Father of the House

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

United Kingdom

House of Commons

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][2] 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.[3] Traditionally, however, the qualification used for the Father of the House are not entirely clear and may have included the oldest member, the member with the longest aggregate service, or the member who entered the House longest ago.[2]

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", referring 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.[4]

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.[5][6][3]

The first recorded usage of the title dates back to 1816 an engraved portrait of Whitshed Keene by Charles Picart, dated 1 February. Henry Campbell-Bannerman was simultaneously Father of the House and Prime Minister from May 1907 until soon before his death during April 1908.[2] On 13 June 2017 Harriet Harman was dubbed "Mother of the House" by Prime Minister Theresa May, in recognition of her status as longest continuously serving woman MP.[7]

Name Entered Parliament Father (Standing Order No 1) Left House Party Constituency
Sir John Fagg165417011701Steyning
Thomas Turgis165917011704Gatton
Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Baronet166117041704Westmorland
Thomas Strangways167317041713Dorset
Sir Richard Onslow167917131715 WhigGuildford (1713–14)
Surrey (1714–15)
Thomas Erle167917151718 WhigWareham
Edward Vaughan167917181718 WhigCardiganshire
Richard Vaughan1685
continuous from 1689
17181724 WhigCarmarthen
Lord William Powlett168917241729 ToryWinchester (1689–1710, 1715–29)
Lymington (1710–15)
Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Baronet1685
continuous from 1694
17291730 ToryNorthampton (1685–90, 1694–98)
Northamptonshire (1698–30)
Sir Charles Turner, 1st Baronet, of Warham169517301738 ToryKing's Lynn
Sir Roger Bradshaigh169517381747 ToryWigan
Sir Edward Ashe169517471747 ToryHeytesbury
Sir Thomas Cartwright1695
continuous from 1701
17471748 ToryNorthamptonshire
Sir Richard Shuttleworth170517481749 ToryLancashire
Phillips Gybbon170717491762 WhigRye
Sir John Rushout, 4th Baronet171317621768 ToryMalmesbury (1713–22)
Evesham (1722–68)
William Aislabie172117681781 WhigRipon
Charles FitzRoy-Scudamore173317811782 WhigThetford (1733–54, 1774–82)
Hereford (1754–68)
Heytesbury (1768–74)
The Earl Nugent174117821784 TorySt Mawes (1741–54, 1774–84)
Bristol (1754–74)
Sir Charles Frederick17411784 ToryNew Shoreham (1741–54)
Queenborough (1754–84)
The Lord Mendip174117841790 ToryCricklade (1741–47)
Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (1747–61, 1774–90)
Aylesbury (1761–68)
Petersfield (1768–74, 1791–95)
William Drake174617901796Amersham
Sir Philip Stephens, 1st Baronet175917961806 ToryLiskeard (1759–68)
Sandwich (1768–1801)
Clement Tudway176118061815Wells
Sir John Aubrey, 6th Baronet176818151826 ToryWallingford (1768–74, 1780–84)
Aylesbury (1774–1780)
Buckinghamshire (1780–90)
Clitheroe (1790–96)
Aldeburgh (1796–1801)
Steyning (1812–20)
Horsham (1820–26)
Sir Samuel Smith178818261832 TorySt Germans (1788–90)
Leicester (1790–1818)
Midhurst (1818–20)
Wendover (1820–32)
George Byng179018321847 WhigMiddlesex
Charles Williams-Wynn179718471850 ConservativeOld Sarum (1797–99)
Montgomeryshire (1797–1850)
George Harcourt180618501861 WhigLichfield (1806–31)
Oxfordshire (1831–62)
Sir Charles Burrell, 3rd Baronet180618611862 ConservativeNew Shoreham
Henry Cecil Lowther181218621867 ConservativeWestmorland
Thomas Peers Williams182018671868 ConservativeMarlow
Henry Lowry-Corry182518681873 ConservativeTyrone
George Weld-Forester182818731874 ConservativeWenlock
Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot183018741890 LiberalGlamorganshire (1830–85)
Mid Glamorganshire (1885–90)
Charles Pelham Villiers183518901898 Liberal UnionistWolverhampton (1835–85)
Wolverhampton South (1885–1898)
Sir John Mowbray, 1st Baronet185318981899 ConservativeDurham City (1853–85)
Oxford University (1885–1899)
William Wither Beach185718991901 ConservativeNorth Hampshire (1857–85)
Andover (1885–1901)
Michael Hicks Beach186419011906 ConservativeGloucestershire East (1864–85)
Bristol West (1885–1906)
George Finch186719061907 ConservativeRutland
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman186819071908 LiberalStirling Burghs
Sir John Kennaway, 3rd Baronet187019081910 ConservativeEast Devon (1870–85)
Honiton (1885–1910)
Thomas Burt187419101918 Lib-LabMorpeth
T. P. O'Connor188019181929 Irish NationalistGalway Borough (1880–85)
Liverpool Scotland (1885–1929)
David Lloyd George189019291945 LiberalCaernarvon Boroughs
The Earl Winterton190419451951 ConservativeHorsham (1904–18, 1945–51)
Horsham and Worthing (1918–45)
Sir Hugh O'Neill191519511952 UUPMid Antrim (1915–22)
Antrim (1922–50)
North Antrim (1950–52)
David Grenfell192219521959 LabourGower
Sir Winston Churchill1900
continuous from 1924
19591964 ConservativeOldham (1900–06)
Manchester North West (1906–08)
Dundee (1908–22)
Epping (1924–45)
Woodford (1945–64)
R. A. Butler192919641965 ConservativeSaffron Walden
Sir Robin Turton192919651974 ConservativeThirsk and Malton
George Strauss1929
continuous from 1934
19741979 LabourLambeth North (1929–31, 1934–50)
Vauxhall (1950–79)
John Parker193519791983 LabourRomford (1935–45)
Dagenham (1945–83)
James Callaghan194519831987 LabourCardiff South (1945–50)
Cardiff South East (1950–83)
Cardiff South and Penarth (1983–87)
Sir Bernard Braine195019871992 ConservativeBillericay (1950–55)
South East Essex (1955–83)
Castle Point (1983–92)
Sir Edward Heath195019922001 ConservativeBexley (1950–74)
Sidcup (1974–83)
Old Bexley and Sidcup (1983–2001)
Tam Dalyell196220012005 LabourWest Lothian (1962–83)
Linlithgow (1983–2005)
Alan Williams196420052010 LabourSwansea West
Sir Peter Tapsell1959
continuous from 1966
20102015 ConservativeNottingham West (1959–64)
Horncastle (1966–83)
East Lindsey (1983–97)
Louth and Horncastle (1997–2015)
Sir Gerald Kaufman197020152017 LabourManchester Ardwick (1970–83)
Manchester Gorton (1983–2017)
Kenneth Clarke19702017incumbent ConservativeRushcliffe (1970–present)


