New Clerk of the Parliaments takes office

L-R: Reading Clerk, Rhodri Walters; new Clerk Assistant, Edward Ollard; new Clerk of the Parliaments, David Beamish © Parliamentary copyright
27 April 2011

David Beamish has succeeded Michael Pownall as the Clerk of the Parliaments – the most senior official in the House of Lords. David took his oath of office at the Table of the House in the Lords chamber on Tuesday 26 April, becoming the 63rd holder of the office.

What the Clerk of the Parliaments does

Comparable to the role of chief executive, the Clerk of the Parliaments leads the House of Lords administration and is responsible for ensuring the House of Lords has the support it needs to do its legislative work and to hold the Government to account – everything which makes the Lords an effective second chamber of the UK Parliament.

Appointment of the Clerk of the Parliaments

At the start of business Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the House moved a motion paying tribute to the former Clerk of the Parliaments, Michael Pownall who retired on 15 April.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Leader of the opposition in the House of Lords, Lord McNally, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness D’Souza, Convener of the Crossbenches and Baroness Hayman, the Lord Speaker, were among the Members of the Lords who paid tribute to Michael Pownall.

The motion was agreed in Latin ‘nemine dissentiente’ which means none dissenting.

The short ceremony introducing the new Clerk of the Parliaments followed.

The Clerk of the Parliaments is appointed by authority of the Crown. The ceremony requires the new Clerk of the Parliaments to present their letters patent –  an open letter from the Monarch that publicly proclaims the granting of office – and make a declaration that includes an undertaking to ‘well and truly’ serve the Queen.

The ceremony was followed by a motion to appoint the Clerk Assistant who assists the Clerk of the Parliaments in carrying out his duties. This motion was also agreed nemine dissentiente.

Further information

The role of Clerk of the Parliaments has a long history dating back to the late 13th century. The job title is thought to reflect the fact that in the Middle Ages there was sometimes quite a gap between one meeting of Parliament and another – clerks serving successive Parliaments provided an element of continuity. Today the responsibilities of the Clerk of the Parliaments relate to the administration and management of the House of Lords.

Clerk Assistant

The Clerk Assistant is responsible to the Board for parliamentary services. The Clerk Assistant keeps the Minutes of Proceedings of the House and prepares the Order Paper containing future business. Edward Ollard replaces David Beamish who formerly held this role.

The Clerk Assistant, along with the Reading Clerk, sits at the Table of the House on the right hand of the Clerk of the Parliaments and, like the Clerk of the Parliaments, both are members of the House of Lords Management Board.

Reading Clerk

The Reading Clerk records the daily attendances, reads aloud the letters patent and writs of summons of newly created Members on the occasion of their introductions and administers the oath. He also reads the commissions for Royal Assent and prorogation. Rhodri Walters, the present Reading Clerk, will read out the new Clerk of the Parliaments’ letters patent.

Image: Reading Clerk, Rhodri Walters (left); the new Clerk Assistant, Edward Ollard (centre); the new Clerk of the Parliaments, David Beamish (right) at the table in the House of Lords chamber. Parliamentary copyright

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