Costumed man wields power in the chamber

With his black tailcoat, silk hose, breeches, ceremonial sword and silver buckled court shoes, the Serjeant-at-Arms cuts an impressive figure which hides position as one of the most important officials in the Palace of Westminster.

Sir Michael Cummins and his 33 doorkeepers wear a costume based on the Royal court of 1415. He is the second most powerful official in the Commons after the Clerk, who is responsible for legislation. The Serjeant, whose post command's £117,000 a year, walks before the Speaker's procession carrying the Mace to the chamber.

The doorkeepers, clad in a black tailcoat, white bow tie and gold insignia, guard the chamber, police the public and press galleries in the Commons, and act as messengers. By convention, police do not enter the house. The Serjeant and his deputies, the "men in tights", along with 364 staff, are responsible for the security, housekeeping and maintenance of the House.

Sir Michael, 64, who was appointed Serjeant at Arms in 2000, was an officer in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, following the tradition of former senior military officers working their way up the Parliamentary hierarchy.

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