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, use 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 do not have any 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 during 1990, has been the Father of the Senate.

Philip Ruddock, who was first elected during 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.


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 United States House of Representatives.


Member Became oldest member
Iisakki Hoikka1907, 1908
John Hedberg1908, 1909, 1909 , 1913
Leo Mechelin1910, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913
John Hedberg1914
Axel Lille1917
Rabbe Wrede1917 , 1918, 1918
Wilhelmi Malmivaara1919
Artur Wuorimaa1920, 1921
Waldemar Bergroth1918, 1922 – 1926
Juho Torppa1927, 1928, 1929
Anders Forsberg1929 , 1930
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud1930, 1931
K. J. Ståhlberg1932, 1932
Matti Paasivuori1933, 1934, 1935, 1935
Miina Sillanpää1936 – 1947
Akseli Brander1948 – 1950
Väinö Tanner1951 – 1953
Matti Lahtela1954 – 1957
Väinö Tanner1958 – 1961
Raino Hallberg1962 – 1965
Kustaa Tiitu1966 – 1969
Rafael Paasio1970 – 1975
Evald Häggblom1975 , 1976
V. J. Sukselainen1976, 1977, 1978
Mikko Kaarna1979 – 1982
Tuure Junnila1983 – 1986
Johannes Virolainen1987 – 1989
Tuure Junnila1990
Maunu Kohijoki1991 – 1994
Martti Tiuri1995 – 2002
Kalevi Lamminen2003 – 2006
Claes Andersson2007 – 2008
Jacob Söderman[8]2008[9]- 2009[10]-2010
Kauko Tuupainen2011 – 2013
Jörn Donner2014
Pertti Salolainen2015 –


Starting with the Frankfurter Nationalversammlung (Frankfurt Parliament) of 1848, all German parliaments had a father of the House, usually called Alterspräsident (President by right of age). This tradition was continued into the Weimar Republic and, after being discontinued in Nazi Germany, was resumed by the present Parliament (Bundestag), whose rules of procedure mandate that the father of the house presides over the Parliament (Bundestag) at the start of each legislative period.

In accordance with tradition, the Alterspräsident first ascertains himself that he is the oldest member of the Bundestag by stating his date of birth and asking if anyone is present who was born before this 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 supervises the election of the President of the Bundestag. He then yields his power to the newly elected President of the Bundestag, who will in turn supervise the elections of the Vice Presidents of the Bundestag.

The rules of order of the Bundestag also state that the Alterspräsident shall act as President of the Bundestag at any given time during a legislative period, if the whole Presidium (i.e. the President and the Vice Presidents of the Bundestag) is altogether unable to perform its duties.

