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Regency Act 1937

Volume 824: debated on Monday 24 October 2022

Question

Asked by

My Lords, the Regency Act sets out the arrangements by which a regency is triggered, as well as provisions for the appointment of Counsellors of State. On occasion, the Regency Act 1937 has been amended so that its provisions effectively support the sovereign in the discharge of their duties and ensure the resilience of our constitutional arrangements. The Government will continue to consider their legislative programme for the remainder of the Session.

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for that reply. The House knows that the Regency Act is still very relevant: it is the only reason why it was possible to open the current Session of this Parliament. Indeed, when you look at the final year of Her late Majesty’s reign, there were elements of a regency about it. Does the Minister not think it time to approach the King to discuss the potential amendment of this Act, and in particular Clause 6, which at the moment defines regents in relation to their line of succession to the Crown? Otherwise, are the Government happy to continue with a situation where the counsels of state and regency powers may be exercised by the Duke of York or the Duke of Sussex, one of whom has left public life and the other of whom has left the country? Is it not time for the Government to approach the King to see whether a sensible amendment can be made to this Act?

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for the Question but he will of course understand that I will not discuss any private conversations with His Majesty or with the Royal Household. His Majesty King George VI set out in his gracious message to Parliament that there can be a need

“to consider contingencies which may hereafter arise, and to make such provision as will, in any event, secure the exercise of the Royal Authority.”—[Official Report, Commons, 26/1/37; col. 766.]

In that spirit, the Government will always consider what arrangements are needed to ensure resilience in our constitutional arrangements, and in the past we have seen that the point of accession has proved a useful opportunity to consider the arrangements in place.

My Lords, can the Government indicate that they will at least consider that the person they go to in the first consideration will be somebody who actually undertakes royal duties, or at least some part of them, at present?

My Lords, again, I will not comment on specific circumstances. I have set out the position in response to the noble Viscount, and, obviously, any consideration would also have to take place in close consultation with the Royal Household.