Lord President of the Council

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Lord President of the Council
Royal Arms of the United Kingdom (Privy Council).svg
The current Lord President of the Council
David Lidington

since 14 July 2016
Privy Council Office
Style The Right Honourable
Appointer the monarch
on advice of the Prime Minister
Inaugural holder Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk
Formation 14 August 1530
Website www.privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the United Kingdom

The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval. In the modern era, the holder is by convention always a member of one of the houses of Parliament and the office is a Cabinet post. The Lord President is currently David Lidington as of 14 July 2016.

The office and its history[edit]

The Privy Council meets once a month, wherever the Sovereign may be residing at the time, to give formal approval to Orders in Council. Only a few Privy Counsellors need attend such meetings, and only when invited to do so at the Government's request. As the duties of the Lord President are not onerous, the post has often been given to a government minister whose responsibilities are not department-specific. In recent years it has been most typical for the Lord President to also serve as Leader of the House of Commons or Leader of the House of Lords.

Prior to the 2010 change of government, the Lord President was Peter Mandelson, who was also First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.[1] This was the first time that the Lord President had not been a leader of one of the Houses since the period 20 October 1963 to 16 October 1964, wherein Quintin Hogg (2nd Viscount Hailsham until November 1963), after resigning as Leader of the House of Lords, kept the office along with the offices of Minister for Sport and, from 1 April 1964, also of Secretary of State for Education and Science.[2]

On several occasions since 1954, non-British Ministers have served briefly as acting Lords President of the Council, solely to preside over a meeting of the Privy Council held in a Commonwealth realm.[3][4][5] Examples of this practice are the meetings in New Zealand in 1990 and 1995, when Geoffrey Palmer and James Bolger respectively were acting Lords President.

In the 19th century, the Lord President was generally the cabinet member responsible for the education system amongst their other duties. This role was gradually scaled back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but remnants of it remain, such as the oversight of the governance of various universities.

A particularly vital role was played by the Lord President of the Council during the Second World War. The Lord President served as chairman of the Lord President's Committee. This committee acted as a central clearing house for dealing with economic problems that affected the country. As such, it was vital to the smooth running of the British war economy and consequently the entire British war effort.

Winston Churchill, clearly believing that this wartime co-ordinating role was beneficial, introduced a similar but expanded system in the first few years of his post-war premiership.[6] The so-called 'overlord ministers' included Frederick Leathers as 'Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power' and Frederick Marquis, 1st Baron Woolton as Lord President. Woolton's job was to co-ordinate the then separate ministries of agriculture and food.[7] The historian Peter Hennessy quotes a PhD thesis by Michael Kandiah saying that Woolton was 'arguably the most successful of the Overlords' partly because his ministries were quite closely related, indeed they were merged in 1955 as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.[8]

The Lord President has no role in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Visitorial role[edit]

The Lord President also serves as the Visitor for several British universities, including:


Partial list of office holders[edit]






