Interview with the former Clerk of the Parliaments

Sir Paul Hayter was the Clerk of the Parliaments in the House of Lords from July 2003 until 4 November 2007.

He discusses the wide-ranging role and highlights of his 43-year career in the Lords.

Why Clerk of the Parliaments?

'Clerk of the Parliaments' dates back to the 13th century when Parliament met infrequently, and the Clerk was appointed by the Crown to serve from one Parliament to the next.

It is still a permanent Crown appointment but, as the House of Lords has changed, so has the job. I am head of the House's administration of 475 staff - we are public servants, working for Parliament.

Does your role differ from the Clerk of the House in the Commons?

My role and that of the Clerk of the House of Commons are very similar. We are each:

  • Chief Executive of our respective House

  • Accounting Officer (responsible for the proper expenditure of taxpayers' money)

  • Chairman of the Management Board, and

  • Corporate Officer

In addition, I am:

  • the employer of the House of Lords' staff (a responsibility which the Clerk of the Commons does not have)

  • Registrar of the Court for the Lords in its judicial capacity, and

  • responsible for the text of Acts of Parliament

How often do you attend the Chamber?

I sit in the Chamber for at least 1 hour each day - the most visible part of my job. It is important both for my role as chief procedural adviser and to connect the work of the administration to the business of the House.

I call on each new item of business in the House and record decisions taken. (I do not record what is said; that is the job of the Hansard reporters.)

The most significant responsibility of the clerk who is in the Chamber, whether it is myself or another clerk, is to support parliamentary proceedings with formal or informal advice to the Lord Speaker, ministers and backbenchers.

What have been your most memorable and rewarding moments in the Lords?

Parliament is a most rewarding place to work and the House of Lords has also become a more successful and exciting Chamber in recent years.

During my 43-year career in the Lords, some of the most memorable incidents I have witnessed include:

  • the vote to abolish capital punishment for murder in 1965

  • the rejection of the Southern Rhodesia (United Nations Sanctions) Order in 1968 which set off a constitutional clash with the Commons

  • the Saturday sitting at the outbreak of the Falklands War in 1982

  • the introduction of TV cameras in 1985

  • the passing of the House of Lords Bill in 1999 resulting in the removal of most hereditary Members, and

  • the replacement of the Lord Chancellor by the Lord Speaker on 4 July 2006 when I announced the result of the election

Read more from the Clerk of the Parliaments - including his inadvertent loss of anonymity, ceremonial duties and retirement plans - in part 2 of this interview.

Related information

Hansard is the official report of the proceedings of Parliament.

Hansard reporters sit in the Chamber and record what is said and decided in both the House of Lords and House of Commons.

Read Hansard online:

Clerk of the House (Commons)

The Clerk of the House has wide-ranging duties in and out of the Commons Chamber:

Did you know?

Lords Chamber: first to be televised

TV cameras were first introduced in the House of Lords in 1985 - nearly 5 years before the House of Commons.

View live proceedings in the Lords and Commons:

Read more on the Clerk of the Parliaments

Find out more about the role and functions of the Clerk of the Parliaments: