Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council is a body of advisors to the British Sovereign. Its members are largely senior politicians, who were or are members of either the House of Commons of the United Kingdom or House of Lords.

The Privy Council was formerly a powerful institution, but its policy decisions are now controlled by one of its committees, the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. It advises the Sovereign on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, and issues executive orders known as Orders-in-Council and Orders of Council. Orders-in-Council make government regulations and appointments. Orders of Council are issued under the specific authority of Acts of Parliament, which delegate such matters to the Council, and are normally used to regulate public institutions. The Council advises on the issuing of Royal Charters, which grant special status to incorporated bodies and city and borough status to towns.

The Council also performs judicial functions, which are for the most part delegated to the Judicial Committee. The Committee consists of senior judges appointed as Privy Counsellors: Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, judges of the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland and judges of the Inner House of the Court of Session (the highest court in Scotland). It was formerly a supreme court of appeal for the entire British Empire, and continues to hear appeals from British Overseas Territories, Sovereign Base Areas, Crown Dependencies and some Commonwealth countries.


During the reigns of the Norman monarchs, the English Crown was advised by a royal court, which consisted of magnates, ecclesiastics and high officials. The body originally concerned itself with advising the Sovereign on legislation, administration and justice. [Dicey, pp6–7] Later, different bodies assuming distinct functions evolved from the court. The courts of law took over the business of dispensing justice, while Parliament became the supreme legislature of the kingdom. [Dicey, p24] Nevertheless, the Council retained the power to hear legal disputes, either in the first instance or on appeal. [Dicey, pp12–14] Furthermore, laws made by the Sovereign on the advice of the Council, rather than on the advice of Parliament, were accepted as valid.Gay, p2]

Powerful Sovereigns often used the body to circumvent the courts and Parliament. For example, a committee of the Council—which later became the Court of the Star Chamber—was during the fifteenth century permitted to inflict any punishment except death, without being bound by normal court procedure. [Maitland, pp262–3] During Henry VIII's reign, the Sovereign, on the advice of the Council, was allowed to enact laws by mere proclamation. The legislative pre-eminence of Parliament was not restored until after Henry VIII's death. [Maitland, p253] Though the royal Council retained legislative and judicial responsibilities, it became a primarily administrative body. [Goodnow, p123] The Council consisted of forty members in 1553, [Maitland, p256] but the Sovereign relied on a smaller committee, which later evolved into the modern Cabinet.

By the end of the English Civil War, the monarchy, House of Lords and Privy Council were abolished. The remaining house of Parliament, the House of Commons, instituted a Council of State to execute laws and to direct administrative policy. The forty-one members of the Council were elected by the Commons; the body was headed by Oliver Cromwell, the de facto military dictator of the nation. In 1653, however, Cromwell became Lord Protector, and the Council was reduced to between thirteen and twenty-one members, all elected by the Commons. In 1657, the Commons granted Cromwell even greater powers, some of which were reminiscent of those enjoyed by monarchs. The Council became known as the Protector's Privy Council; its members were appointed by the Lord Protector, subject to Parliament's approval.cite web |last=Plant |first=D |url=http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/glossary/council-state.htm |title=The Council of State |work=British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate, 1638–60 |year=2007 |accessdaymonth=11 September |accessyear=2008]

In 1659, shortly before the restoration of the monarchy, the Protector's Council was abolished. Charles II restored the royal Privy Council, but he, like previous Stuart monarchs, chose to rely on a small committee of advisors. [Warshaw, p7] Under George I even more power passed to this committee. It now began to meet in the absence of the Sovereign, communicating their decisions to him after the fact. Thus the Privy Council, as a whole, ceased to be a body of important confidential advisors to the Sovereign; the role passed to a committee of the Privy Council, now known as the Cabinet. [Gay, pp2–3]


