The Lord High Chancellor, colloquially called 'the Lord Chancellor', is custodian of the Great Seal. He is a member of the Cabinet and, by law, is responsible for the efficient running and independence of the courts.
Formerly he was also Speaker of the House of Lords (where he sat on the Woolsack), the presiding officer of the House of Lords, and the chief judicial officer in England and Wales, but the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 transferred these roles to the Lord Speaker (a newly created office) and to the Lord Chief Justice respectively.
In 2003 the Government attempted to abolish the ancient office of Lord Chancellor, but when it emerged that this could only be done by an Act of Parliament the Government merely renamed the Lord Chancellor's Department the Department of Constitutional Affairs. This in turn was replaced by the Ministry of Justice in May 2007.
The present Lord Chancellor, the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke, is also Secretary of State for Justice, and only the second Lord Chancellor since the seventeenth century not to be a peer.
How to Address the Lord Chancellor
The recommended social style of address is as follows:
|Beginning of letter||Dear Lord Chancellor|
|End of letter||Yours sincerely|
|Envelope||The Rt Hon the Lord Chancellor|
|Verbal communication||Lord Chancellor|