The term Mother of the House 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 | edit source]
House of Commons[edit | edit source]
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, and who is not a Minister of the Crown. If two or more MPs have equal lengths of service, then whoever was sworn in first is named Father.
In the House of Commons, the sole duty of the Father of the House is to assume the Speaker's chair and 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 non-Minister member of the House who is present (meaning that if the Father is absent, the next person in line presides).
The current Father of the House of Commons is Alan Williams, Labour MP for Swansea West, who was first elected in the 1964 general election. The member with the second longest period of continuous service is occasionally referred to as the Uncle of the House, and is presently Sir Peter Tapsell, Conservative MP for Louth and Horncastle, who began his continuous service from the 1966 general election.
It should be noted that the Father of the House is not the sitting MP with the earliest date of first election; at the moment that is Sir Peter Tapsell, who was first elected in 1959, and is the only remaining 1950s MP, but lost his seat in 1964 and was out of Parliament until the following 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 spent small periods out of the House.
There are no other MPs with continuous service since the 1960s which means that following the retirement or death of Williams (who has announced that he will be standing down at the next election) and Tapsell, 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 presently: Kenneth Clarke, Sir Patrick Cormack, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Michael Meacher, John Prescott, Dennis Skinner and Gavin Strang. Of these, Cormack was the first to swear the oath in 1970 . (Ian Paisley would be eligible but for having resigned his seat in 1985 to seek re-election over the Anglo-Irish Agreement.) Prescott and Strang have announced that they are standing down at the next general election.
House of Lords[edit | edit source]
|?–1898||William Murray, 4th Earl of Mansfield and Mansfield||1840|
|1898–1906||Henry Chichester, 2nd Baron Templemore||1842|
|1906–1909||Thomas Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester||1844|
|1909–1913||Horatio Nelson, 3rd Earl Nelson||1845|
|1913–1921||Henry Reynolds-Moreton, 3rd Earl of Ducie||1853|
|1921–1930||George Coventry, 9th Earl of Coventry||1859|
|13 March 1930–27 March 1930||Robert Devereux, 16th Viscount Hereford||1864|
|1930–1937||Charles Gordon, 11th Marquess of Huntly||1869|
|1937–1938||Archibald Kennedy, 3rd Marquess of Ailsa||1870|
|?–1943||John Norton, 5th Baron Grantley||1877|
|?–1983||William Romilly, 4th Baron Romilly||1920|
|?–1999||Dominick Browne, 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne||1927|
|1999–2007||George Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe||1939|
|2007–present:||Peter Carrington, 6th Baron Carrington||1940|
Northern Ireland[edit | edit source]
- John Miller Andrews, Unionist (1929-1953)
- Cahir Healy, Nationalist (1953-1965)
- Basil Stanlake Brooke, Unionist (1965-1968)
- Sir Norman Stronge, Unionist (1968-1969)
- Terence O'Neill, Unionist (1969-1970)
- Brian Faulkner, Unionist (1970-1972)
Australia[edit | edit source]
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.
Canada[edit | edit source]
The term "Father of the House" is not used in Canada. In Canada, the longest-serving member of the House of Commons who is not a cabinet minister is known as the Dean of the House, after the equivalent position in the American House of Representatives. He (or she) presides over the election of the Speaker of the House at the beginning of Parliament.
European Union[edit | edit source]
In the European Parliament, the "oldest member" was a position used during the election of the President of the European Parliament. The member had all the duties of President but the only business that could be addressed was the election of the President. The position was only used every two and a half years when the President's elections were held.
|Claude Autant-Lara||European Right||1989||88|
|Otto von Habsburg||EPP||1997||85|
After the 2009 elections, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a far right MEP from France who has been convicted for holocaust denial in his home country was expected to be the the oldest member, aged 81. In response the Parliament's rules were changed so that the outgoing President (if re-elected as an MEP) or one of the outgoing Vice-Presidents would chair the first session of Parliament until a new President was elected. Green co-head Daniel Cohn-Bendit wanted to change the rules so that the youngest member would chair the session, to reflect the future.
Germany[edit | edit source]
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.
