Father of the House

Father of the House is a title that has been traditionally bestowed, unofficially, on certain members of some legislatures, most notably the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. In some legislatures the title refers to the longest continuously-serving member, while in others it refers to the oldest member. Recently, the title Mother of the House or Mother of Parliament has also been used, although the usage varies between countries; it is either the female alternative to Father of the House, being applied when the relevant member is a woman, or refers to the oldest or longest-serving woman without reference to male members.

United KingdomEdit

Sir Peter Bottomley, Father of the UK House of Commons

The Father of the House is a title that is bestowed on the senior member of the House of Commons who has the longest continuous service.[1][2] If two or more members have the same length of current uninterrupted service, then whoever was sworn in earlier, as listed in Hansard, is named as Father of the House.[3] Traditionally, however, the qualifications used for the Father of the House are not entirely clear and may have included the oldest member, the member with the longest aggregate service, or the member who entered the House longest ago.[2]

The only formal duty of the Father of the House is to preside over the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons. The Father of the House may also participate in ceremonial events, and is the second member to be sworn in after the Speaker. At the election of the Speaker and dissolution of parliament in November 2019, the Father of the House of Commons was Kenneth Clarke representing the Rushcliffe constituency, formerly a member of the Conservative Party before becoming an Independent MP in 2019, and not standing again in the subsequent election.[4] Clarke began his continuous service at the 1970 general election. Dennis Skinner, Labour MP for Bolsover, also began continuous service at the 1970 general election, but was sworn in minutes after Clarke.[5][6][3]

The first recorded usage of the title dates back to 1816 an engraved portrait of Whitshed Keene by Charles Picart, dated 1 February. Henry Campbell-Bannerman was simultaneously Father of the House and Prime Minister from May 1907 until soon before his death during April 1908.[2] On 13 June 2017, Harriet Harman was dubbed "Mother of the House" by Prime Minister Theresa May, in recognition of her status as the longest-continuously-serving woman MP.[7]


The titles "Father of the House" and "Father of the Senate" are sometimes used to refer to the members of each chamber of the Parliament of Australia with the longest continuous service.[8] The current Father of the House is Bob Katter (MP since 1993) and the current Father of the Senate is Marise Payne (senator since 1997).

According to House of Representatives Practice, the title Father of the House is a "completely informal designation" with "no functions attached to it".[9] The equivalent publication for the Senate, Odgers' Australian Senate Practice, describes the title Father of the Senate as "now seldom referred to or used". It also notes that "as no woman senator has ever been in this situation, it is not clear what the title would be in that circumstance".[10]


The longest-serving member of the House of Commons who is not a cabinet minister is known as the Dean of the House, and presides over the election of the Speaker at the beginning of each Parliament. As of September 2021, the current Dean of the House is Bloc Québécois MP Louis Plamondon, who was first elected to the Commons as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1984.

European ParliamentEdit

Until 2009, the oldest member of the European Parliament presided over the opening of a new session and the election of the President of the European Parliament.[11]


Member Born Entered parliament Became oldest member
Iisakki Hoikka 1840 1907 1907–1908
John Hedberg 1840 1908 1908–1909
Leo Mechelin 1839 1910 1910–1913
John Hedberg 1840 1908 1914
Axel Lille 1848 1916 1917
Rabbe Wrede 1851 1910 1917–1918
Wilhelmi Malmivaara 1854 1907 1919
Artur Wuorimaa 1854 1907 1920–1921
Waldemar Bergroth 1852 1917 1922–1926
Juho Torppa 1859 1907 1927–1929
Anders Forsberg 1864 1924 1929–1930
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud 1861 1907 1930–1931
K. J. Ståhlberg 1865 1908 1932
Matti Paasivuori 1866 1907 1933–1935
Miina Sillanpää 1866 1907 1936–1947
Akseli Brander 1876 1933 1948–1950
Väinö Tanner 1881 1907 1951–1953
Matti Lahtela 1881 1930 1954–1957
Väinö Tanner 1881 1907 1958–1961
Raino Hallberg 1890 1951 1962–1965
Kustaa Tiitu 1896 1945 1966–1969
Rafael Paasio 1903 1948 1970–1975
Evald Häggblom 1905 1966 1975, 1976
V. J. Sukselainen 1906 1948 1976–1978
Mikko Kaarna 1911 1960 1979–1982
Tuure Junnila 1910 1951 1983–1986
Johannes Virolainen 1914 1945 1987–1989
Tuure Junnila 1910 1951 (again 1990) 1990
Maunu Kohijoki 1923 1987 1991–1994
Martti Tiuri 1925 1983 1995–2002
Kalevi Lamminen 1935 1987 2003–2006
Claes Andersson 1937 1987 2007–2008
Jacob Söderman[12] 1938 1972 2008[13][14]-2010
Kauko Tuupainen 1940 2011 2011–2013
Jörn Donner 1933 1987 (again 2013) 2014
Pertti Salolainen 1940 1970 2015–2018
Erkki Tuomioja 1946 1970 2019–


