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Lord President of the Council

The Lord Mandelson
Took office: 5 June 2009

Style: The Right Honourable
Appointed by: Gordon Brown
as Prime Minister
First : Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk
Formation: 14 August 1530
United Kingdom
File:Her Majesty'

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The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President has the responsibility of presiding over meetings of the Privy Council. In the modern era, the holder is by convention always a member of one of the houses of Parliament and the office is a cabinet post.


The office and its history

The Privy Council meets once a month, wherever the Sovereign may be residing at the time, to give formal approval to Orders-in-Council. Only a few privy counsellors need attend such meetings, and only when invited to do so at the Government's request. As the duties of the Lord President are not onerous, the post has often been given to a government minister whose responsibilities are not department-specific. In recent years it has been most usual for the Lord President to also serve as Leader of the House of Commons. Between 2003 and 2009 the office was combined with that of Leader of the House of Lords.

The current Lord President is Lord Mandelson, who is also First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.[1] This is the first time that the Lord President has not been a leader of one of the Houses since the period 20 October 1963 to 16 October 1964, wherein Lord Hailsham, after resigning as Leader of the House of Lords, kept the office along with the offices of Minister for Sport and, from 1 April 1964, also of Secretary of State for Education and Science[2].

On several occasions non-British Ministers have served briefly as acting Lords President of the Council, solely to preside over a meeting of the Privy Council held in a Commonwealth realm. Examples of this practice are the meetings in New Zealand in 1990 and 1995, when Sir Geoffrey Palmer and James Bolger respectively were acting Lord Presidents.

In the 19th century, the Lord President was generally the cabinet member responsible for the educational system amongst their other duties. This role was gradually scaled back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but remnants of it remain, such as the oversight of the governance of various universities.

A particularly vital role was played by the Lord President of the Council during the Second World War. The Lord President served as chairman of the Lord President's Committee. This committee acted as a central clearing house for dealing with economic problems that affected the country. As such, it was vital to the smooth running of the British war economy and consequently the entire British war effort.

Winston Churchill, clearly believing that this wartime co-ordinating role was beneficial, introduced a similar but expanded system in the first few years of his post-war premiership[3]. The so-called 'overlord ministers' included Lord Leathers as 'Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power' and Lord Woolton as Lord President. Woolton's job was to co-ordinate the then separate ministries of agriculture and food[4]. The historian Peter Hennessy quotes a PhD thesis by Michael Kandiah saying that Woolton was 'arguably the most successful of the Overlords' partly because his ministries were quite closely related, indeed they were merged in 1955 as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food[5].

The Lord President has no role in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Visitorial role

The Lord President also serves as the Visitor for several British universities including:

Partial list of office holders




Since 1678

See also


  1. ^ Patrick Wintour (2009-06-05). "Weakened Gordon Brown unable to shift cabinet's bigger beasts". (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved on 2009-06-05. 
  2. ^ D. Butler and G. Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900-2000
  3. ^ Hennessy, Peter. The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders Since 1945 (2000), pp.189-190.
  4. ^ Hennessy, p.191
  5. ^ Hennessy, pp.193

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL, in England, one of the great officers of state, and a member of the ministry. It was only in 1679 that the office of lord president became permanent. Previously either the lord chancellor, the lord keeper of the seal, or some particular court official took formal direction of the Privy Council. In the reign of Charles I. a special lord president of the council was appointed, but in the following reign the office was left unfilled. The office was of considerable importance when the powers of the Privy Council, exercised through various committees, were of greater extent than at the present time. For example, a committee of the lords of the council was formerly responsible for the work now dealt with by the secretary of state for foreign affairs; so also with that now discharged by the Board of Trade. The lord president up to 1855 - when a new post of vice-president of the council was created - was responsible for the education department. He was also responsible for the duties of the council in regard to public health, now transferred to the Local Government Board, and for duties in regard to agriculture, now transferred to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. The duties of the office now consist of presiding on the not very frequent occasions when the Privy Council meets, and of the drawing up of minutes of council upon subjects which do not belong to any other department of state. The office is very frequently held in conjunction with other ministerial offices, for example, in Gladstone's fourth ministry the secretary of state for India was also lord president of the council, and in the conservative ministry of 1903 the holder of the office was also president of the Board of Education. The lord president is appointed by a declaration made in council. by the sovereign. He is invariably a member of the House of Lords, and he is also included in the cabinet.

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