Father of the House

Father of the House is a title that has been traditionally bestowed, unofficially, on certain members of some legislatures, most notably the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. In some legislatures the title refers to the longest continuously-serving member, while in others it refers to the oldest member. Recently, the title Mother of the House or Mother of Parliament has also been used, although the usage varies between countries; it is either the female alternative to Father of the House, being applied when the relevant member is a woman, or refers to the oldest or longest-serving woman without reference to male members.

United Kingdom

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 earlier, as listed in Hansard, is named as Father of the House.[3] Traditionally, however, the qualifications 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. The Father of the House may also participate in ceremonial events, and is the second member to be sworn in after the Speaker. At the election of the Speaker and dissolution of parliament in November 2019, the Father of the House of Commons was Kenneth Clarke representing the Rushcliffe constituency, formerly a member of the Conservative Party before becoming an Independent MP in 2019, and not running again in the subsequent election.[4] Clarke 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 the longest-continuously-serving woman MP.[7]


The titles "Father of the House" and "Father of the Senate" are sometimes used to refer to the members of each chamber of the Parliament of Australia with the longest continuous service.[8] The current Father of the House is Kevin Andrews (MP since 1991) and the current Father of the Senate is Kim Carr (senator since 1993). Incumbent MP Warren Snowdon was first elected to parliament in 1987, but his service has not been consecutive and as such he is not granted the title.[8]

According to House of Representatives Practice, the title Father of the House is a "completely informal designation" with "no functions attached to it".[9] The equivalent publication for the Senate, Odgers' Australian Senate Practice, describes the title Father of the Senate as "now seldom referred to or used". It also notes that "as no woman senator has ever been in this situation, it is not clear what the title would be in that circumstance".[10]


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. As of September 2019, the current Dean of the House is Bloc Québécois MP Louis Plamondon, who was first elected to the Commons as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1984.

European Parliament

Until 2009, the oldest member of the European Parliament presided over the opening of a new session and the election of the President of the European Parliament.[11]


Member Born Entered parliament Became oldest member
Iisakki Hoikka184019071907 – 1908
John Hedberg184019081908 – 1909
Leo Mechelin183919101910 – 1913
John Hedberg184019081914
Axel Lille184819161917
Rabbe Wrede185119101917 – 1918
Wilhelmi Malmivaara185419071919
Artur Wuorimaa185419071920 – 1921
Waldemar Bergroth185219171922 – 1926
Juho Torppa185919071927 – 1929
Anders Forsberg186419241929 – 1930
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud186119071930 – 1931
K. J. Ståhlberg186519081932
Matti Paasivuori186619071933 – 1935
Miina Sillanpää186619071936 – 1947
Akseli Brander187619331948 – 1950
Väinö Tanner188119071951 – 1953
Matti Lahtela188119301954 – 1957
Väinö Tanner188119071958 – 1961
Raino Hallberg189019511962 – 1965
Kustaa Tiitu189619451966 – 1969
Rafael Paasio190319481970 – 1975
Evald Häggblom190519661975, 1976
V. J. Sukselainen190619481976 – 1978
Mikko Kaarna191119601979 – 1982
Tuure Junnila191019511983 – 1986
Johannes Virolainen191419451987 – 1989
Tuure Junnila19101951 (again 1990)1990
Maunu Kohijoki192319871991 – 1994
Martti Tiuri192519831995 – 2002
Kalevi Lamminen193519872003 – 2006
Claes Andersson193719872007 – 2008
Jacob Söderman[12]193819722008[13][14] - 2010
Kauko Tuupainen194020112011 – 2013
Jörn Donner19331987 (again 2013)2014
Pertti Salolainen194019702015 – 2018
Erkki Tuomioja194619702019 –


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) in the Federal Republic, 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 indeed 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 he will formally declare that he indeed is the Alterspräsident and will start proceedings. (In 2017, as explained below, the position was changed to refer to the longest sitting member. Accordingly, a prospective Alterspräsident states the number of years he or she has served in the Bundestag and asking if anyone has served more years.)

The Alterspräsident then delivers the first programmatic speech and supervises the election of the President of the Bundestag, to whom he then immediately yields his power. The newly elected President 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 preside over sessions 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, to preclude a member of the Alternative for Germany become Alterspräsident following the 2017 elections.[15]

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
61969–1972William Borm1969–1972FDP
71972–1976Ludwig Erhard
81976–1980Ludwig Erhard1976–1977CDUdied in 1977
Johann Baptist Gradl
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, since 1972), 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 de facto 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 24 February to 30 March 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 was the oldest-serving MP aged 82 years, 8 months until former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was reelected to the Dewan Rakyat at 94 years, 5 months of age.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the term "Father of the House" (alternatively, "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 became the longest-serving member in March 2018, having served continuously since the 1990 general election.[16]


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.[17] As of April 2015, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is Father of the House, as the longest-serving MP (Marine Parade).[17]


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

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

United States

In the United States, the title "Father" of the House (although used for about a century starting in 1816[18]) does not exist, but in the lower house, the House of Representatives the position known as Dean of the House is almost exactly the same position—that is, it is a largely ceremonial position bestowed on the member with the longest continuous service. Less similar is the position in the Senate (the upper house) known as President Pro Tempore, the holder of which has since 1945 gained the position through seniority, but who also must be a member of the party holding a majority in the Senate.

Since 2017, the Dean of the House has been Don Young, who was elected to the House of Representatives in a special election in 1973. Young is the first Alaskan to hold the position.

See also


  1. "Father of the House: House of Commons Background Paper". House of Commons Library. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  2. "The Father of the House" (PDF). Factsheet M3. London: House of Commons Information Office. March 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  3. 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. "Boris Johnson to seek election after rebel Tories deliver Commons defeat". Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  5. "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 30 June 1970. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  6. "Members Sworn". Hansard. Hansard Digitisation Project. 1 July 1970. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  7. "Election of Speaker". Hansard. UK: Commons. 13 June 2017.
  8. Green, Antony (20 March 2018). "Who will be the Father of the House when Philip Ruddock Retires?". ABC News. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  9. "Titles accorded to members". House of Representatives Practice (6th edition). Parliament of Australia. 2012.
  10. "Seniority of senators". Odgers' Australian Senate Practice (14th edition). Parliament of Australia. 2016.
  11. Traynor, Ian (6 May 2009). "MEPs deny Jean-Marie Le Pen parliamentary honour". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  12. Söderman toimi puhemiesvaalin toimittajana, koska Andersson oli sairauslomalla; Hs.fi: Sauli Niinistö jatkaa eduskunnan puhemiehenä. Viitattu 24.4.2015. (in Finnish)
  13. Eduskunta: Täysistunnon pöytäkirja PTK 1/2008 vp (in Finnish)
  14. Eduskunta: Täysistunnon pöytäkirja PTK 1/2009 vp (in Finnish)
  15. "Deutscher Bundestag - I. Wahl des Präsidenten, der Stellvertreter und Schriftführer".
  16. "Back to reality: Ardern has a daunting list to check off". Noted. 12 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  17. "Pressrun.net". www.pressrun.net.
  18. House.gov page "Deans/Fathers of the House"
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