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Clerk of the Parliaments Act 1824

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The Clerk of the Parliaments is the chief clerk of the House of Lords. The title has been around in some form since the Middle Ages. It wasn’t until the Clerk of the Parliaments Act 1824 that the role was defined. 200 years later the Act and the title are still in use today.

A Long History

The role originated in the Middle Ages, with the title of ‘Clerk of the Parliament’. Initially, the Clerk appointment would finish at the end of each parliament. The role gained its plural term ‘Clerk of the Parliaments’ during the reign of Henry VIII to show that the role would serve throughout multiple parliaments rather than end and start with each new parliament.

At this time the Clerk of the Parliaments was appointed by Letters Patent from the Sovereign and was usually granted for life unless surrendered or forfeited.


Why the Clerk of the Parliaments Act 1824 was passed

The 1824 Act defined and regulated the Clerk’s role, outlining their responsibilities, in particular, that these duties must be carried out in person. The Act stated that the Clerk was to continue to be appointed by Letters Patent and that they could also be removed by the Sovereign upon an address of the House of Lords. Previously the Clerk of the Parliaments appointed the Assistant Clerks within the Office, but after the 1824 Act Assistant Clerks of the Parliaments were appointed by the Lord Chancellor.

In 1810 the Select Committee on Sinecure Offices, investigated offices and titles, including the Clerk of the Parliaments, whose positions required little work but offered status or financial benefit. During this time other offices had similarly been investigated and either reformed or abolished entirely. The issue for the Clerk of the Parliaments Office was in part due to absentee Clerks especially throughout the 18th century, as stated by the committee “the Clerk of the Parliaments has done no duty for nearly a century”. They would simply collect their salary, at most sign orders of the House and the rest of the duties were carried out by Assistant Clerks. These absentee clerks were William Cowper (1716-1740), Ashley Cowper (1740-1788) and George Rose (1788-1818). This is why the 1824 Act states that the Clerk should carry out their duties in person.

handwritten on parchment
Clerk of the Parliaments Act, 1824, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PU/1/1824/5G4n275

Sir George Henry Rose, son of George Rose, was the Clerk of Parliaments from 1818 until his death in 1855. Like his father, George Henry Rose was also an absentee clerk and had been Clerk for 6 years when the 1824 Act was passed. This restricted the Act’s immediate effectiveness, as the in-person requirement began following the death of George Henry Rose. So, it would not be until the next Clerk, Sir John George Shaw Lefevre (1855-1875), was appointed that this stipulation would be applied. The Act also had temporary provisions, only in effect during George Henry Rose’s lifetime. For example, his salary was to stay the same and he would continue to appoint the Clerk Assistants.

typed document
Letters Patent of George Henry Rose, 28 January 1818, Parliamentary, HL/PO/JO/10/8/403/4d

Following the Act, in the latter half of the 19th century, the Clerk of the Parliaments’ Office developed and became more professional, supporting the Clerk’s duties, the needs of Members of the House and other offices such as the House of Lords Commission and the House of Lords Speaker.


Duties of the Clerk of the Parliaments Today

The Clerk of the Parliaments is responsible for a variety of different functions within the House of Lords. They are the head of the House of Lords Administration, the Accounting Officer, the Chair of the Lords Management Board and the Chief Procedural Adviser to name only some.

You can see below the Bank of England passbook used by George Henry Rose for finances and accounts during his time as Clerk of the Parliaments.

Bank of England passbook for Sir George Henry Rose, Clerk of the Parliaments, and John William Birch, Clerk Assistant, 1838-1846, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/AC/1/13

The Clerk of the Parliaments can often be seen sitting at the table in the House of Lords Chamber during sittings, alongside the Clerk Assistant and Reading Clerk who assist with the Clerk’s chamber duties.

Image of the clerks table in the UK house of Lords chamber
Photographs of clerks during the election of Baroness Hayman as first Lord Speaker, 2006, HC/OCE/1/167

The Clerk maintains the authentic records of proceedings, endorsing all bills when being passed to the House of Commons and pronouncing Royal Assent when an Act officially comes into law.

Additionally, the Clerk is the custodian of records for both Houses of Parliament, which are held in the Parliamentary Archives. The Archives of the Clerk of the Parliaments’ Office can be found, dating back to 1862 when the Office became more professional following the 1824 Act in our collections. The Clerk of the Parliaments’ Office records can be found on the Parliamentary Archives catalogue

Parliamentary Archives collections and some associated services will have relocated to The National Archives in Kew by summer 2025. Access to some collections will be limited from Jan 2024. To find out how the move affects you, see the plan your visit page:

Find out more about the Archives Relocation Programme on the website


Clerk of the Parliaments:

House of Lords FAQs:

Clerk of the Parliaments Office:

The Financial Administration and Records of the Parliament Office, 1824-1868, David Dewar, 1967

Clerks of the Parliaments, 1509-1953, Maurice Bond, The English Historical Review, January 1958, Vol.73, No.286

The Office of Clerk of the Parliaments, Maurice Bond, 1960

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