Father of the House

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Father of the House is a term that has by tradition been unofficially bestowed on certain members of some national legislatures, most notably the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. In some legislatures the term refers to the oldest member, but in others it refers the longest-serving member. The term Mother of the House or Mother of Parliament is also found, although the usage varies between countries. It is used simply as the female alternative to Father of the House, being applied when the relevant member is a woman.

United Kingdom[edit]

House of Commons[edit]

The Father of the House is a title that is by tradition bestowed on the senior Member of the House of Commons who has the longest unbroken service.[1] If two or more MPs have the same length of current uninterrupted service, then whoever was sworn in earliest at its commencement, as listed in Hansard, is named Father.

In the House of Commons, the sole mandatory duty of the Father of the House is to preside over the election of a new Speaker whenever that office becomes vacant. The relevant Standing Order does not refer to this member by the title "Father of the House", referring instead to the longest-serving member of the House present who is not a Minister of the Crown (meaning that if the Father is absent or a government minister, the next person in line presides).

The current Father of the House of Commons is Sir Peter Tapsell, Conservative MP for Louth and Horncastle, who began his continuous service from the 1966 general election. He has announced that he will not seek re-election at the next General Election.

Should Tapsell cease to be a Member of the House of Commons, MPs with continuous service from the 1970 general election will become eligible to be Father of the House. The members with this length of service are: Sir Gerald Kaufman, Kenneth Clarke, Michael Meacher and Dennis Skinner (listed according to the order in which they took the oath after the 1970 election).[2][3]

The Father of the House is not necessarily the sitting MP with the earliest date of first election: Sir Peter Tapsell was first elected in 1959, and is the only remaining 1950s MP, but lost his seat in 1964 and was out of Parliament until 1966; this meant that Alan Williams was Father of the House until his retirement at the 2010 general election by virtue of his continuous service since the 1964 general election. Michael Foot, as the only remaining MP from the 1945 election between 1987 and 1992, was never Father of the House because he was out of Parliament between 1955 and a by-election in 1960. Similarly, though Sir Winston Churchill was first elected in 1900, he did not become Father of the House until 1959 because he lost his seat in 1922, not returning to the Commons until 1924.

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was simultaneously Father of the House and Prime Minister from May 1907 until shortly before his death in April 1908.[1]

Name Entered House Became Father Left House Party Constituency
Sir John Fagg 1654 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 1718 1724 Whig Carmarthen
Lord William Powlett 1689 1724 1729 Tory Winchester
Sir Justinian Isham, 2nd Baronet 1694 1729 1730 Tory Northamptonshire
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 1701 1747 1748 Tory Northamptonshire
Sir Richard Shuttleworth 1705 1748 1749 Tory Preston
Phillips Gybbon 1707 1749 1762 Whig Rye
Sir John Rushout, 4th Baronet 1713 1762 1768 Tory Evesham
William Aislabie 1721 1768 1781 Whig Ripon
Charles FitzRoy-Scudamore 1733 1781 1782 Whig Thetford
The Earl Nugent 1741 1782 1784 Tory St Mawes
Sir Charles Frederick 1741 1784 1784 Tory Queenborough
The Lord Mendip 1741 1784 1790 Tory Weymouth and Melcombe Regis
William Drake 1746 1790 1796 Amersham
Sir Philip Stephens, 1st Baronet 1759 1796 1806 Tory Sandwich
Clement Tudway 1761 1806 1815 Wells
Sir John Aubrey, 6th Baronet 1768 1815 1826 Tory Steyning (1812–20)
Horsham (1820–26)
Sir Samuel Smith 1788 1826 1832 Tory Wendover
George Byng 1790 1832 1847 Whig Middlesex
Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn 1799 1847 1850 Conservative Montgomeryshire
George Harcourt 1806 1850 1861 Whig Oxfordshire
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 South
Sir John Mowbray, 1st Baronet 1853 1898 1899 Conservative Oxford University
William Wither Beach 1857 1899 1901 Conservative Andover
Michael Hicks Beach 1864 1901 1906 Conservative Bristol West
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 Honiton
Thomas Burt 1874 1910 1918 Lib-Lab Morpeth
T. P. O'Connor 1880 1918 1929 Irish Nationalist Liverpool Scotland
David Lloyd George 1890 1929 1945 Liberal Caernarvon Boroughs
The Earl Winterton 1904 1945 1951 Conservative Horsham
Sir Hugh O'Neill 1915 1951 1952 UUP North Antrim
David Grenfell 1922 1952 1959 Labour Gower
Sir Winston Churchill 1924 1959 1964 Conservative Woodford
R. A. Butler 1929 1964 1965 Conservative Saffron Walden
Robin Turton 1929 1965 1974 Conservative Thirsk and Malton
George Strauss 1934 1974 1979 Labour Vauxhall
John Parker 1935 1979 1983 Labour Dagenham
James Callaghan 1945 1983 1987 Labour Cardiff South and Penarth
Sir Bernard Braine 1950 1987 1992 Conservative Castle Point
Sir Edward Heath 1950 1992 2001 Conservative Old Bexley and Sidcup
Tam Dalyell 1962 2001 2005 Labour Linlithgow
Alan Williams 1964 2005 2010 Labour Swansea West
Sir Peter Tapsell 1966 2010 Incumbent Conservative Louth and Horncastle

