Clerk of the Parliaments

The Clerk of the Parliaments is the chief clerk of the House of Lords in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The position has existed since at least 1315, and duties include preparing the minutes of Lords proceedings, advising on proper parliamentary procedure and pronouncing the Royal Assent. Many of the Clerk's duties are now fulfilled by his deputies and the Clerk of the Parliaments' Office.

Clerk of the Parliaments
Simon Burton

since 2 April 2021
Clerk of the Parliaments' Office
AppointerElizabeth II

The Under Clerk of the Parliaments is the formal name for the Clerk of the House of Commons.[1]

The term Clerk of the Parliaments is also used as a formal alternative title by the Clerk of the Senate of Canada[2] and the Clerks of the Legislative Councils of New South Wales[3] and Western Australia.[4] In the Australian state of Victoria the title is given to the longer-serving of the Clerks of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly.[5] The title was also formerly used for the Clerk of the Australian Senate[6][7] and the longer-serving of the Clerks of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of South Australia.[8]


The position has existed since at least 1315, when records from the parliament held by Edward II at Lincoln make reference to a clerk nominated by the king to serve as a "special deputy".[9] This clerk was tasked with reading out the titles of bills and the responses from Parliament. In later parliaments starting with those under Richard II, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery would read the titles, and the Clerk of the Parliaments the responses.[10] The actual term "Clerk of the Parliaments" did not come into use until the reign of Henry VIII, and the plural (parliaments, rather than Parliament) signifies that it is a life appointment – the clerk is appointed for all parliaments, not just the one currently sitting.[9] On 12 March 1660 a deputy clerk was appointed for the first time after the clerk (Mr Bowyer) was too ill to attend Parliament.[11] The Clerk of the Parliaments Act 1824 defined the clerk's duties for the first time in statute, and the Act is still in force and binding on current clerks.[12]

Appointment and duties

The Clerk of the Parliaments is appointed by letters patent from the sovereign, who also holds the sole power to remove him or her.[13] The Clerk has a variety of tasks within the House of Lords. Appointees were originally ecclesiastical figures, although the nineteenth century saw a shift towards members of the legal profession.[14] He is assisted by two other clerks – the Clerk Assistant and the Reading Clerk.[15]

The Clerk of the Parliaments, or another clerk, sits in the chamber at the table of the house during sittings, and calls on items of business. At the start of a sitting all three table clerks (Clerk of the Parliaments, Clerk Assistant and Reading Clerk) are normally present. When at the Table the Clerk wears court dress (including a tail coat and waistcoat), a gown and a wig. The wig worn by the Clerk of the Parliaments is a bench wig as worn by a High Court judge; other clerks wear a barrister's wig.[16] Male clerks wear a wing collar and white bow tie, and female clerks bands as worn by barristers.

As well as providing advice on procedure, the clerk also prepares the minutes of proceedings in the Lords, signs all official documents and communications, returns bills to the House of Commons and pronounces the Royal Assent.[17] The clerk also supervises several offices, including his own (the Clerk of the Parliaments' Office), Black Rod's Department, which deals with security in the Lords, the Committee Office, which gives legal and procedural advice to committees within the Lords, and formerly (until 2009) the Judicial Office, which advised and assisted the Law Lords.[18] Since the nineteenth century many of these duties have been performed by his deputies and his own office.[11]

