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 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 to 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]

Kenneth Clarke, current Father of the UK 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.[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]

In the House of Commons, the only conventional leadership required 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 of "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 longest-serving member is absent or is a government minister, the next person in line presides).

The current Father of the House of Commons is Kenneth Clarke, Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, who 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 after Clarke. Should Clarke's service conclude before Skinner's, Skinner would be next in line to serve as Father of the House,[3][4] however Skinner has stated he would refuse.[5]

The Father of the House is not necessarily the sitting member with the earliest date of first election: David Winnick was first elected in 1966, and is the last current member to have served in the 1960s, but he lost his seat in 1970 and did not return to Parliament until 1979. Michael Foot was the only remaining member from the 1945 election between 1987 and 1992, but was never Father of the House because he had been out of Parliament between 1955 and a 1960 by-election. Similarly, though Sir Winston Churchill was first elected in 1900, he did not become Father of the House until 1959, because he had lost his seat in 1922, and did not return 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 (when he was still Father of the House) 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
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 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 (1900–06)
Manchester North West (1906–08)
Dundee (1908–22)
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 incumbent Conservative Rushcliffe

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, Lord Denham (Conservative) who sat first on 13 December 1949, would become eligible to be Father of the House. He is a hereditary peer who was elected to remain in the House under the provisions of the 1999 Act.

The senior sitting life peer by date of creation is Baroness Masham of Ilton, who entered the House in 1970.

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[6] 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
Unclear 1943 ????
The Lord Romilly 4 August 1920 1975? 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 9 October 1945 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 1973 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 of giving precedence by order of swearing into office.
  • 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 6 February 2015, Senator Ian Macdonald, who was first appointed in 1990, has been the Father of the Senate.

Philip Ruddock, who was first elected in 1973, was the Father of the House of Representatives and Father of the Parliament from 1 September 1998 until his retirement on 9 May 2016. He was succeeded by Senator Ian Macdonald as father of the parliament and Kevin Andrews as father of the House.

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). This tradition has been carried on to today's Parliament (Bundestag), whose rules of procedure mandate that 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 and traditionally belongs by right to the oldest member of the Bundestag (regardless of their length of service), the Party of Democratic Socialism (the predecessor of Die Linke, which consistently placed fifth in Bundestag elections during the 1990s) twice nominated old independents (Stefan Heym in 1994, Fred Gebhardt in 1998) on their party lists in order to obtain this office (and thereby have the chance to give the opening speech). This was considered a manipulation of the system, and neither of the two PDS Alterspräsidenten ended up serving a complete term (Heym resigned in 1996, and Gebhardt died in 2000). In 2017, the President of the Bundestag suggested changing the practice in order to have the member with the longest (continuous) service in the Bundestag serve as Alterspräsident, rather than the oldest member, apparently in an effort to prevent the AfD from seizing the office much in the way that the PDS had in the 90s.

Alterspräsidenten (Fathers of the House) of the German Bundestag
Bundestag Name Term Parliamentary
group
Notes
1st 1949–1953 Paul Löbe 1949–1953 SPD longtime Reichstagspräsident during the Weimar Republic
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 1961–1965 Robert Pferdmenges 1961–1963 CDU/CSU
Konrad Adenauer 1963–1965 CDU/CSU resumed the office after his resignation as Chancellor
5th 1965–1969 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

Hungary[edit]

In Hungary, term refers to the oldest member of the National Assembly (previously House of Representatives, the lower house). Before the open session, the senior chair 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.

Member Party Entered Parliament Became oldest member Left House
Géza Malasits MSZDP 1924 1945 1948 †
MDP
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 †
Fidesz
János Horváth Fidesz 1998 2003 2014
Béla Turi-Kovács Fidesz 1998 2014 Incumbent

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. In 2013 it was Benyamin Ben-Eliezer who had this position, and in 2015, it was Amir Peretz.

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.

Malaysia[edit]

In Malaysia the term "Father of the House" is rarely used. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who was elected in 1974, has been the longest serving MP in the Dewan Rakyat. He is also the current oldest serving MP aged 80 years.

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]

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

Finland[edit]

Member Became oldest member
Iisakki Hoikka 1907, 1908
John Hedberg 1908, 1909, 1909 , 1913
Leo Mechelin 1910, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913
John Hedberg 1914
Axel Lille 1917
Rabbe Wrede 1917 , 1918, 1918
Wilhelmi Malmivaara 1919
Artur Wuorimaa 1920, 1921
Waldemar Bergroth 1918, 1922 – 1926
Juho Torppa 1927, 1928, 1929
Anders Forsberg 1929 , 1930
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud 1930, 1931
K. J. Ståhlberg 1932, 1932
Matti Paasivuori 1933, 1934, 1935, 1935
Miina Sillanpää 1936 – 1947
Akseli Brander 1948 – 1950
Väinö Tanner 1951 – 1953
Matti Lahtela 1954 – 1957
Väinö Tanner 1958 – 1961
Raino Hallberg 1962 – 1965
Kustaa Tiitu 1966 – 1969
Rafael Paasio 1970 – 1975
Evald Häggblom 1975 , 1976
V. J. Sukselainen 1976, 1977, 1978
Mikko Kaarna 1979 – 1982
Tuure Junnila 1983 – 1986
Johannes Virolainen 1987 – 1989
Tuure Junnila 1990
Maunu Kohijoki 1991 – 1994
Martti Tiuri 1995 – 2002
Kalevi Lamminen 2003 – 2006
Claes Andersson 2007 – 2008
Jacob Söderman[7] 2008[8]- 2009[9]-2010
Kauko Tuupainen 2011 – 2013
Jörn Donner 2014
Pertti Salolainen 2015 –

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.

Singapore[edit]

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.[10] As of April 2015, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is Father of the House, as the longest serving MP (Marine Parade).[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Father of the House" (PDF). Factsheet M3. London: House of Commons Information Office. March 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  2. ^ 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. ^ "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 30 June 1970. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  4. ^ "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 1 July 1970. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  5. ^ UK, The Huffington Post (2014-06-04). "Watch Dennis Skinner's Queen's Speech Heckle: 'Coalition's Last Stand'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  6. ^ "The Father of the House". London: The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  7. ^ Söderman toimi puhemiesvaalin toimittajana, koska Andersson oli sairauslomalla; Hs.fi: Sauli Niinistö jatkaa eduskunnan puhemiehenä. Viitattu 24.4.2015. (Finnish)
  8. ^ Eduskunta: Täysistunnon pöytäkirja PTK 1/2008 vp (Finnish)
  9. ^ Eduskunta: Täysistunnon pöytäkirja PTK 1/2009 vp (Finnish)
  10. ^ a b Singapore's Veteran MPs

External links[edit]