House of Lords[edit]

The current Father of the House of Lords is Lord Carrington (Conservative), who became eligible to take his seat on his 21st birthday in 1940 (having succeeded to the title in 1938 while still a minor) and actually first took his seat in October 1945. After the House of Lords Act 1999 removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, Carrington (along with all former Leaders of the House who were hereditaries) was given a life peerage to enable him to continue to sit.

Should Carrington cease to be a Member of the House of Lords, the remaining peers who first sat in the 1940s will become eligible to be Father of the House. There are currently two: Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (sat first on 26 November 1947) and Lord Denham (sat first on 13 December 1949). Both are hereditary peers who were elected to remain in the House under the provisions of the 1999 Act.

The senior life peer by date of creation is Lord Chalfont, who entered the House in 1964.

Name Entered House Became Father Left House Party
The Earl of Mansfield 1840 ? 1898 Conservative
The Lord Templemore 1842 1898 1906 Conservative
The Earl of Leicester 1844 1906 1909 Conservative
The Earl Nelson 1845 1909 1913 Conservative
The Earl of Ducie 1853 1913 1921 Liberal
The Earl of Coventry 1859 1921 1930 Conservative
Viscount Hereford[4] 1864 1930 1930
The Marquess of Huntly 1869 1930 1937 Liberal
The Marquess of Ailsa 4 June 1872 1937 1938 Conservative
The Lord Grantley 24 May 1878 1938 1943 Conservative
The Lord Romilly 4 August 1920 1943 1983 Conservative
The Lord Oranmore and Browne 26 July 1927 1983 1999 Conservative
The Earl Jellicoe 25 July 1939 1999 2007 Conservative
The Lord Carrington 6 June 1940 2007 Incumbent Conservative

House of Commons of Northern Ireland (defunct)[edit]

Name Entered House Became Father Left House Party
J. M. Andrews 1921 1949 1953 UUP
Cahir Healy 1925 1953 1965 Nationalist
The Viscount Brookeborough 1929 1965 1968 UUP
Sir Norman Stronge, Bt 1938 1968 1969 UUP
Terence O'Neill 1946 1969 1970 UUP
Brian Faulkner 1949 1970 1972 UUP

The Parliament of Northern Ireland, including the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, was prorogued in 1972 and abolished completely in 1973 leaving the title of Father of the House defunct.

Australia[edit]

In Australia, the current member of the House of Representatives with the longest period of continuous service, whether a Minister or not, is known as "Father of the House". Similarly, the current member of the Senate with the longest period of continuous service is known as "Father of the Senate". The longer serving of the two Fathers is called "Father of the Parliament".

As in Britain, these terms have no official status. However, unlike Britain:

  • the term Father of the House/Senate applies where there is one member whose continuous service is unequivocally longer than any other, as determined by the date of election (House) or the date of the start of the term (Senate). Where two or more members have equal length of continuous service, more than any other members, they are considered joint Fathers of the House/Senate. Some state parliaments, however, follow the British convention.
  • the Father of the House and the Father of the Senate in Australia have no parliamentary role at all. The election of the presiding officers is conducted by the Clerk of the House and the Clerk of the Senate respectively.

Since 1 July 2014, Senator John Faulkner, who was first appointed in 1989, has been the Father of the Senate.

Since 1 September 1998, Philip Ruddock, who was first elected in 1973, has been the Father of the House of Representatives and Father of the Parliament.

Canada[edit]

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. The same term is used for the equivalent position in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Germany[edit]

Starting with the Frankfurter Nationalversammlung (Frankfurt Parliament) of 1848, all democratic German parliaments had a Father (or Mother) of the House, usually called Alterspräsident (President by right of age).

Under the current constitution (Grundgesetz) of 1949, the Alterspräsident will preside over the Parliament (Bundestag) at the start of each legislative period.

Following tradition, the Alterspräsident will first ascertain himself that he is the oldest member of the Bundestag by stating his birth date and asking if anyone is present who was born before his date. If no older member of the Bundestag is present (which is usually the case) he will formally declare that he indeed is the Alterspräsident and will start proceedings.