Office holders

Term Name[12][19] Notes
?1280–1290John Kirkby
1290–1314Gilbert of Rothbury
1315Robert of Ashby
1316–William of Airmyn
c1327 – post 1334Henry of Edenstowe
c1340–1346Thomas of Brayton
in office 1351 & 1352John of Coddington
in office 1377Geoffrey Martin
in office 1377Edmund Brudenell
?1372–1386Richard de Ravenser
?c1381John de Waltham
ante 1384–1394John de Scarle
1394–1414John Rome
1414–1423John Frank
1424–1436William Prestwyke
1437–1438John Bate
1438–1447Thomas Kirkby
1447–1470John Fawkes
1470–1471Baldwin Hyde
1471–1483John Gunthorpe
1483–1485Thomas Hutton
1485–1496John Morgan
1496–1509Richard Hatton
1509–1523John Taylor
1523–1531Brian Tuke
1531–1540Edward North
1540–1541Thomas Soulemont
1541–1543William Paget
NA[clarification needed]Thomas Knight
1550–1551John Mason
1574–NA[clarification needed]Francis Spelman
1574–1597Anthony Mason
1597–1609Thomas SmithKnighted 1603
1609–1621Robert Bowyer
1621–1635Henry Elsynge
1635–1637Thomas Knyvett
1637–1638Daniel Bedingfield
1638–1644John Browne
1644Edward Norgate
1649–1660Henry Scobell
1660–1691John Browne
1691–1716Matthew Johnson
1716–1740William Cowper
1740–1788Ashley Cowper
1788–1818George Rose
1818–1855George Henry Rose
1855–1875John Shaw-Lefevre
1875–1885William Rose
1885–1917Sir Henry Graham
1917–1930Sir Arthur Thring
1930–1934Sir Edward Alderson
1934–1949Sir Henry Badeley
1949–1953Sir Robert Overbury
1953–1959Sir Francis Lascelles
1959–1963Sir Victor Goodman
1963–1974Sir David Stephens
1974–1983Sir Peter Henderson
1983[20]–1990Sir John Sainty
1991–1997Sir Michael Wheeler-Booth
1997 – 13 July 2003Sir Michael Davies
14 July 2003[21] – 3 November 2007Sir Paul HayterKnighted 2007
4 November 2007[22][23] – 15 April 2011Sir Michael PownallKnighted 2011
16 April 2011[24] – 15 April 2017[25]Sir David BeamishKnighted 2017
18 April 2017[26] – 1 April 2021Sir Edward OllardKnighted 2021
2 April 2021[27] – presentSimon Burton


  1. "Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992, Section 2". The National Archives. Retrieved 14 January 2017. The individual who for the time being is by letters patent appointed to the office of the Under Clerk of the Parliaments (and who is customarily referred to as the Clerk of the House of Commons) shall be the Corporate Officer of the Commons.
  2. "Officers and Officials of Parliament". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  3. "Structure of the Department of the Legislative Council". Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  4. "Clerks of the Houses" (PDF). Parliament of Western Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  5. "Fact Sheet H3: The Clerk". Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  6. "Administration - The Parliamentary Departments". Parliament of Australia. 2009. Archived from the original on 6 January 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  7. "Chapter 20 - Bills: 137 Presentation for assent". Parliament of Australia. 2010. Archived from the original on 5 May 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  8. "Statistical Record of the Legislature 1836-2007" (PDF). Parliament of South Australia. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 March 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  9. Macqueen (1842) p.63
  10. Pollard (1942) p.314
  11. Macqueen (1842) p.64
  12. "The Clerk of the Parliaments: Role and Functions". Houses of Parliament. Archived from the original on 15 October 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  13. The Stationery Office (2007) p.18
  14. Macqueen (1842) p.65
  15. "Clerk of the Parliaments". BBC News. 14 August 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  16. "The Clerk of the Parliaments Office". Houses of Parliament. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  17. The Stationery Office (2007) p.19
  18. The Stationery Office (2007) p.21
  19. Appointments prior to 1485 are taken from Guide to the Records of Parliament by M F Bond (HMSO 1971), p.303
  20. "No. 52373". The London Gazette. 1 August 1983. p. 10125.
  21. "No. 57004". The London Gazette. 18 July 2003. p. 8985.
  22. "No. 58508". The London Gazette. 12 November 2007. p. 16365.
  23. "No. 59601". The London Gazette. 10 November 2010. p. 21635.
  24. "No. 59769". The London Gazette. 27 April 2011. p. 7952.
  25. "House of Lords Minutes 10 January 2017". UK Parliament website. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  26. "The Clerk of the Parliaments: Role and Functions". UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 8 August 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  27. "Next Clerk of the Parliaments appointed". UK Parliament. 17 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.