|1st Bundestag||1949-1953||Paul Löbe||1949-1953||SPD|
|2nd Bundestag||1953-1957||Marie Elisabeth Lüders||1953-1957||FDP||Stood in for Konrad Adenauer who was, actually, older but refused the honours due to his position as Chancellor.|
|3rd Bundestag||1957-1961||Marie Elisabeth Lüders||1957-1961||FDP||Stood in for Konrad Adenauer who was, actually, older but refused the honours due to his position as Chancellor.|
|4th Bundestag||1961-1965||Robert Pferdmenges||1961-1963||CDU||Stood in for Konrad Adenauer who was, actually, older but refused the honours due to his position as Chancellor.|
|5th Bundestag||1965-1969||Konrad Adenauer||1965-1967||CDU||former Chancellor - despite being the oldest member since 1953 he did not take office before|
|6th Bundestag||1969-1972||William Borm||1969-1972||FDP|
|7th Bundestag||1972-1976||Ludwig Erhard||1972-1976||CSU|
|8th Bundestag||1976-1980||Ludwig Erhard||1976-1977||CSU||Died during term|
|9th Bundestag||1980-1983||Herbert Wehner||1980-1983||SPD|
|10th Bundestag||1983-1987||Willy Brandt||1983-1987||SPD||Stood in for Egon Franke |
(who was entagled in a political affair)
|11th Bundestag||1987-1990||Willy Brandt||1987- 1990||SPD|
|12th Bundestag||1990-1994||Willy Brandt||1990-1992||SPD||Died during term|
|13th Bundestag||1994-1998||Stefan Heym||1994-1995||No Party||Resigned his seat in 1995|
|14th Bundestag||1998-2002||Fred Gebhardt||1998-2000||No Party||Died during term|
|15th Bundestag||2002-2005||Otto Schily||2002-2005||SPD|
|16th Bundestag||2005-present||Otto Schily||2005-present||SPD|
Ireland[edit | edit source]
In the Republic of Ireland, the term Father of the Dáil is an unofficial title applied to the longest serving Teachta Dála (TD) in the house, regardless of their position. The current Father of the Dáil is the current leader of the opposition and Fine Gael party leader, Enda Kenny, TD, since the retirement of Séamus Pattison at the 2007 Irish general election. Some former Fathers of the Dáil include:
- Éamon de Valera (1957–1959)
- James Ryan (1959–1965)
- Frank Aiken (1965–1973)
- Paddy Smith (1973–1977)
- Liam Cosgrave (1977–1981)
- Oliver J. Flanagan (1981–1987)
- Neil T. Blaney (1987–1995)
- Séamus Pattison (1995–2007)
- Enda Kenny (2007–present)
New Zealand[edit | edit source]
In New Zealand, the term Father- or Mother of the House is an unofficial title applied to the longest serving MP in the house, regardless of their position. In fact, the current Father of the House in the New Zealand Parliament is James Patrick Anderton (commonly referred to as Jim Anderton), the leader of the Progressive Party of New Zealand. Anderton has served in Parliament since 1984.
In New Zealand's first elections of 1854, the Bay of Islands electorate was the first to declare the election of a successful candidate, the unopposed candidate Hugh Francis Carleton. In the subsequent General Assembly of 1854, Carleton liked to be known as the Father of the House.
List of Fathers (and Mothers) of the House
Hugh Francis Carelton 1853-1870 (first elected 1853)
Alfred Brandon 1870-1881 (first elected 1858)
James Macandrew 1881-1887 (first elected 1853, re-elected 1859)
Sir Maurice O'Rorke 1887-1890 (first elected 1861, defeated 1890 and re-elected 1893)
John Bryce 1890-1891 (first elected 1866, re-elected 1871)
Ebenezer Hamlin 1891-1893 (first elected 1876)
Richard John Seddon 1893-1906 (first elected 1879) (PM 1893-1906)
Sir Arthur Robert Guiness 1906-1913 (first elected 1884)
Sir James Carroll 1913-1919 (first elected 1887)
Sir James Allen 1919-1920 (first elected 1887, re-elected 1892)
William Ferguson Massey 1920-1925 (first elected 1894) (PM 1912-1925)
(Sir) Thomas Mason Wilford 1925-1929 (first elected 1896, re-elected 1899)
Sir Apirana Ngata 1930-1943 (first elected 1905)
Peter Fraser 1943-1950 (first elected 1918) (PM 1940-1949)
William Parry 1950-1951 (first elected 1919)
Robert McKeen 1951-1954 (first elected 1922)
Henry Greathead Rex Mason 1954-1966 (first elected 1926) (longest serving MP in NZ's history)
Sir Walter Nash 1966-1968 (first elected 1929) (PM 1957-1960)
(Sir) Keith Jacka Holyoake 1968-1977 (first elected 1932, re-elected 1938) (PM 1957 & 1960-1972)
Warren Freer 1977-1981 (first elected 1947)
(Sir) Robert David Muldoon 1981-1991 (first elected 1960) (PM 1975-1984)
Jonathan Lucas Hunt 1991-2005 (first elected 1966)
Helen Elizabeth Clark 2005-2009 (to April 18) (first elected 1981) (PM 1999-2008)
Michael John Cullen 2009 (April 18 to 29?) (first elected 1981)
James Patrick Anderton 2009- (from April 29) (first elected 1984)
Russia[edit | edit source]
- 1993 Lukava - Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
- 1995 Galaziy - Our Home – Russia, Irkutsk
- 1999 Ligachev - Pens, Tomsk
- 2003 Varennikov - Rodina
- 2007 Alferov - Communist Party of the Russian Federation
References[edit | edit source]
- "The Father of the House", Factsheet M3 - Members Series, House of Commons Information Office, Revised November 2006
- "John Prescott to stand down as MP". BBC. 2007-08-27. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6965184.stm. Retrieved on 2007-08-27.
- "Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. Rule 11: Oldest member". European Parliament. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+RULES-EP+20070101+RULE-011+DOC+XML+V0//EN&navigationBar=YES. Retrieved on 2007-06-12.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Baby of the House
- Dean of the House
- Dean of the House (Canada)
- Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives
- List of longest-serving members of the Australian House of Representatives
- President pro tempore of the United States Senate