Father of the House
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.
House of Commons
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. 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).
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.
House of Lords
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|
|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)
|Name||Entered House||Became Father||Left House||Party|
|J. M. Andrews||1921||1949||1953||UUP|
|The Viscount Brookeborough||1929||1965||1968||UUP|
|Sir Norman Stronge, Bt||1938||1968||1969||UUP|
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.
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.
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).
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.
|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|
|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|
|8th||1976–1980||Ludwig Erhard||1976–1977||CDU/CSU||died in 1977|
|Johann Baptist Gradl||1977–1980||CDU/CSU|
|10th||1983–1987||Willy Brandt||1983–1987||SPD||stood in for Egon Franke|
|12th||1990–1994||Willy Brandt||1990–1992||SPD||died in 1992|
|13th||1994–1998||Stefan Heym||1994–1995||PDS||resigned his seat in 1995|
|14th||1998–2002||Fred Gebhardt||1998–2000||PDS||died in 2000|
|18th||2013–2017||Heinz Riesenhuber||since 2013||CDU/CSU|
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.
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.
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".
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.
- 1993 Georgy Lukava - Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
- 1995 Grigory Galaziy - Our Home – Russia, Irkutsk
- 1999 Yegor Ligachev - Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Tomsk
- 2003 Valentin Varennikov - Rodina
- 2007 Zhores Alferov - Communist Party of the Russian Federation
- 2011 Vladimir Dolgih - United Russia
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.
- Kyösti Kallio (first elected 1907) -1937
- Kalle Lohi (first elected 1909) 1937-1945
- Miina Sillanpää (first elected 1907, re-elected 1914, 1919 and 1936) 1945-1948
- Jussi Tolonen (first elected 1914, re-elected 1919 and 1927) 1948-1951
- John Österholm (first elected 1919) 1951-1960
- Viljo Rantala (first elected 1922) 1960-1962
- Karl-August Fagerholm (first elected 1930) 1962-1966
- Eino Raunio (first elected 1939) 1966-1970
- Hertta Kuusinen (first elected 1945) 1970-1972
- Johannes Virolainen (first elected 1945) 1972-1983
- Veikko Vennamo (first elected 1945, re-elected 1966) 1983-1987
- Johannes Virolainen (re-elected 1987) 1987-1991
- Henrik Westerlund (first elected 1966) 1991-1995
- Pertti Salolainen (first elected 1970) 1995-1996
- Håkan Malm (first elected 1975) 1996-1999
- Paavo Väyrynen (first elected 1970, re-elected 1999) 1999
- Esko-Juhani Tennilä (first elected 1975) 1999-2011
- Ilkka Kanerva (first elected 1975) 2011-
- Per Westerberg (first elected 1979) 2006-
- Lennart Nilsson (first elected 1976) 2004-2006
- Bo Lundgren (first elected 1976) 2003-2004
- Anders Björck (first elected 1969) 2002-2003
- Jan Bergqvist (first elected 1969) 1998-2002
- Börje Nilsson (first elected 1965) 1996-1998
- Ingvar Carlsson (first elected 1965) 1994-1996
- Stig Alemyr (first elected 1957) 1988-1994
- Ingemund Bengtsson (first elected 1951) 1985-1988
- Gunnar Sträng (first elected 1946) 1979-1985
- Henry Allard (first elected 1945) 1976-1979
- Torsten Nilsson (first elected 1941) 1973-1976
- Tage Erlander (first elected 1932) 1971-1973
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.
- 2001 Zaharije Trnavčević - Democratic Party
- 2004 Velimir Simonović - Democratic Party of Serbia
- 2007 Borka Vučić - Socialist Party of Serbia
- 2008 Jovan Krkobabić - Party of United Pensioners of Serbia
- 2012 Zaharije Trnavčević - Rich Serbia
- 2014 Milan Korać - Party of United Pensioners of Serbia
- Oldest member (European Parliament)
- Baby of the House
- Dean of the House (Canada)
- Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives
- Father of the Dáil
- List of longest-serving members of the Australian House of Representatives
- President pro tempore of the United States Senate
- "The Father of the House". Factsheet M3. London: House of Commons Information Office. March 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
- "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.)
- "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 1 July 1970. Retrieved 2009-12-01. (Meacher was the 540th member to take the oath, Skinner 579th.)
- "The Father of the House". London: The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Retrieved 2014-05-07.