Lord President of the Council
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking below the Lord High Treasurer but above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends and is responsible for presiding over meetings of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval. In the modern era, the holder is by convention always a member of one of the Houses of Parliament, and the office is normally a Cabinet post.
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|Lord President of the Council|
|Privy Council Office|
|Style||The Right Honourable|
|Appointer||Monarch of the United Kingdom|
on advice of the Prime Minister
|Inaugural holder||Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk|
|Formation||14 August 1530|
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|Politics of the United Kingdom|
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The office and its history
The Privy Council meets once a month, wherever the sovereign may be residing at the time, to give formal approval to Orders in Council. Only a few privy counsellors need attend such meetings, and only when invited to do so at the government's request. As the duties of the Lord President are not onerous, the post has often been given to a government minister whose responsibilities are not department-specific. In recent years it has been most typical for the Lord President also to serve as Leader of the House of Commons or Leader of the House of Lords. The Lord President has no role in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Unlike some of the other Great Officers of State, the office of Lord President is not very ancient (relative to the over 1,000-year history of government in the British Isles), the first certain appointment to the office being that of the Duke of Suffolk in 1529. (Although there is a reference to Edmund Dudley serving as 'president of the council' in 1497, it was only in 1529 that the role was given the style and precedence of a Great Officer of State by Act of Parliament (An Act that the President of the King's Counsel shall be associate with the Chancellor and Treasurer of England, and the Keeper of the King's Privy Seal).) Prior to 1679 there were several periods in which the office was left vacant.
In the 19th century, the Lord President was generally the cabinet member responsible for the education system, amongst his other duties. This role was gradually scaled back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but remnants of it remain, such as the oversight of the governance of various universities.
During times of National or coalition government the office of Lord President has sometimes been held by the leader of a minority party (e.g. Baldwin 1931-1935, MacDonald 1935-1937, Attlee 1943-1945, Clegg 2010-2015).
A particularly vital role was played by the Lord President of the Council during the Second World War. The Lord President served as chairman of the Lord President's Committee. This committee acted as a central clearing house which dealt with the country's economic problems. This was vital to the smooth running of the British war economy and consequently the entire British war effort.
Winston Churchill, clearly believing that this wartime co-ordinating role was beneficial, introduced a similar but expanded system in the first few years of his post-war premiership. The so-called 'overlord ministers' included Frederick Leathers as 'Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power' and Lord Woolton as Lord President. Woolton's job was to co-ordinate the then separate ministries of agriculture and food. The historian Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield quotes a PhD thesis by Michael Kandiah saying that Woolton was 'arguably the most successful of the Overlords' partly because his ministries were quite closely related; indeed, they were merged in 1955 as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
On several occasions since 1954, non-British Ministers have served briefly as acting Lords President of the Council, solely to preside over a meeting of the Privy Council held in a Commonwealth realm. Examples of this practice are the meetings in New Zealand in 1990 and 1995, when Geoffrey Palmer and James Bolger respectively were acting Lords President.
Before the 2010 United Kingdom general election, the Lord President was The Lord Mandelson, who was also First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. This was the first time that the Lord President had not been a leader of one of the two Houses since the period 20 October 1963 to 16 October 1964, when Quintin Hogg (2nd Viscount Hailsham until November 1963), after resigning his post as Leader of the House of Lords, held the office along with the offices of Minister for Sport and, from 1 April 1964, also of Secretary of State for Education and Science.
The Lord President also serves as the visitor for several British universities, including:
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bristol
- University of Hull
- Imperial College London
- Keele University
- University of Leeds
- University of Leicester
- University of Liverpool
- University of London (but not King's College London or University College London)
- University of Nottingham
- University of Reading
- University of Sheffield
- University of Southampton
- University of Sussex
Partial list of Lords President of the Council
Lords President of the Council (c.1530–1702)
|Term of office|
1st Duke of Suffolk
1st Marquess of Winchester
1st Duke of Northumberland
1st Earl of Manchester
1st Earl of Marlborough
1st Viscount Conway
1st Earl of Shaftesbury
1st Earl of Radnor
1st Earl of Rochester
1st Marquess of Halifax
2nd Earl of Sunderland
1st Viscount Preston
1st Duke of Leeds
8th Earl of Pembroke
6th Duke of Somerset
Lord Presidents of the Council (1702–present)
- Marquess of Carmarthen from 1689, created Duke of Leeds in 1694
- Served as Secretary of State for the Northern Department from February 1721
- Served as Secretary of State for the Northern Department from November 1744
- Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from December 1750
- The Prince of Wales served as Prince Regent from 5 February 1811.
