Interview with the former Clerk of the Parliaments-part two

What do you wear when you attend the Chamber?

I wear a wig and gown over court dress. Once a year, for the State Opening of Parliament, my uniform includes breeches.

Most of the year the table clerks are distinctive in a Chamber where Members are dressed in everyday business clothes and the clerks are in wigs. This gives the clerks who sit at the Table - hence the term 'table clerks' - a degree of anonymity.

In 1992 my anonymity was blown when the former Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, was introduced and, as the clerk who read out her Letters Patent, my picture along with hers went round the world in print and broadcast media.

What is your role during the State Opening and prorogation ceremonies?

At State Opening I have a non-active role, sitting with the other table clerks and the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery in the front row behind the judges.

At prorogation, I have an important speaking role, since in the Queen's absence it is my duty to signify her Royal Assent to the Bills which have passed both Houses. I do this in Norman French, with the words 'La Reine le veult' - the Queen wishes it. In November 2006, I repeated the phrase 19 times, turning to face the House of Commons at the Bar of the House each time.

What changes have you instigated as Clerk of the Parliaments?

During my tenure, the administration has adjusted quickly to the changes in membership of the House and is respected by the new House.

We are an efficient, business-like and, going by the results of the recent staff survey, contented organisation. I have tried to ensure that every member of staff is valued for what they are, and have removed glass ceilings.

Changes to which I am pleased to have contributed include:

  • the purchase of 1&2 Millbank to remedy the chronic shortage of accommodation for Members

  • increased co-operation with the House of Commons, including the creation of a new Joint Department for Parliamentary ICT (PICT), and

  • the increasing professionalisation of Lords staff

You recently announced you will retire on 3 November 2007; what plans do you have post-House of Lords?

I shall do some charity work and find time for my various interests, such as gardening, painting, singing and playing the French horn, and I shall research Northamptonshire local history in detailed discussion with my wife.

Related information

Glossary terms

Prorogation: formal end of the parliamentary year.

Clerk of the Crown in Chancery: head of the Crown Office, responsible for initiating a parliamentary election in a constituency by issuing an election writ.

Letters Patent

Letters Patent create a life peerage in the Lords and are issued by the Queen. Recipients become Members of the Lords automatically when Letters Patent are received but cannot sit or vote until their introduction.

Read more on membership of the Lords: