The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a ministerial office in the Government of the United Kingdom that includes as part of its duties the administration of the estates and rents of the Duchy of Lancaster. Since July 2019, the Chancellor also has responsibility for advising the Prime Minister on policy development and implementation.
The Chancellor is answerable to Parliament for the governance of the Duchy. However, the involvement of the Chancellor in the running of the day-to-day affairs of the Duchy is slight, and the office is held by a senior politician whose main role is usually quite different. Michael Gove was nominated to the post on 24 July 2019.
Originally, the Chancellor was the chief officer in the daily management of the Duchy of Lancaster and the County Palatine of Lancaster (a county palatine merged into the Crown in 1399), but that estate is now run by a deputy, leaving the Chancellor as a member of the Cabinet with little obligation in regard to the Chancellorship. The position has often been given to a junior Cabinet minister with responsibilities in a particular area of policy for which there is no department with an appropriate portfolio.
In 1491, the office of Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine of Lancaster was created. The position is now held by a judge of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, who sits in the north west of England, and no longer appointed to that position as legal officer of the Duchy.
In recent times, the Chancellor's duties (administrative, financial, and legal) have been said to occupy an average of one day a week. Under the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, the Chancellor is required to take the oath of allegiance and the Official Oath. The holder of the sinecure is a minister without portfolio; Oswald Mosley, for example, focused on unemployment after being appointed to the position in 1929 during the second MacDonald ministry.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is entitled to a salary under the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975, but section 3 of the Act provides that the salary "shall be reduced by the amount of the salary payable to him otherwise than out of moneys so provided in respect of his office". The Office of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is part of the Cabinet Office.
From 1997 until 2009, the holder of the title also served as the Minister for the Cabinet Office. This applied in the case of Alan Milburn, who was given the title by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004 and at the same time rejoined the Cabinet. However, in the reshuffle of 5 June 2009, the Chancellorship went to the Leader of the House of Lords, the Baroness Royall. In David Cameron's first cabinet, announced on 12 May 2010, the Chancellorship remained with the Leader of the House of Lords.
Prior to Mr Gove, the position was most recently held by David Lidington following a Cabinet reshuffle on 8 January 2018. The holder of the post prior to him was Patrick McLoughlin who was given the post following Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister. Before this the holder of the post was Oliver Letwin, who was appointed in July 2014 when he was also Minister for Government Policy (2010–2015); following the 2015 general election, he was also given overall responsibility for the Cabinet Office and made a full member of the Cabinet.
In addition to administering the estates and rents of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Chancellor is also a member of the cabinet and advises the Prime Minister on the development and implementation of government policy. In addition, the Chancellor is responsible for:
- Chairing and deputy chairing Cabinet
- Implementing government business
- Overseeing committees and implementation taskforces, devolution consequences of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, and constitutional affairs
- Providing oversight to all Cabinet Office policies