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. 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

House of Commons

Sir Gerald Kaufman, 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 Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, who began his continuous service from the 1970 general election.

Kenneth Clarke, Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, and Dennis Skinner, Labour MP for Bolsover, also began continuous service at the 1970 general election, but were sworn in after Kaufman. Should Kaufman's service conclude, Clarke, then Skinner, would be next in line to serve as Father of the House.[3][4]

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 Fagg165417011701Steyning
Thomas Turgis165917011704Gatton
Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Baronet166117041704Westmorland
Thomas Strangways167317041713Dorset
Sir Richard Onslow167917131715 WhigGuildford (171314)
Surrey (171415)
Thomas Erle167917151718 WhigWareham
Edward Vaughan167917181718 WhigCardiganshire
Richard Vaughan168517181724 WhigCarmarthen
Lord William Powlett168917241729 ToryWinchester
Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Baronet169417291730 ToryNorthamptonshire
Sir Charles Turner, 1st Baronet, of Warham169517301738 ToryKing's Lynn
Sir Roger Bradshaigh169517381747 ToryWigan
Sir Edward Ashe169517471747 ToryHeytesbury
Sir Thomas Cartwright170117471748 ToryNorthamptonshire
Sir Richard Shuttleworth170517481749 ToryPreston
Phillips Gybbon170717491762 WhigRye
Sir John Rushout, 4th Baronet171317621768 ToryEvesham
William Aislabie172117681781 WhigRipon
Charles FitzRoy-Scudamore173317811782 WhigThetford
The Earl Nugent174117821784 TorySt Mawes
Sir Charles Frederick174117841784 ToryQueenborough
The Lord Mendip174117841790 ToryWeymouth and Melcombe Regis
William Drake174617901796Amersham
Sir Philip Stephens, 1st Baronet175917961806 TorySandwich
Clement Tudway176118061815Wells
Sir John Aubrey, 6th Baronet176818151826 TorySteyning (181220)
Horsham (182026)
Sir Samuel Smith178818261832 ToryWendover
George Byng179018321847 WhigMiddlesex
Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn179918471850 ConservativeMontgomeryshire
George Harcourt180618501861 WhigOxfordshire
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 (183085)
Mid Glamorganshire (188590)
Charles Pelham Villiers183518901898 Liberal UnionistWolverhampton South
Sir John Mowbray, 1st Baronet185318981899 ConservativeOxford University
William Wither Beach185718991901 ConservativeAndover
Michael Hicks Beach186419011906 ConservativeBristol West
George Finch186719061907 ConservativeRutland
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman186819071908 LiberalStirling Burghs
Sir John Kennaway, 3rd Baronet187019081910 ConservativeHoniton
Thomas Burt187419101918 Lib-LabMorpeth
T. P. O'Connor188019181929 Irish NationalistLiverpool Scotland
David Lloyd George189019291945 LiberalCaernarvon Boroughs
The Earl Winterton190419451951 ConservativeHorsham
Sir Hugh O'Neill191519511952 UUPNorth Antrim
David Grenfell192219521959 LabourGower
Sir Winston Churchill1900
continuous from 1924
19591964 ConservativeOldham (190006)
Manchester North West (190608)
Dundee (190822)
Epping (192445)
Woodford (194564)
R. A. Butler192919641965 ConservativeSaffron Walden
Sir Robin Turton192919651974 ConservativeThirsk and Malton
George Strauss1929
continuous from 1934
19741979 LabourVauxhall
John Parker193519791983 LabourDagenham
James Callaghan194519831987 LabourCardiff South and Penarth
Sir Bernard Braine195019871992 ConservativeCastle Point
Sir Edward Heath195019922001 ConservativeOld Bexley and Sidcup
Tam Dalyell196220012005 LabourLinlithgow
Alan Williams196420052010 LabourSwansea West
Sir Peter Tapsell196620102015 ConservativeLouth and Horncastle
Sir Gerald Kaufman19702015Incumbent LabourManchester Gorton

House of Lords

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 Mansfield1840?1898 Conservative
The Lord Templemore184218981906 Conservative
The Earl of Leicester184419061909 Conservative
The Earl Nelson184519091913 Conservative
The Earl of Ducie185319131921 Liberal
The Earl of Coventry185919211930 Conservative
Viscount Hereford[5]186419301930
The Marquess of Huntly186919301937 Liberal
The Marquess of Ailsa4 June 187219371938 Conservative
The Lord Grantley24 May 187819381943 Conservative
Unclear 1943????
The Lord Romilly4 August 19201975?1983 Conservative
The Lord Oranmore and Browne26 July 192719831999 Conservative
The Earl Jellicoe25 July 193919992007 Conservative
The Lord Carrington9 October 19452007Incumbent Conservative

House of Commons of Northern Ireland (defunct)

Name Entered House Became Father Left House Party
J. M. Andrews192119491953 UUP
Cahir Healy192519531965 Nationalist
The Viscount Brookeborough192919651968 UUP
Sir Norman Stronge, Bt193819681969 UUP
Terence O'Neill194619691970 UUP
Brian Faulkner194919701972 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.


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:

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.


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.


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.

As the position of Father of the House usually draws a certain public attention, the Party of Democratic Socialism twice nominated old independents (Stefan Heym in 1994, Fred Gebhardt in 1998) to obtain this office. None of them served a complete term (Heym resigned in 1996, Gebhardt died in 2000). This was considered a manipulation.

Alterspräsidenten (Fathers of the House) of the German Bundestag
Bundestag Name Term Parliamentary
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 1961–1963 Robert Pferdmenges 1961–1963 CDU/CSU
Konrad Adenauer 1963–1965 CDU/CSU resumed the office after his resignation as Chancellor
5th 1965–1967 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


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 †
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 in 2015, it was Amir Peretz.


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.


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 79 years, 7 months.

New Zealand

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".


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.


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:


Note: this is a list of longest-serving Finnish MPs; however, before the election of the Speaker, the Finnish Parliament is chaired by the oldest MP, not the longest-serving one.



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.[6] As of April 2015, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is Father of the House, as the longest serving MP (Marine Parade).[6]

See also


  1. 1 2 "The Father of the House" (PDF). Factsheet M3. London: House of Commons Information Office. March 2009. 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. (Kaufman was the 351st member to take the oath in 1970, Clarke 365th.)
  4. "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 1 July 1970. Retrieved 2009-12-01. (Meacher was the 540th member to take the oath, Skinner 579th.)
  5. "The Father of the House". London: The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Retrieved 2014-05-07.
  6. 1 2 Singapore's Veteran MPs

External links

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