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Privy Council

Volume 713: debated on Monday 26 October 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the qualifications for appointment to the Privy Council; who has been appointed since May 2007; and what were the particular qualifications for each appointment. [HL5865]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements are in place for independent scrutiny of the integrity and suitability of persons nominated for membership of the Privy Council. [HL5866]

To ask Her Majesty's Government which members of the Privy Council have resigned during the past 30 years; and in what circumstances resignation from the Privy Council is required. [HL5869]

Appointments to the Privy Council are made by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Recommendations are made on the basis that the individual concerned is involved in affairs of state or has a close and confidential relationship with the Crown. In practice, this means those who have obtained high office or senior positions in the executive, legislative or the judicial branches of the state either in this country or in one of the countries of which the Queen is head of state. It follows therefore, that most new privy counsellors are serving Ministers, senior parliamentarians or judges. By virtue of the office held, it is not considered necessary to hold details of privy counsellors’ qualifications separately. Similarly, there is no independent scrutiny of Privy Council appointees. The only members of the Privy Council who play any active part in the policy work of the council or attend meetings are those who are serving government Ministers. Like all senior parliamentarians, they are directly accountable to Parliament for all their actions.

The only privy counsellor to have resigned from the council during the past 30 years is Jonathan Aitken, who resigned in June 1997 following his abandoned libel action against the Guardian newspaper and Granada Television. The enforced removal of a privy counsellor from membership of the Privy Council has not occurred since 1921, when Sir Edgar Speyer was struck off for collaborating with the Germans during the First World War. Enforced removal would be a matter for the sovereign, acting on the advice of Ministers.

A list of privy counsellors appointed since May 2007 will be deposited in the Library of the House. A full list of all privy counsellors is available on the Privy Council website at