Doorkeeper (Houses of Parliament)

The doorkeepers are badged officers of the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament.

The role of doorkeeper dates back to the 1300s, when the Palace of Westminster also served as a court and they served as prison guards. Over time their role changed to that of messengers from Parliament to the king.[1] They wear a uniform of a black long-tailed coat, white bow tie, and a silver-gilt waist badge of office. Underneath each badge hangs a figure of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, symbolic of this early role.[2]

House of CommonsEdit

In the House of Commons there are 37 doorkeepers[3] who serve as part of the Department of Chamber and Committee Services (DCCS) in the section of the Serjeant-at-Arms.[4]

Currently, their principal role is the security of the House of Commons,[5] and each doorkeeper is equipped with a book containing the names and photographs of all 650 MPs. Since the tradition that the reigning monarch is barred from entering the House of Commons also extends to police officers as sworn servants of the Crown, the doorkeepers are responsible for the physical security of the house, receiving the same training as the police in restraining and removing any members of the public.[1] The doorkeepers also deliver messages, copies of Hansard, enquiries from Hansard editors, and the "green cards" – notes from members of the public who have come to see their MP.[2] When the House is not in session they have duties relating to visitors to Parliament.[4]

As well as maintaining the security of the chamber, galleries and committees of the House of Commons, the doorkeepers also have ceremonial duties.[4] When the Commons is in session the Principal Doorkeeper and his deputy occupy two chairs on either side of the main entrance. The Principal Doorkeeper sits in the right-hand seat, which contains the original division bell, though an electronic system is now is use.[6] When the house divides to vote members have eight minutes before the doorkeepers close and lock the doors to the chamber preventing anyone from entering.[7] However at the end of each sitting the original bell is rung,[6] and the two doorkeepers simultaneously shout "Who goes home?".[8] The Principal Doorkeeper's seat also contains a box of snuff, which has been there for the use of members and officials ever since smoking was banned in the chamber in 1693.[8][9]

During the State Opening of Parliament when Black Rod summons the House of Commons to attend, the doors to the Commons chamber are ceremonially closed by the doorkeepers in his face. They then strike the door three times, and only then are they allowed to enter.[10][11]

House of LordsEdit

In the House of Lords there are 24 doorkeepers who serve in the Department of Black Rod. The Principal Doorkeeper and his doorkeepers work in teams, each managed by a senior doorkeeper. Their responsibilities include maintaining good order and security in and around the chamber, providing a reception facility at the Peers' Entrance, and managing members of the public wishing to view the proceedings. They also provide a message and letter board service for peers, and are trained in first aid.[12] They also attend some committees of the house, and participate in ceremonial occasions, such as the State Opening of Parliament.[13]


  1. ^ a b "Stepping Into History". Hotter Shoes UK. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b Thynne, John (June 2010). "Key Man" (PDF). The Caravan Club Magazine (85). Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  3. ^ Lyons, James (22 November 2013). "Bizarre House of Commons costumes cost taxpayers more than £26,000 in a year". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Job Description: Senior Doorkeeper". House of Commons. 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2017.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Our People". House of Commons. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Seats of the Doorkeepers". Armchair Travel Co. Ltd. 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  7. ^ Sandford, Mark (2 August 2013). "House of Commons Background Paper: Divisions in the House of Commons" (PDF). Parliament and Constitution Centre. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b Ross, Tim (6 August 2013). "Perks of an MP include free snuff". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  9. ^ McSmith, Andy (21 October 2013). "Our Man in Westminster: Perk rarely used by MPs that's not to be sneezed at". The Independent. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  10. ^ "State Opening of Parliament". Houses of Parliament. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  11. ^ Wright, Oliver (17 May 2016). "Queen's Speech 2016: Six antiquated customs of the monarch's address to Parliament". The Independent. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  12. ^ "Doorkeeper" (PDF). House of Lords. 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  13. ^ "Roles in the House of Lords". House of Parliament. Retrieved 17 January 2017.