- Baron Camden from 1765; created Earl Camden and Viscount Bayham in 1786
- Lord Privy Seal until February 1798
- Earl of Ripon and Earl de Grey from 1859; created Marquess of Ripon in 1871
- Served Leader of the House of Lords until August 1876
- Served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from May 1882
- Served as Lord Privy Seal until March 1885
- Served as Secretary of State for War from January 1886
- Served as President of the Board of Education March 1900 – July 1902
- Served as Leader of the House of Lords from July 1902
- Served as Secretary of State for India March 1911– May 1911
- Served as President of the Board of Trade from August 1916
- MP for City of London until 1922; thereafter created Earl of Balfour and Viscount Traprain and joined the House of Lords
- Served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster until May 1923
- Served as Lord Privy Seal September 1932 - December 1933
- MP for Seaham until 1935; returned to Parliament as MP for Combined Scottish Universities in 1936
- Served as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from February 1938
- MP for Lewisham East until 1950; MP for Lewisham South thereafter.
- Viscount Hailsham until 1963 when disclaimed under the Peerage Act 1963; returned to Parliament as MP for St. Marylebone in 1963
- Served as Leader of the House of Lords until October 1963
- Served as Minister for Science from October 1963 – April 1964
- Served as Secretary of State for Education and Science from April 1964
- With special responsibility for political and constitutional reform
- Privy Council Office
- Vice-President of the Executive Council
- President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada
- "Privy Council: Guide to its origins, powers and members". BBC News. 8 October 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
The body convenes, on average, about once a month and its meetings - known as councils - are presided over by The Queen.
- Fryde, E. B. (1986) . Handbook of British Chronology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- 21 Hen. 8, c.20
- Hennessy, Peter. The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders Since 1945 (2000), pp.189–190.
- Hennessy, p.191
- Hennessy, pp.193
- Viscount Samuel (18 May 1954). "Her Majesty's Return". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 187. House of Lords. col. 645.
... there has been constitutional work done, there have been acts of State: ... meetings of the Privy Council, an organ of the Constitution older than Parliament itself, for wherever the Sovereign is, and three Privy Counsellors are present, there may be meetings of the Council and Orders passed. So, during this tour there have been sessions of the Privy Council in Australia, in New Zealand and in Ceylon, with their own local Privy Council members – members of the one single Imperial Privy Council, but their own local members.
- Cox, Noel (1998–99). "The Dichotomy of Legal Theory and Political Reality: The Honours Prerogative and Imperial Unity". Australian Journal of Law and Society. 1 (14): 15–42. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
The Queen has in fact regularly presided over meetings of the Privy Council in New Zealand, since her first in 1954. That was the first held by the Sovereign outside the United Kingdom, although in 1920 Edward Prince of Wales held a Council in Wellington to swear in the Earl of Liverpool as Governor-General.
- Kumarasingham, Harshan (2010). Onward with Executive Power: Lessons from New Zealand 1947–57 (PDF). Wellington, New Zealand: Institute of Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-877347-37-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
The Queen held a meeting of the Privy Council [on 13 January 1954] at the 'Court at Government House at Wellington' with her New Zealand prime minister as 'acting Lord President' of the council. The deputy prime minister, Keith Holyoake, 'secured for himself a place in constitutional history by becoming the first member to be sworn of Her Majesty’s Council outside the United Kingdom'.
- Patrick Wintour (5 June 2009). "Weakened Gordon Brown unable to shift cabinet's bigger beasts". Guardian.co.uk. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
- D. Butler and G. Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000
- "Election 2017: Prime Minister and Cabinet appointments". GOV.UK. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
- "Universities". Privy Council. 1 January 2005. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
- "No. 12750". The London Gazette. 9 May 1786. p. 201.
- "No. 23748". The London Gazette. 20 June 1871. p. 2847.
- "No. 32691". The London Gazette. 5 May 1922. p. 3512.
- "No. 15252". The Edinburgh Gazette. 4 February 1936. p. 134.
- "No. 39372". The London Gazette. 30 October 1951. p. 5663.
- "No. 43180". The London Gazette. 10 December 1963. p. 10099.