Starting with the Frankfurter Nationalversammlung (Frankfurt Parliament) of 1848, all German parliaments had a father of the House, usually called Alterspräsident (President by right of age). This tradition was continued into the Weimar Republic and, after being discontinued in Nazi Germany, was resumed by the present Parliament (Bundestag) in the Federal Republic, whose rules of procedure mandate that the father of the house presides over the Parliament (Bundestag) at the start of each legislative period.

In accordance with tradition, the Alterspräsident first ascertains himself that he is indeed the oldest member of the Bundestag by stating his date of birth and asking if anyone is present, who was born before this date. If no older member of the Bundestag is present he will formally declare that he indeed is the Alterspräsident and will start proceedings. (In 2017, as explained below, the position was changed to refer to the longest sitting member. Accordingly, a prospective Alterspräsident states the number of years he or she has served in the Bundestag and asking if anyone has served more years.)

The Alterspräsident then delivers the first programmatic speech and supervises the election of the President of the Bundestag, to whom he then immediately yields his power. The newly elected president will in turn supervise the elections of the Vice Presidents of the Bundestag.

The rules of order of the Bundestag also state that the Alterspräsident shall preside over sessions of the Bundestag at any given time during a legislative period, if the whole Presidium (i.e. the President and the Vice Presidents of the Bundestag) is altogether unable to perform its duties.

As the Alterspräsident's opening speech usually draws a certain amount of public attention, the position has recently attracted controversy, when the Party of Democratic Socialism (the successor of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany) obtained the position by including aged independents (Stefan Heym in 1994, Fred Gebhardt in 1998) in their party lists. In 2017, the Bundestag changed its rules of procedure to have the member with the longest service in the Bundestag serve as father of the house, rather than the oldest member.[15]

Alterspräsidenten of the German Bundestag
Bundestag Name Term Parliamentary
1 1949–1953 Paul Löbe
1949–1953 SPD longtime Reichstagspräsident during the Weimar Republic
2 1953–1957 Marie Elisabeth Lüders
1953–1957 FDP stood in for Konrad Adenauer, the oldest member, who refused the position due to his position as Chancellor
3 1957–1961 Marie Elisabeth Lüders 1957–1961 FDP
4 1961–1965 Robert Pferdmenges
1961–1962 CDU
Konrad Adenauer
1963–1965 CDU assumed the position after his resignation as Chancellor[citation needed]
5 1965–1969 Konrad Adenauer 1965–1967 CDU died in 1967
William Borm
1967–1969 FDP
6 1969–1972 William Borm 1969–1972 FDP
7 1972–1976 Ludwig Erhard
1972–1976 CDU
8 1976–1980 Ludwig Erhard 1976–1977 CDU died in 1977
Johann Baptist Gradl
1977–1980 CDU
9 1980–1983 Herbert Wehner
1980–1983 SPD
10 1983–1987 Willy Brandt
1983–1987 SPD stood in for Egon Franke, who refused the position because of criminal investigations conducted against him at the beginning of the legislative period
11 1987–1990 Willy Brandt 1987–1990 SPD
12 1990–1994 Willy Brandt 1990–1992 SPD died in 1992
Alfred Dregger
1992–1994 CDU
13 1994–1998 Stefan Heym
1994–1995 PDS resigned his seat in 1995
Alfred Dregger 1995–1998 CDU
14 1998–2002 Fred Gebhardt
1998–2000 PDS died in 2000
Hans-Eberhard Urbaniak
(born 1929)
2000–2002 SPD
15 2002–2005 Otto Schily
(born 1932)
2002–2005 SPD
16 2005–2009 2005–2009 SPD
17 2009–2013 Heinz Riesenhuber
(born 1935)
2009–2013 CDU
18 2013–2017 2013–2017 CDU
19 2017–2021 Hermann Otto Solms
(born 1940 and member of parliament for 33 years, 1980–2013 and since 2017)
2017–2021 FDP The first father of the house under the changed rules of procedure. Stood in for Wolfgang Schäuble (member of parliament for 45 years, since 1972), who was nominated (and subsequently elected) President of the Bundestag, so that he would not have to preside over his own election.
20 2021– Wolfgang Schäuble
(born 1942 and member of parliament for 49 years, since 1972)
2021– CDU

Hong KongEdit

In Hong Kong, there is no such term as "Father of the House". Instead, the longest-serving member was termed the Senior Unofficial Member and was the highest-ranking unofficial member of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council until the title was abolished during 1995 and 1992 respectively.