Name Portrait Concurrent title(s) Tenure Political party Prime Minister


Duke of Devonshire Picture of Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire.jpg President of the Board of Education
(3 March 1900 – July 1902)
29 June 1895 19 October 1903 Liberal Unionist Marquess of Salisbury
Leader of the House of Lords
(from 12 July 1902)
Arthur Balfour
Marquess of Londonderry Lord Londonderry, 6th Marquess.jpg President of the Board of Education 19 October 1903 11 December 1905 Conservative
Earl of Crewe Portrait of Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe.jpg 11 December 1905 16 April 1908 Liberal Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Baron Tweedmouth Lord Tweedmouth, Naval Secretary, portrait bust.jpg 16 April 1908 19 October 1908 H. H. Asquith
Viscount Wolverhampton Henry Fowler.jpg 19 October 1908 21 June 1910
Earl Beauchamp William Lygon.jpg 21 June 1910 7 November 1910
Viscount Morley John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn - Project Gutenberg eText 17976.jpg Secretary of State for India
(7 March – 25 May 1911)
7 November 1910 5 August 1914
Earl Beauchamp
(2nd time)
William Lygon.jpg 5 August 1914 25 May 1915
Marquess of Crewe
(2nd time)
Portrait of Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe.jpg Leader of the House of Lords
President of the Board of Trade
(from 18 August 1916)
25 May 1915 10 December 1916 H. H. Asquith
(War coalition)
Earl Curzon Curzon GGBain.jpg Leader of the House of Lords 10 December 1916 23 October 1919 Conservative David Lloyd George
Arthur Balfour
(Earl of Balfour from 5 May 1922)
Gws balfour 02.jpg 23 October 1919 19 October 1922
Marquess of Salisbury James Gascoyne-Cecil, 4th Marquess of Salisbury.jpg Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (until 25 May 1923) 24 October 1922 22 January 1924 Bonar Law
Stanley Baldwin
Lord Parmoor Lord Parmoor - 19221128.jpg 22 January 3 November 1924 Labour Ramsay MacDonald
Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
(2nd time)
Curzon GGBain.jpg Leader of the House of Lords 6 November 1924 27 April 1925 Conservative Stanley Baldwin
Earl of Balfour
(2nd time)
Gws balfour 02.jpg 27 April 1925 4 June 1929
Lord Parmoor Lord Parmoor - 19221128.jpg Leader of the House of Lords 7 June 1929 24 August 1931 Labour Ramsay MacDonald
Stanley Baldwin Stanley Baldwin ggbain.35233.jpg Lord Privy Seal (from 29 September 1932) 25 August 1931 7 June 1935 Conservative Ramsay MacDonald
(1st and 2nd Nat. coalition)
Ramsay MacDonald Ramsay MacDonald ggbain 35734.jpg 7 June 1935 28 May 1937 National Labour Stanley Baldwin
(3rd Nat. coalition)
Viscount Halifax Lord Halifax 1937.jpg Leader of the House of Lords
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (from 21 February 1938)
28 May 1937 9 March 1938 Conservative Neville Chamberlain
(4th Nat. and War coalition)
Viscount Hailsham Hailsham1.JPG 9 March 1938 31 October 1938
Viscount Runciman Portrait of Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford.jpg 31 October 1938 3 September 1939 National Liberal
Earl Stanhope Stanhope7.JPG Leader of the House of Lords 3 September 1939 11 May 1940 Conservative
Neville Chamberlain Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R99302 Chamberlain.jpg 11 May 1940 3 October 1940 Winston Churchill
(War coalition)
John Anderson John Anderson cropped.jpg 3 October 1940 24 September 1943 National
Clement Attlee Attlee BW cropped.jpg Deputy Prime Minister 24 September 1943 23 May 1945 Labour
Lord Woolton 1st Earl of Woolton 1947.jpg 25 May 1945 26 July 1945 National Winston Churchill
(Caretaker coalition)


Herbert Morrison Herbert Morrison 1947.jpg Leader of the House of Commons 27 July 1945 9 March 1951 Labour Clement Attlee
Viscount Addison Christopher Addison, 1st Viscount Addison.jpg Leader of the House of Lords 9 March 1951 26 October 1951
Lord Woolton
(2nd time)
1st Earl of Woolton 1947.jpg 28 October 1951 25 November 1952 Conservative Winston Churchill
Marquess of Salisbury Robert Gascoyne-Cecil 1947.jpg Leader of the House of Lords 25 November 1952 29 March 1957 Winston Churchill
Anthony Eden
Harold Macmillan
Earl of Home Alec Douglas-Home (c1963).jpg 29 March 1957 17 September 1957
Viscount Hailsham Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham Allan Warren.jpg 17 September 1957 14 October 1959
Earl of Home
(2nd time)
Alec Douglas-Home (c1963).jpg Leader of the House of Lords 14 October 1959 27 July 1960
Viscount Hailsham
(2nd time)
(as Quintin Hogg
from 20 November 1963,
title disclaimed under Peerage Act 1963)
Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham Allan Warren.jpg Leader of the House of Lords (until Oct. 1963)
and Minister for Science
27 July 1960 16 October 1964
Minister for Science (20 October 1963 – 1 April 1964) Alec Douglas-Home
Sec. of State for Education and Science (from Apr. 1964)
Herbert Bowden Leader of the House of Commons 16 October 1964 11 August 1966 Labour Harold Wilson
Richard Crossman 11 August 1966 18 October 1968
Fred Peart 18 October 1968 19 June 1970
Willie Whitelaw 20 June 1970 7 April 1972 Conservative Edward Heath
Robert Carr Robert Carr2.jpg 7 April 1972 5 November 1972
Jim Prior 5 November 1972 4 March 1974
Edward Short 5 March 1974 8 April 1976 Labour Harold Wilson
Michael Foot Michael Foot (1981).jpg 8 April 1976 4 May 1979 James Callaghan
Lord Soames Leader of the House of Lords 5 May 1979 14 September 1981 Conservative Margaret Thatcher
Francis Pym Zconcam61.jpg Leader of the House of Commons 14 September 1981 7 April 1982
John Biffen 7 April 1982 11 June 1983
Viscount Whitelaw
(2nd time)
William Whitelaw in 1963.jpg Deputy Prime Minister
Leader of the House of Lords
11 June 1983 10 January 1988
John Wakeham Leader of the House of Commons 10 January 1988 24 July 1989
Geoffrey Howe Geoffrey Howe.jpg Deputy Prime Minister
Leader of the House of Commons
24 July 1989 1 November 1990
John MacGregor Leader of the House of Commons 2 November 1990 10 April 1992
John Major
Tony Newton 10 April 1992 2 May 1997
Ann Taylor 3 May 1997 27 July 1998 Labour Tony Blair
Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett May 2007.jpg 27 July 1998 8 June 2001

