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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.

The term Mother of the House is also found, although the usage varies between countries. Sometimes, it is used simply as the female alternative to Father of the House, being applied when the relevant member is a woman. Sometimes, however, it is treated as a separate designation, and is given to the longest serving female legislator.

Australia

In Australia, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, whether a Minister or not, is sometimes known as "Father of the House". Similarly, the longest-serving member of the Senate is sometimes known as "Father of the Senate", and the longer serving of the two fathers is sometimes called "Father of the Parliament".

As in Britain, these terms have no official status. However, unlike Britain:

  • the term Father of the House applies only where there is one person whose service is unequivocally longer than any other, as determined by the date of swearing in. Where two or more members with equal length of service were sworn in on the same day, none of them is considered Father of the House. Only when all the other candidates have left parliament or died, would the remaining member be called Father. 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 Representatives is Phillip Ruddock, who was first elected in 1973. The longest-serving member of the Senate is Senator Ron Boswell, who was elected in 1983 and took his seat on 5 March 1983.

Canada

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.

European Union

In the European Parliament, the "oldest member" is a position used during the election of the President of the European Parliament. The member has all the duties of President but the only business that may be addressed is the election of the President. The position is only used every two and a half years when the President's elections are held.
Name Party Date Age
Louise Weiss EPP 1979 86
1982 89
? ? 1984 ?
? ? 1987 ?
Claude Autant-Lara European Right 1989 88
? ? 1992 ?
Vassilis Ephremidis GUE/NGL 1994 79
Otto von Habsburg EPP 1997 85
Giorgio Napolitano PES 1999 74
2002 77
Giovanni Berlinguer PES 2004 80
2007 83

Germany

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).

Under the current constitution (Grundgesetz) of 1949, 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.

Alterspräsidenten (Fathers of the House) of the German Bundestag
Legislative period Name Term Party Remarks
1st Bundestag 1949-1953 Paul Löbe 1949-1953 SPD
2nd Bundestag 1953-1957 Marie Elisabeth Lüders 1953-1957 FDP
3rd Bundestag 1957-1961 Marie Elisabeth Lüders 1957-1961 FDP
4th Bundestag 1961-1965 Robert Pferdmenges 1961-1963 CDU
Konrad Adenauer 1963-1965 CDU Joined the Bundestag in 1963
5th Bundestag 1965-1969 Konrad Adenauer 1963-1967 CDU Died during term
William Borm 1967-1969 FDP
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
Herbert Wehner 1977-1980 SPD
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
Alfred Dregger 1992-1994 CDU
13th Bundestag 1994-1998 Stefan Heym 1994-1995 No Party Resigned his seat in 1995
Alfred Dregger 1995-1998 CDU
14th Bundestag 1998-2002 Fred Gebhardt 1998-2000 No Party Died during term
Hans-Eberhard Urbaniak 2000-2002 SPD
15th Bundestag 2002-2005 Otto Schily 2002-2005 SPD
16th Bundestag 2005-present Otto Schily 2005-present SPD

Ireland

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:

New Zealand

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 Mother of the House in the New Zealand Parliament is the current Prime Minister, Helen Clark. Although Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen entered Parliament on the same day, the alphabetical order of swearing in means that Clark has served for slightly longer. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters entered parliament in 1978, three years before Clark, but was out of parliament between 1981 and 1984.

Until his retirement in April 2005, the Father of the House was the Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, first elected in 1966.

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.

Russia

  • 1993 Lukava -LDPR
  • 1995 Galaziy -NDR, Irkutsk
  • 1999 Ligachev -Pens, Tomsk
  • 2003 Varennikov -Rodina
  • 2007 Alferov -KPRF

United Kingdom

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, 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, Ian Paisley, John Prescott, Dennis Skinner and Gavin Strang. Of these, Cormack was the first to swear the oath in 1970 . Prescott and Strang have announced that they are standing down at the next general election.

Name Entered House Became Father Left House Party
Sir John Fagg 1654 1701 1701
Thomas Turgis 1659 1701 1704
Sir Christopher Musgrave 1661 1704 1704
Thomas Strangeways 1673 1704 1713
Sir Richard Onslow 1679 1713 1715
Thomas Erle 1679 1715 1718
Edward Vaughan 1679 1718 1718
Richard Vaughan 1685 1718 1724
Lord William Powlett 1689 1724 1729
Sir Justinian Isham 1694 1729 1730
Sir Charles Turner 1695 1730 1738
Sir Roger Bradshaigh 1695 1738 1747
Edward Ashe 1695 1747 1747
Thomas Cartwright 1701 1747 1748
Richard Shuttleworth 1705 1748 1749
Phillips Gybbon 1707 1749 1762
Sir John Rushout, Bt 1713 1762 1768
William Aislabie 1721 1768 1781
Charles FitzRoy-Scudamore 1733 1781 1782
The Earl Nugent 1741 1782 1784
Sir Charles Frederick 1741 1784 1784
Welbore Ellis 1741 1784 1790
William Drake 1746 1790 1796
Sir Philip Stephens 1759 1796 1806
Clement Tudway 1761 1806 1815
Sir John Aubrey 1768 1815 1826
Samuel Smith 1788 1826 1832
George Byng 1790 1832 1847
Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn 1799 1847 1850
George Harcourt 1806 1850 1861
Sir Charles Merrik Burrell 1806 1861 1862
Henry Cecil Lowther 1812 1862 1867
Thomas Peers Williams 1820 1867 1868
Henry Thomas Lowry-Corry 1825 1868 1873
George Weld-Forester 1828 1873 1874
Christopher Talbot 1830 1874 1890
Charles Pelham Villiers 1835 1890 1898
Sir John Mowbray 1853 1898 1899
William Wither Beach 1857 1899 1901
Sir Michael Hicks Beach 1864 1901 1906
George Henry Finch 1867 1906 1907
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman 1868 1907 1908
Sir John Kennaway 1870 1908 1910
Thomas Burt 1874 1910 1918
T. P. O'Connor 1880 1918 1929
David Lloyd George 1890 1929 1945
The Earl Winterton 1904 1945 1951
Sir Hugh O'Neill 1915 1951 1952
David Grenfell 1922 1952 1959
Sir Winston Churchill 1924 1959 1964
Sir R. A. Butler 1929 1964 1965
Sir Robin Turton 1929 1965 1974
George Strauss 1934 1974 1979
John Parker 1935 1979 1983
James Callaghan 1945 1983 1987
Sir Bernard Braine 1950 1987 1992
Sir Edward Heath 1950 1992 2001
Tam Dalyell 1962 2001 2005
Alan Williams 1964 2005 present

House of Lords

Years Name Entered House
?–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

References

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