After the handover of Hong Kong, James To became the de facto longest-serving member of the Legislative Council since 2016 after several members who had been served since the 1st Legislative Council retired.

Father Term Name Capacity or constituency Party Entered LegCo Left office
Senior Unofficial Member
1850–1857 David Jardine Appointed Nonpartisan 1850 1857
1857–1860 Joseph Jardine Appointed Nonpartisan 1857 1860
1860–1861 John Dent Appointed Nonpartisan 1857 1861
1861–1864 Alexander Perceval Appointed Nonpartisan 1860 1866
1864–1866 Francis Chomley Appointed Nonpartisan 1861 1866
1866–1867 James Whittall Appointed Nonpartisan 1864 1867
1867–1870 Hugh Bold Gibb Appointed Nonpartisan 1866 1870
1870–1891 Phineas Ryrie Appointed Nonpartisan 1867 1891
1892–1905 Catchick Paul Chater Appointed Nonpartisan 1886 1905
1906–1914 Ho Kai Appointed Nonpartisan 1890 1914
1914–1917 Wei Yuk Appointed Nonpartisan 1896 1917
1917–1940 Henry Edward Pollock Appointed Nonpartisan 1906 1940
1940–1941 John Johnstone Paterson Appointed Nonpartisan 1930 1941
1946–1950 David Fortune Landale Appointed Nonpartisan 1946 1950
1950–1953 Chau Tsun-nin Appointed Nonpartisan 1946 1953
1953–1959 Chau Sik-nin Appointed Nonpartisan 1946 1959
1959–1961 Ngan Shing-kwan Appointed Nonpartisan 1951 1961
1961–1962 Kwok Chan Appointed Nonpartisan 1952 1962
1962–1968 Dhun Jehangir Ruttonjee Appointed Nonpartisan 1953 1968
1968–1972 Kan Yuet-keung Appointed Nonpartisan 1961 1972
1972–1974 Woo Pak-chuen Appointed Nonpartisan 1964 1974
1974–1978 Chung Sze-yuen Appointed Nonpartisan 1965 1978
1978–1981 Oswald Cheung Appointed Nonpartisan 1968 1981
1981–1985 Roger Lobo Appointed Nonpartisan 1972 1985
Senior Member
1985–1988 Lydia Dunn Appointed Nonpartisan 1976 1988
1988–1992 Allen Lee Appointed Nonpartisan (1978–1991) 1978 1997
CRC (1991–1993)
Standing Order No. 1
1992–1997 Allen Lee Appointed (1978–1995)
New Territories North-east GC (1995–1997)
CRC (1991–1993) 1978 1997
Liberal (1991–1998)
1997–1998 Prov. Wong Siu-yee N/A LDF (1996–1997) 1996 1998
Progressive Alliance (1997–1998)
1998–2004 1st Kenneth Ting Industrial (First) FC Liberal 1998 2004
2004–2008 3rd James Tien Commercial (First) FC (1998–2004)
New Territories East GC (2004–2008)
Liberal 1998 2008
2008–2016 4th Albert Ho New Territories West GC (1998–2012)
District Council (Second) FC (2012–2016)
Democratic 1998 2016
2016–2020 6th James To Kowloon West GC (1998–2012)
District Council (Second) FC (2012–2020)
Democratic 1998 2020
2020–2021 Abraham Shek Real Estate and Construction FC BPA 2000 2021
2022–present 7th Tommy Cheung Catering FC Liberal 2000


In Hungary, the term országgyűlés korelnöke (President by the age) refers to the oldest member of the National Assembly (previously House of Representatives, the lower house). Before the open session, the senior chairperson and junior notaries review the mandates of all the elected MPs in addition to their own. He or she presides over the newly elected parliament until the appointment of the officials.

It is also worth mentioning that József Madarász who was Father of the House from 1892 to his death in 1915 at the age of 100, was also member of the Parliament from 1848 (whenever it was convened) and prior to that he was emissary of the Hungarian Diet, the predecessor of Parliament in Hungary, from 1832. Thus making him the longest serving member of Parliament in Hungary at a record of 82 years.

Member Party Entered Parliament Became oldest member Left House
Géza Malasits MSZDP 1924 1945 1948 †
Dezső Pattantyús-Ábrahám FMDP 1947 1948 1949
Ferenc Harrer Ind. 1949 1949 1969 †
Janka Stark MSZMP 1958 1969 1975
László Pesta MSZMP 1949 1975 1990
Kálmán Kéri MDF 1990 1990 1994 †
Vince Vörös FKGP 1990 1994 1994
László Varga KDNP 1994 1994 2003 †
János Horváth Fidesz 1998 2003 2014
Béla Turi-Kovács Fidesz 1998 2014 Incumbent


In the beginning of some Knessets, the oldest member assumes temporary duties of the speaker before the election of a permanent speaker, In the past it was the oldest member of Knesset, now it is the longest-serving member. The oldest member of the 24th Knesset is Benny Begin.


