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Father of the House (United Kingdom)

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] If two or more members have the same length of current uninterrupted service, then whoever was sworn in earliest, as listed in Hansard, is named as Father of the House.[2]

Father of the House
Incumbent
Vacant

since 6 November 2019
SuccessionMP with the longest continuous service in the House of Commons

The only formal duty of the Father of the House is to preside over the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons. However, the relevant Standing Order does not refer to this member by the title of "Father of the House", but instead to the longest-serving member of the House present who is not a Minister of the Crown. Until 1971, the Clerk of the House of Commons presided over the election of the Speaker. As the clerk is never a member, and therefore is not permitted to speak, he would silently stand and point at the Member who was to speak. However, this procedure broke down at the election of a new Speaker in 1971 and was changed upon the recommendation of a Select Committee.[3]

Until 6 November 2019, the Father of the House of Commons was Kenneth Clarke, a Conservative MP until 3 September, and then an Independent MP,[4] for Rushcliffe. Clarke began his continuous service at the 1970 general election. He declined to seek re-election and bowed out of Parliament on 6 November. Dennis Skinner, Labour MP for Bolsover, also began continuous service at the 1970 general election, but was sworn in after Clarke.[5][6][2]

HistoryEdit

Historically, the Father of the House was not a clearly defined term, and it is not clear by what process it was used for individual Members. The first recorded usage of the term dates to 1788, in an obituary of Thomas Noel (MP); it is also attested in an engraved portrait of Whitshed Keene by Charles Picart, from 1816. It may have been interpreted at various times as the oldest member, the member with the longest total service, the member with the longest unbroken service (the modern definition), or the member who entered the House longest ago. There is also some evidence that in the late 19th century, the position may have been elected. The modern definition was not settled upon until the late 1890s.[1]

After the Second World War, a convention arose that the Father would normally be a member of the Select Committee on Privileges, but this lapsed following the establishment of the modern Standards and Privileges Committee in the 1990s.[1]

Among the twentieth-century Fathers, there were several very prominent figures; four former Prime Ministers became Father of the House, and a fifth, Henry Campbell-Bannerman was simultaneously Father of the House and Prime Minister from May 1907 until soon before his death during April 1908. Almost all have been Privy Councillors.[1]

To date, all holders of the position have been men, and there has been no formal "Mother of the House".[1] However, the term was used in 2017, by Prime Minister Theresa May, to describe Harriet Harman in recognition of her status as the longest continuously serving woman MP.[7]

