1942) p.314
  11. ^ a b Macqueen (1842) p.64
  12. ^ a b "The Clerk of the Parliaments: Role and Functions". Houses of Parliament. Archived from the original on 15 October 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  13. ^ The Stationery Office (2007) p.18
  14. ^ Macqueen (1842) p.65
  15. ^ "Clerk of the Parliaments". BBC News. 14 August 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  16. ^ "The Clerk of the Parliaments Office". Houses of Parliament. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  17. ^ The Stationery Office (2007) p.19
  18. ^ The Stationery Office (2007) p.21
  19. ^ Appointments prior to 1485 are taken from Guide to the Records of Parliament by M F Bond (HMSO 1971), p.303
  20. ^ "No. 52373". The London Gazette. 1 August 1983. p. 10125.
  21. ^ "No. 57004". The London Gazette. 18 July 2003. p. 8985.
  22. ^ "No. 58508". The London Gazette. 12 November 2007. p. 16365.
  23. ^ "No. 59601". The London Gazette. 10 November 2010. p. 21635.
  24. ^ "No. 59769". The London Gazette. 27 April 2011. p. 7952.
  25. ^ "House of Lords Minutes 10 January 2017". UK Parliament website. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  26. ^ "The Clerk of the Parliaments: Role and Functions". UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 8 August 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  27. ^ "Next Clerk of the Parliaments appointed". UK Parliament. 17 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.

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