The Clerk of the House is the principal officer of the House of Commons. The office first emerged as a Crown appointment chiefly for the purpose of recording the House’s proceedings.
Today, the Clerk is the utmost authority on House of Commons procedures and privilege, as well as its Chief Executive Officer.
The Clerk sits at the Table in front of the Speaker, and is recognisable in the traditional uniform of bob wig and court dress.
The office of the Clerk of the House emerged roughly a century after that of the Clerk of the Parliaments, as the Commons became sufficiently distinct from the Lords.
The first clerk, Robert de Melton, was a Chancery Clerk – i.e. a member of the personal staff of the Lord Chancellor – who was appointed by the King specifically to serve the Lower House. The official title of the role was and is ‘Under-Clerk of Parliament’.
Until the seventeenth century, Clerks were closely associated with the Sovereign and his or her Government, and together with other figures such as the Speaker, constituted the core machinery for getting the work of the House done.
In the late seventeenth, some incumbents of the Clerk’s Office – such as Paul Jodrell (Clerk from 1683 to 1727) – gained a reputation for procedural expertise. The Clerk’s Department also expanded after the Restoration.
The Clerk of the House is assisted in the office's roles and responsibilities by the Clerk Assistant.
Learn more about how the history and appointment of the Clerk of the House