List of Fathers of the HouseEdit

Name Entered Parliament Father (Standing Order No 1) Left House Party Constituency
Sir John Fagg 1645
continuous from 1653
1701 1701 Steyning
Thomas Turgis 1659 1701 1704 Gatton
Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Baronet 1661 1704 1704 Westmorland
Thomas Strangways 1673 1704 1713 Dorset
Sir Richard Onslow 1679 1713 1715 Whig Guildford (1713–14)
Surrey (1714–15)
Thomas Erle 1679 1715 1718 Whig Wareham
Edward Vaughan 1679 1718 1718 Whig Cardiganshire
Richard Vaughan 1685
continuous from 1689
1718 1724 Whig Carmarthen
Lord William Powlett 1689 1724 1729 Tory Winchester (1689–1710, 1715–29)
Lymington (1710–15)
Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Baronet 1685
continuous from 1694
1729 1730 Tory Northampton (1685–90, 1694–98)
Northamptonshire (1698–30)
Sir Charles Turner, 1st Baronet, of Warham 1695 1730 1738 Tory King's Lynn
Sir Roger Bradshaigh 1695 1738 1747 Tory Wigan
Sir Edward Ashe 1695 1747 1747 Tory Heytesbury
Sir Thomas Cartwright 1695
continuous from 1701
1747 1748 Tory Northamptonshire
Sir Richard Shuttleworth 1705 1748 1749 Tory Lancashire
Phillips Gybbon 1707 1749 1762 Whig Rye
Sir John Rushout, 4th Baronet 1713 1762 1768 Tory Malmesbury (1713–22)
Evesham (1722–68)
William Aislabie 1721 1768 1781 Whig Ripon
Charles FitzRoy-Scudamore 1733 1781 1782 Whig Thetford (1733–54, 1774–82)
Hereford (1754–68)
Heytesbury (1768–74)
The Earl Nugent 1741 1782 1784 Tory St Mawes (1741–54, 1774–84)
Bristol (1754–74)
Sir Charles Frederick 1741 1784 Tory New Shoreham (1741–54)
Queenborough (1754–84)
The Lord Mendip 1741 1784 1790 Tory Cricklade (1741–47)
Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (1747–61, 1774–90)
Aylesbury (1761–68)
Petersfield (1768–74, 1791–95)
William Drake 1746 1790 1796 Amersham
Sir Philip Stephens, 1st Baronet 1759 1796 1806 Tory Liskeard (1759–68)
Sandwich (1768–1801)
Clement Tudway 1761 1806 1815 Wells
Sir John Aubrey, 6th Baronet 1768 1815 1826 Tory Wallingford (1768–74, 1780–84)
Aylesbury (1774–1780)
Buckinghamshire (1780–90)
Clitheroe (1790–96)
Aldeburgh (1796–1801)
Steyning (1812–20)
Horsham (1820–26)
Sir Samuel Smith 1788 1826 1832 Tory St Germans (1788–90)
Leicester (1790–1818)
Midhurst (1818–20)
Wendover (1820–32)
George Byng 1790 1832 1847 Whig Middlesex
Charles Williams-Wynn 1797 1847 1850 Conservative Old Sarum (1797–99)
Montgomeryshire (1797–1850)
George Harcourt 1806 1850 1861 Whig Lichfield (1806–31)
Oxfordshire (1831–62)
Sir Charles Burrell, 3rd Baronet 1806 1861 1862 Conservative New Shoreham
Henry Cecil Lowther 1812 1862 1867 Conservative Westmorland
Thomas Peers Williams 1820 1867 1868 Conservative Marlow
Henry Lowry-Corry 1825 1868 1873 Conservative Tyrone
George Weld-Forester 1828 1873 1874 Conservative Wenlock
Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot 1830 1874 1890 Liberal Glamorganshire (1830–85)
Mid Glamorganshire (1885–90)
Charles Pelham Villiers 1835 1890 1898 Liberal Unionist Wolverhampton (1835–85)
Wolverhampton South (1885–1898)
Sir John Mowbray, 1st Baronet 1853 1898 1899 Conservative Durham City (1853–85)
Oxford University (1885–1899)
William Wither Bramston Beach 1857 1899 1901 Conservative North Hampshire (1857–85)
Andover (1885–1901)
Michael Hicks Beach 1864 1901 1906 Conservative Gloucestershire East (1864–85)
Bristol West (1885–1906)
George Finch 1867 1906 1907 Conservative Rutland
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman 1868 1907 1908 Liberal Stirling Burghs
Sir John Kennaway, 3rd Baronet 1870 1908 1910 Conservative East Devon (1870–85)
Honiton (1885–1910)
Thomas Burt 1874 1910 1918 Lib-Lab Morpeth
T. P. O'Connor 1880 1918 1929 Irish Nationalist Galway Borough (1880–85)
Liverpool Scotland (1885–1929)
David Lloyd George 1890 1929 1945 Liberal Caernarvon Boroughs
The Earl Winterton 1904 1945 1951 Conservative Horsham (1904–18, 1945–51)
Horsham and Worthing (1918–45)
Sir Hugh O'Neill 1915 1951 1952 UUP Mid Antrim (1915–22)
Antrim (1922–50)
North Antrim (1950–52)
David Grenfell 1922 1952 1959 Labour Gower
Sir Winston Churchill 1900
continuous from 1924
1959 1964 Conservative Oldham (1900-04)
Liberal Oldham (1904-06)
Manchester North West (1906–08)
Dundee (1908–22)
Conservative Epping (1924–45)
Woodford (1945–64)
R. A. Butler 1929 1964 1965 Conservative Saffron Walden
Sir Robin Turton 1929 1965 1974 Conservative Thirsk and Malton
George Strauss 1929
continuous from 1934
1974 1979 Labour Lambeth North (1929–31, 1934–50)
Vauxhall (1950–79)
John Parker 1935 1979 1983 Labour Romford (1935–45)
Dagenham (1945–83)
James Callaghan 1945 1983 1987 Labour Cardiff South (1945–50)
Cardiff South East (1950–83)
Cardiff South and Penarth (1983–87)
Sir Bernard Braine 1950 1987 1992 Conservative Billericay (1950–55)
South East Essex (1955–83)
Castle Point (1983–92)
Sir Edward Heath 1950 1992 2001 Conservative Bexley (1950–74)
Sidcup (1974–83)
Old Bexley and Sidcup (1983–2001)
Tam Dalyell 1962 2001 2005 Labour West Lothian (1962–83)
Linlithgow (1983–2005)
Alan Williams 1964 2005 2010 Labour Swansea West
Sir Peter Tapsell 1959
continuous from 1966
2010 2015 Conservative Nottingham West (1959–64)
Horncastle (1966–83)
East Lindsey (1983–97)
Louth and Horncastle (1997–2015)
Sir Gerald Kaufman 1970 2015 2017 Labour Manchester Ardwick (1970–83)
Manchester Gorton (1983–2017)
Kenneth Clarke 1970 2017 2019 Conservative (1970–2019) Rushcliffe
Independent (2019)

Longest-serving member of the House of LordsEdit

The title 'Father of the House' is not used in the House of Lords.[1] The longest-serving member is recorded on the House website, though no duties or special distinctions are associated with the position[8] As of 2019, the longest-serving member is The Lord Denham (Conservative), who first took his seat on 13 December 1949[9] (having succeeded his father in the peerage the previous year). The House of Lords Act 1999 repealed the automatic right of hereditary peers to be members of the House of Lords; Denham was one of those elected to continue as a member under section 2 of the Act.

As of 2019, the longest-serving life peer is The Baroness Masham of Ilton (Crossbench), who is also the longest-serving female member of the House. She first took her seat on 25 February 1970.[10]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Kelly, Richard (6 October 2016). "Father of the House: House of Commons Background Paper SN06399".
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "The Speaker" (PDF). Westminster, United Kingdom: House of Commons Information Office. September 2003. pp. 4–5.
  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. ^ Parliament.UK – House of Lords FAQS – Membership and principal office holders at parliament.uk
  9. ^ "Prayers (Hansard, 13 December 1949)". api.parliament.uk.
  10. ^ "BARONESS MASHAM OF ILTON (Hansard, 25 February 1970)". api.parliament.uk.

External linksEdit