As acting President of the Bundestag (Bundestagspräsident) he delivers the first programmatic speech and oversees the elections of the President of the Bundestag and the Vicepresidents of the Bundestag (Bundestagsvizepräsidenten). He then stands down and yields his power to the newly elected Bundestagspräsident. As the position of Father of the House usually draws a certain public attention, the PDS twice nominated old independents (Stefan Heym in 1994, Fred Gebhardt in 1998) to obtain this office. None of them served a complete term (Heym resigned in 1996, Gebhardt died in 2000). This was considered a manipulation.

Alterspräsidenten (Fathers of the House) of the German Bundestag
Bundestag Name Term Parliamentary
group
Notes
1st 1949–1953 Paul Löbe 1949–1953 SPD
2nd 1953–1957 Marie Elisabeth Lüders 1953–1957 FDP stood in for Konrad Adenauer, the oldest member,
who refused the office due to his position as Chancellor
3rd 1957–1961 Marie Elisabeth Lüders 1957–1961 FDP
4th 1961–1963 Robert Pferdmenges 1961–1963 CDU/CSU
Konrad Adenauer 1963–1965 CDU/CSU resumed the office after his resignation as Chancellor
5th 1965–1967 Konrad Adenauer 1965–1967 CDU/CSU died in 1967
William Borm 1967–1969 FDP
6th 1969–1972 William Borm 1969–1972 FDP
7th 1972–1976 Ludwig Erhard 1972–1976 CDU/CSU
8th 1976–1980 Ludwig Erhard 1976–1977 CDU/CSU died in 1977
Johann Baptist Gradl 1977–1980 CDU/CSU
9th 1980–1983 Herbert Wehner 1980–1983 SPD
10th 1983–1987 Willy Brandt 1983–1987 SPD stood in for Egon Franke
11th 1987–1990 Willy Brandt 1987–1990 SPD
12th 1990–1994 Willy Brandt 1990–1992 SPD died in 1992
Alfred Dregger 1992–1994 CDU/CSU
13th 1994–1998 Stefan Heym 1994–1995 PDS resigned his seat in 1995
Alfred Dregger 1995–1998 CDU/CSU
14th 1998–2002 Fred Gebhardt 1998–2000 PDS died in 2000
Hans-Eberhard Urbaniak 2000–2002 SPD
15th 2002–2005 Otto Schily 2002–2005 SPD
16th 2005–2009 Otto Schily 2005–2009 SPD
17th 2009–2013 Heinz Riesenhuber 2009–2013 CDU/CSU
18th 2013–2017 Heinz Riesenhuber since 2013 CDU/CSU

Israel[edit]

In the beginning of each Knesset, before the election of a permanent speaker, there is a temporary speaker. In the past it was the oldest member of Knesset, now it is the longest-serving member. Michael Eitan is the most recent Knesset member to serve in this capacity, doing so from February 24 - March 30, 2010.

Ireland[edit]

Main article: Father of the Dáil

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, regardless of their position. The current Father is the Taoiseach and Fine Gael party leader, Enda Kenny, TD, since the retirement of Séamus Pattison at the 2007 general election. On a number of occasions two or more people have shared the position of Father of the Dáil.

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, the term Father or Mother of the House, as an unofficial title, designates the longest-serving MP in the House of Representatives, regardless of their position. The Father of the House has no official role in Parliament. Peter Dunne, the leader of the United Future party, holds the title in the New Zealand Parliament, having served continuously since the 1984 general election.

In New Zealand's first election of 1853, the Bay of Islands electorate became the first to declare the election of a successful candidate, returning Hugh Carleton unopposed. In the subsequent General Assembly of 1854, Carleton liked to be known as the "Father of the House".

Norway[edit]

In Norway it is the representative of the Storting with longest seniority that is temporary Stortingspresident (speaker). Per Kristian Foss had this position in 2009 until Dag Terje Andersen was elected.

Russia[edit]

Finland[edit]

Note: this is a list of longest-serving Finnish MPs; however, before the election of the Speaker, the Finnish Parliament is chaired by the oldest MP, not the longest-serving one.

Sweden[edit]

Serbia[edit]

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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Father of the House". Factsheet M3. London: House of Commons Information Office. March 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  2. ^ "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 30 June 1970. Retrieved 2009-10-05.  (Kaufman was the 351st member to take the oath in 1970, Clarke 365th.)
  3. ^ "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 1 July 1970. Retrieved 2009-12-01.  (Meacher was the 540th member to take the oath, Skinner 579th.)
  4. ^ "The Father of the House". London: The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 

External links[edit]