Black Rod

Black Rod is a senior officer in the House of Lords. He is responsible for security, controlling access to and maintaining order within the House and its precincts.

The Clerk of the Parliaments, to whom Black Rod reports, is in overall charge of the administration of the House, which provides all other services for Members of the Lords.

Black Rod's parliamentary duties fall into two categories: administrative (security) and ceremonial.

Administrative duties

Black Rod's post consists of the following functions.

Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod

This is a Crown appointment. It is responsible for:

  • security of the House of Lords

  • organising access to and maintaining order within the Lords Chamber and the precincts

  • police services and fire safety.

Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain

Appointed by the Lord Great Chamberlain, Black Rod is responsible for and participates in the major ceremonial events in the Palace of Westminster.

He is also responsible for the Queen's residual estate in the Palace (eg the Robing Room and the Royal Gallery).

Ceremonial duties: State Opening

Black Rod's role at the State Opening of Parliament is one of the most well-known images of Parliament.

Black Rod is sent from the Lords Chamber to the Commons Chamber to summon MPs to hear the Queen's Speech. Traditionally the door of the Commons is slammed in Black Rod's face to symbolise the Commons independence.

He then bangs three times on the door with the rod. The door to the Commons Chamber is then opened and all MPs – talking loudly – follow Black Rod back to the Lords to hear the Queen's Speech.

Related information

Images of Parliament

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