Since 2001[edit]

Robin Cook Robin Cook-close crop.jpg Leader of the House of Commons 8 June 2001 18 March 2003 Labour Tony Blair
John Reid ReidTaormina crop.jpg 4 April 2003 13 June 2003
Lord Williams of Mostyn Leader of the House of Lords 13 June 2003 20 September 2003
Baroness Amos Baroness Valerie Ann Amos.jpg 6 October 2003 27 June 2007
Baroness Ashton Baroness Ashton headshot.jpg 28 June 2007 3 October 2008 Gordon Brown
Baroness Royall BaronessRoyallPortrait.jpg 3 October 2008 5 June 2009
Lord Mandelson Peter Mandelson at Politics of Climate Change 3.jpg First Secretary of State
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
5 June 2009 11 May 2010
Nick Clegg Nick Clegg by the 2009 budget cropped.jpg Deputy Prime Minister
(with special responsibility for political and constitutional reform)
11 May 2010 8 May 2015 Liberal Democrat David Cameron
Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Official.jpg Leader of the House of Commons 9 May 2015 14 July 2016 Conservative David Cameron
David Lidington David Lidington (4606350522).jpg 14 July 2016 Theresa May

See also[edit]

 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lord President of the Council". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 


  1. ^ Patrick Wintour (5 June 2009). "Weakened Gordon Brown unable to shift cabinet's bigger beasts". Guardian.co.uk. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  2. ^ D. Butler and G. Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000
  3. ^ http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1954/may/18/her-majestys-return |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 18 May 1954. col. 645.  "Her Majesty's Return", Herbert Samuel: "... there has been constitutional work done, there have been acts of State: ... meetings of the Privy Council, an organ of the Constitution older than Parliament itself, for wherever the Sovereign is, and three Privy Counsellors are present, there may be meetings of the Council and Orders passed. So, during this tour there have been sessions of the Privy Council in Australia, in New Zealand and in Ceylon, with their own local Privy Council members – members of the one single Imperial Privy Council, but their own local members."
  4. ^ Cox, Noel (1998–99). "The Dichotomy of Legal Theory and Political Reality: The Honours Prerogative and Imperial Unity". Australian Journal of Law and Society. 1 (14): 15–42. Retrieved 19 November 2011. The Queen has in fact regularly presided over meetings of the Privy Council in New Zealand, since her first in 1954. That was the first held by the Sovereign outside the United Kingdom, although in 1920 Edward Prince of Wales held a Council in Wellington to swear in the Earl of Liverpool as Governor-General. 
  5. ^ Kumarasingham, Harshan (2010). Onward with Executive Power: Lessons from New Zealand 1947–57 (PDF). Wellington, New Zealand: Institute of Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-877347-37-5. Retrieved 19 November 2011. The Queen held a meeting of the Privy Council [on 13 January 1954] at the 'Court at Government House at Wellington' with her New Zealand prime minister as 'acting Lord President' of the council. The deputy prime minister, Keith Holyoake, 'secured for himself a place in constitutional history by becoming the first member to be sworn of Her Majesty’s Council outside the United Kingdom'. 
  6. ^ Hennessy, Peter. The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders Since 1945 (2000), pp.189–190.
  7. ^ Hennessy, p.191
  8. ^ Hennessy, pp.193
  9. ^ https://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/work-of-the-privy-council-office/higher-education/universities/