05 February 2021

Former MI5 head appointed as most senior officer in Queen’s royal household

05 February 2021

The Queen has appointed the former head of MI5 as Lord Chamberlain the most senior official in her royal household, Buckingham Palace has announced.

Andrew Parker, Baron Parker of Minsmere, will take up his new role on April 1, succeeding Earl Peel who is retiring after more than 14 years in the post.

Baron Parker served as director general of MI5 from April 2013 until last year and was a career intelligence officer having joined MI5 in 1983.

Lord Parker shows the Queen artefacts relating to MI5's D-Day operations during her visit to the intelligence agency. Victoria Jones/PA Wire (PA Archive)

He hosted the Queen’s first visit to MI5’s headquarters in central London in February last year, when she praised the intelligence agency’s officers for the “tireless work you do to keep our country safe”.

Earl Peel, 73, delayed his retirement amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis while the search for his successor took place.

He was due to step down at the end of 2020 but extended his notice period by around three months.

During his MI5 career Baron Parker led the intelligence agency’s response to the July 7 London terrorist attacks in 2005, and the following year his teams played the lead role in the disruption of al Qaida’s attempt to attack multiple airliners with bombs hidden in drinks bottles.

Garden Party at Buckingham Palace (PA Archive)

He was later promoted to deputy director general of MI5 in 2007 before becoming head of the security service in 2013.

He retired from the post in April last year and in an interview that month said the pandemic could force ministers to “adjust the dials” on public spending, potentially taking cash away from areas such as the intelligence agencies in the future.

But he insisted that MI5 was able to continue its work during the lockdown, adding that potential threats to the country were also subject to the restrictions.

Baron Parker will head the Queen’s working household and it will be his job to ensure the smooth running of all the different departments.

Baron Parker, pictured with the Queen during her MI5 visit, will begin his new role from April. Victoria Jones/PA Wire (PA Archive)

The post of Lord Chamberlain, which pays around £90,000 a year, is a part-time one and includes chairing regular meetings of all heads of department.

The Lord Chamberlain oversees all senior appointments in the household, is the channel of communication between the sovereign and the House of Lords and ensures co-ordination between Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.

The position dates from the Middle Ages, when the King’s Chamberlain often acted as the king’s spokesman in council and parliament.

On ceremonial occasions, the Lord Chamberlain carries a white staff and a gold key, the symbols of his office.

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