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The lord president of the Council is the presiding officer of the
Privy Council of the United Kingdom The Privy Council (PC), officially His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of ei ...
and the fourth of the Great Officers of State, ranking below the Lord High Treasurer but above the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends and is responsible for chairing the meetings of the Privy Council, presenting business for the approval of the sovereign. In the modern era, the incumbent is by convention always a member of one of the Houses of Parliament, and the office is normally a Cabinet position.


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 An Order-in-Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realms. In the United Kingdom this legislation is formally made in the name of the monarch by and with the advice and consent of the Privy Council (''Ki ...
. 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 typical for the Lord President also to serve as
Leader of the House of Commons The leader of the House of Commons is a minister of the Crown of the Government of the United Kingdom whose main role is organising government business in the House of Commons. The leader is generally a member or attendee of the cabinet of the ...
or Leader of the House of Lords. The Lord President has no role in the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is the highest court of appeal for the Crown Dependencies, the British Overseas Territories, some Commonwealth countries and a few institutions in the United Kingdom. Established on 14 Augu ...
. Unlike some of the other Great Officers of State, the office of Lord President is not very old (relative to the over 1,000-year history of government in the British Isles), the first certain appointment to the office being that of the Duke of Suffolk in 1529. (Although there is a reference to Edmund Dudley serving as 'president of the council' in 1497, it was only in 1529 that the role was given the style and precedence of a Great Officer of State by Act of Parliament (''An Act that the President of the King's Counsel shall be associate with the Chancellor and Treasurer of England, and the Keeper of the King's Privy Seal'').) Prior to 1679 there were several periods in which the office was left vacant. In the 19th century, the Lord President was generally the cabinet member responsible for the education system, amongst his 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. During times of
National National may refer to: Common uses * Nation or country ** Nationality – a ''national'' is a person who is subject to a nation, regardless of whether the person has full rights as a citizen Places in the United States * National, Maryland, c ...
or
coalition government A coalition government is a form of government in which political parties cooperate to form a government. The usual reason for such an arrangement is that no single party has achieved an absolute majority after an election, an atypical outcome in ...
the office of Lord President has sometimes been held by the leader of a minority party (e.g. Baldwin 1931–1935, MacDonald 1935–1937, Attlee 1943–1945, Clegg 2010–2015). It has been suggested that the office has been intermittently used for Prime Ministerial deputies in the past. 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 which dealt with the country's economic problems. This was vital to the smooth running of the British war economy and consequently the entire British war effort.
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 during the Second World War, and again from 1 ...
, 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. The so-called 'overlord ministers' included Frederick 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. The historian Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield 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. On several occasions since 1954, 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 A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in the Commonwealth of Nations whose monarch and head of state is shared among the other realms. Each realm functions as an independent state, equal with the other realms and nations of the Commonwealt ...
. Examples of this practice are the meetings in New Zealand in 1990 and 1995, when
Geoffrey Palmer Geoffrey Palmer may refer to: Politicians * Sir Geoffrey Palmer, 1st Baronet (1598–1670), English lawyer and politician * Sir Geoffrey Palmer, 3rd Baronet (1655–1732), English politician, Member of Parliament (MP) for Leicestershire * Geoffrey ...
and James Bolger respectively were acting Lords President. Andrea Leadsom's appointment in June 2017 was the first in some time where the post holder was not a full Cabinet member.


Visitorial role

The Lord President also serves as the visitor for several English universities, including: * University of Birmingham * University of Bristol * University of Hull *
Imperial College London Imperial College London (legally Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine) is a public research university in London, United Kingdom. Its history began with Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, who developed his vision for a ...
* Keele University * University of Leeds * University of Leicester * University of Liverpool *
University of London The University of London (UoL; abbreviated as Lond or more rarely Londin in post-nominals) is a federal public research university located in London, England, United Kingdom. The university was established by royal charter in 1836 as a degree- ...
(but not
King's College London King's College London (informally King's or KCL) is a public research university located in London, England. King's was established by royal charter in 1829 under the patronage of King George IV and the Duke of Wellington. In 1836, Kin ...
or University College London) * University of Nottingham * University of Reading *
University of Sheffield , mottoeng = To discover the causes of things , established = – University of SheffieldPredecessor institutions: – Sheffield Medical School – Firth College – Sheffield Technical School – University College of Sheffield , type = P ...
* University of Southampton * University of Sussex


Partial list of Lords President of the Council


Lords President of the Council (c.1530–1702)


Lord Presidents of the Council (1702–present)


See also

* Privy Council Office * Vice-President of the Executive Council *
President of the King's Privy Council for Canada In the Canadian cabinet, the president of the King's Privy Council for Canada (french: président du Conseil privé du Roi pour le Canada) is nominally in charge of the Privy Council Office. The president of the Privy Council also has the lar ...
*
Sinecure A sinecure ( or ; from the Latin , 'without', and , 'care') is an office, carrying a salary or otherwise generating income, that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service. The term originated in the medieval c ...


References


Citations


Sources

* {{Cabinet positions in the United Kingdom Lists of government ministers of the United Kingdom People associated with the University of Birmingham People associated with the University of Bristol People associated with the University of East Anglia People associated with the University of Hull People associated with Imperial College London People associated with Keele University People associated with the University of Leeds People associated with the University of Leicester People associated with the University of Liverpool People associated with the University of London People associated with the University of Nottingham People associated with the University of Reading People associated with the University of Sheffield People associated with the University of Southampton People associated with the University of Sussex People associated with the University of Wales Ministerial offices in the United Kingdom Privy Council of the United Kingdom 1530 establishments in England