In the Republic of Ireland, the term Father of the Dáil is an unofficial title applied to the longest-serving Teachta Dála (TD) in Dáil Éireann. The current Fathers of the Dáil are Richard Bruton and Willie O'Dea having both been first elected to the Dáil in the February 1982 general election. On a number of occasions, two or more people have shared the position of Father of the Dáil.


In Malaysia the term "Father of the House" is rarely used. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who was elected during 1974, has been the longest-serving MP in the Dewan Rakyat. He was the oldest-serving MP aged 85 years, 5 months until former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was reelected to the Dewan Rakyat at the age of 92, and now he is 97 years, 2 months of age.

New ZealandEdit

In New Zealand, the term "Father of the House" (alternatively, "Mother of the House"), as an unofficial title, designates the longest-continuously-serving MP of the House of Representatives. The Father of the House has no official role in Parliament. Speaker Trevor Mallard became the longest-serving member in June 2021, having served continuously since the 1993 general election, with a previous period of service from 1984 to 1990.


Traditionally when a new Russian parliament is formed the eldest deputy opens and manages the first session until a chairman is elected. In the history of the post-Soviet Dumas these were:


In the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, the oldest MP serves as the Acting Speaker presiding over the constitutive session, before the Speaker is elected.


Until his death on 23 March 2015, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was the longest-serving Member of Parliament (Tanjong Pagar) and thus the Father of the House.[16] As of April 2015, Emeritus Senior Minister and former pm Goh Chok Tong later became Father of the House, as the longest-serving MP (Marine Parade).[16] Upon Goh's retirement in 2020, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is Father of the House having served since 1984.


In Sweden the Riksdagsordningen law states that the member of the Riksdag who has held their elected seat for the longest shall be the Ålderspresident, which translates to President by age. The Ålderspresident acts as speaker of the Riksdag after each election, before the Speaker of the Riksdag has been elected. The Ålderspresident also acts as speaker in case of hindrance on behalf of the Speaker and all three Deputy Speakers.

Members of the Riksdag who has held the position of Ålderspresident since the abolition of bicameralism:

United StatesEdit

In the United States, the title "Father" of the House (although used for about a century starting in 1816)[17] does not exist, but in the lower house, the House of Representatives the position known as Dean of the House is almost exactly the same position—that is, it is a largely ceremonial position bestowed on the member with the longest continuous service. Less similar is the position in the Senate (the upper house) known as President Pro Tempore, the holder of which has since 1945 gained the position through seniority, but who also must be a member of the party holding a majority in the Senate.

Since March of 2022, the Dean of the House has been Hal Rogers, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1980 and began serving in 1981.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Father of the House: House of Commons Background Paper". House of Commons Library. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "The Father of the House" (PDF). Factsheet M3. London: House of Commons Information Office. March 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  3. ^ a b Moss, Stephen (2 May 2015). "Labour's Dennis Skinner at 83: 'Father of the House? You must be joking'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Boris Johnson to seek election after rebel Tories deliver Commons defeat". Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 30 June 1970. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  6. ^ "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 1 July 1970. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  7. ^ "Election of Speaker". Hansard. UK: Commons. 13 June 2017.
  8. ^ Green, Antony (20 March 2018). "Who will be the Father of the House when Philip Ruddock Retires?". ABC News. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Titles accorded to members". House of Representatives Practice (6th ed.). Parliament of Australia. 2012.
  10. ^ "Seniority of senators". Odgers' Australian Senate Practice (14th ed.). Parliament of Australia. 2016.
  11. ^ Traynor, Ian (6 May 2009). "MEPs deny Jean-Marie Le Pen parliamentary honour". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  12. ^ Söderman toimi puhemiesvaalin toimittajana, koska Andersson oli sairauslomalla; Hs.fi: Sauli Niinistö jatkaa eduskunnan puhemiehenä. Viitattu 24.4.2015. (in Finnish)
  13. ^ Eduskunta: Täysistunnon pöytäkirja PTK 1/2008 vp (in Finnish)
  14. ^ Eduskunta: Täysistunnon pöytäkirja PTK 1/2009 vp (in Finnish)
  15. ^ "Deutscher Bundestag – I. Wahl des Präsidenten, der Stellvertreter und Schriftführer".
  16. ^ a b "Pressrun.net". www.pressrun.net.
  17. ^ House.gov page "Deans/Fathers of the House"

External linksEdit