As the Alterspräsident's opening speech usually draws a certain amount of public attention, the position has recently attracted controversy, when the Party of Democratic Socialism (the succcesor of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany) obtained the position by including aged independents (Stefan Heym in 1994, Fred Gebhardt in 1998) in their party lists. In 2017, the Bundestag changed its rules of procedure to have the member with the longest service in the Bundestag serve as father of the house, rather than the oldest member.[11]

Alterspräsidenten of the German Bundestag
Bundestag Name Term Parliamentary
11949–1953Paul Löbe
1949–1953SPDlongtime Reichstagspräsident during the Weimar Republic
21953–1957Marie Elisabeth Lüders
1953–1957FDPstood in for Konrad Adenauer, the oldest member, who refused the position due to his position as Chancellor
31957–1961Marie Elisabeth Lüders1957–1961FDP
41961–1965Robert Pferdmenges
Konrad Adenauer
1963–1965CDUassumed the position after his resignation as Chancellor
51965–1969Konrad Adenauer1965–1967CDUdied in 1967
William Borm
(born 1895)
61969–1972William Borm1969–1972FDP
71972–1976Ludwig Erhard
81976–1980Ludwig Erhard1976–1977CDUdied in 1977
Johann Baptist Gradl
(born 1904)
91980–1983Herbert Wehner
101983–1987Willy Brandt
1983–1987SPDstood in for Egon Franke, who refused the position
111987–1990Willy Brandt1987–1990SPD
121990–1994Willy Brandt1990–1992SPDdied in 1992
Alfred Dregger
131994–1998Stefan Heym
1994–1995PDSresigned his seat in 1995
Alfred Dregger1995–1998CDU
141998–2002Fred Gebhardt
1998–2000PDSdied in 2000
Hans-Eberhard Urbaniak
(born 1929)
152002–2005Otto Schily
(born 1932)
162005–2009Otto Schily2005–2009SPD
172009–2013Heinz Riesenhuber
(born 1935)
182013–2017Heinz Riesenhuber2013–2017CDU
192017–presentHermann Otto Solms
(born 1940 and member of parliament for 33 years, 1980-2013 and since 2017)
FDPThe first father of the house under the changed rules of procedure. Stood in for Wolfgang Schäuble (member of parliament for 45 years), who was subsequently elected President of the Bundestag.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, there is no such term as "Father of the House". Instead, the longest-serving member was termed the Senior Unofficial Member and was the highest-ranking unofficial member of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council until the title was abolished during 1995 and 1992 respectively.

After the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong, James To became the longest serving member of the Legislative Council since 2016 after several members who had been served since the 1st Legislative Council retired.


In Hungary, the term refers to the oldest member of the National Assembly (previously House of Representatives, the lower house). Before the open session, the senior chairperson 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 †
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 †
János Horváth Fidesz 1998 2003 2014
Béla Turi-Kovács Fidesz 1998 2014 Incumbent


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 during 2015, it was Amir Peretz.


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. The current Father is the former 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 Malaysia the term "Father of the House" is rarely used. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who was elected during 1974, has been the longest serving MP in the Dewan Rakyat. He is also the current oldest serving MP aged 81 years, 4 months.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the term Father or Mother of the House, as an unofficial title, designates the longest-continuously serving MP of the House of Representatives. The Father of the House has no official role in Parliament. Former Cabinet Minister Nick Smith succeeded former Prime Minister Bill English as Father of the House when the latter resigned in March 2018, having served continuously since the 1990 general election.[12]

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


Norway doesn't have such a tradition. In most cases the Stortingspresident or a member of the presidium from the previous term are asked to lead the proceedings until a new President is elected.


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


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.


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.[13] As of April 2015, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is Father of the House, as the longest serving MP (from the district named Marine Parade).[13]


In Sweden the Riksdagsordningen law states that the member of the Riksdag who has held his elected seat for the longest shall be the Ålderspresident, which translates to President by age. The Ålderspresident acts as speaker of the Riksdag efter each election, and before the Speaker of the Riksdag has been elected. The Ålderspresident also acts as speaker in case of hindrance on behalf of the Speaker.

Members of the Riksdag who has held the position of Ålderspresident:

See also


  1. "Father of the House: House of Commons Background Paper". House of Commons Library. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 "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.
  3. 1 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.
  4. "The Speaker" (PDF). Westminster, United Kingdom: House of Commons Information Office. September 2003. pp. 4–5.
  5. "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 30 June 1970. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  6. "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 1 July 1970. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  7. "Election of Speaker". Hansard. UK: Commons. 13 June 2017.
  8. Söderman toimi puhemiesvaalin toimittajana, koska Andersson oli sairauslomalla; Hs.fi: Sauli Niinistö jatkaa eduskunnan puhemiehenä. Viitattu 24.4.2015. (in Finnish)
  9. Eduskunta: Täysistunnon pöytäkirja PTK 1/2008 vp (in Finnish)
  10. Eduskunta: Täysistunnon pöytäkirja PTK 1/2009 vp (in Finnish)
  11. "Deutscher Bundestag - I. Wahl des Präsidenten, der Stellvertreter und Schriftführer".
  12. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been an MP for longer than Smith, but his terms have not been consecutive. He has served since 1979, but was not a Member of Parliament from 1981 to 1984, nor from 2008 to 2011.
  13. 1 2 "Pressrun.net". www.pressrun.net.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.