The Sovereign, when acting on the Council's advice, is known as the "King-in-Council" or "Queen-in-Council". [cite web |url=http://www.assemblywales.org/legislativecompetenceorders.pdf |title=Legislative Competence Orders |work=Constitutional Quick Guides No. 3 |publisher=Welsh Assembly |year=2007|accessdaymonth=12 September |accessyear=2008] The members of the Council are collectively known as "The Lords of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council" [e.g. cite web |url=http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1988/Uksi_19881162_en_1.htm |title=Statutory Instrument 1988 No. 1162 |publisher=Office of Public Sector Information |accessdaymonth=11 September |accessyear=2008] (sometimes "The Lords and others of ..."). [e.g. cite web |url=http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1999/19991379.htm |title=Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 1379 |publisher=Office of Public Sector Information |accessdaymonth=11 September |accessyear=2008] The chief officer of the body is the Lord President of the Council, who is the fourth highest Great Officer of State, [H. Cox, p388] a member of the Cabinet, and normally, the Leader of either the House of Lords or the House of Commons. [cite web |url=http://www.privy-council.org.uk/files/pdf/Business%20Plan.pdf |title=Departmental Plan 2004/05 |publisher=Privy Council Office |format=pdf |accessdaymonth=11 September |accessyear=2008] Another important official is the Clerk, whose signature is appended to all orders made in the Council. [Brazier, p199 note 109]

Both "Privy Counsellor" and "Privy Councillor" may be correctly used to refer to a member of the Council. The former, however, is preferred by the Privy Council Office,cite web| title=Privy Council Office Business FAQ|url=http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/page503.asp|publisher= Privy Council Office|accessdaymonth=27 August|accessyear=2008] emphasising English usage of the term "Counsellor" as "one who gives counsel", as opposed to "one who is a member of a council." A Privy Counsellor is said to be "sworn of" the Council when he or she first joins it. [LondonGazette|issue=56070|date=30 December 2000|startpage=1|notarchive=yes|supp=yes]

The Sovereign may appoint anyone a Privy Counsellor, [Blackstone, I.174] but in practice appointments are made only on the advice of the Government, and generally consist only of senior members of the government. There is no limit to the numbers sworn in as members.Gay, p3] As of August 2008 there are 538 members.cite web |url=http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/Page76.asp |title=Privy Council Members |publisher=Privy Council Office |accessdaymonth=3 August|accessyear=2008]

Members include the Church of England's three highest ecclesiastics—the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London. [cite web |url=http://www.london.anglican.org/BishopOfLondon |title=Bishop of London |publisher=Diocese of London |accessdaymonth=15 August|accessyear=2008] Senior members of the Royal Family may also be appointed—Prince Philip is a member, the most senior at present in terms of service. The Private Secretary to the Sovereign is always appointed to the Council. [cite web |url=http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page5715.asp |title=Mailbox January 2007|work=Royal Insight|publisher=Royal Household|accessdaymonth=11 September|accessyear=2008]

Several senior judges—Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, [cite web |url=http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foa-english-judges-1.htm |title=English Judges and the Bar: Heads of Division, Judicial Security, Lords of Appeal in Ordinary |publisher=Ministry of Justice |work=Forms of address |year=2008 |accessdaymonth=15 August|accessyear=2008] judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, [cite web |url=http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foa-english-judges-2.htm |title=English Judges and the Bar: Court of Appeal and High Court |publisher=Ministry of Justice |work=Forms of address |year=2008 |accessdaymonth=15 August|accessyear=2008] judges of the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland [cite web |url=http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foa-northern-ireland-judges.htm |title=Northern Ireland Judges and the Bar |publisher=Ministry of Justice |work=Forms of address |year=2008 |accessdaymonth=15 August|accessyear=2008] and judges of the Inner House of the Court of Session (the highest court in Scotland) [cite web |url=http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foa-scottish-judges.htm |title=Scottish Judges and the Bar |publisher=Ministry of Justice |work=Forms of address |year=2008 |accessdaymonth=15 August|accessyear=2008] —are also named to the Privy Council.

The bulk of Privy Counsellors, however, are politicians. The Prime Minister, ministers in the cabinet, and the Leader of the Opposition must be sworn to the Privy Council on appointment. Leaders of large parties in the House of Commons, [e.g. Nicholas Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats cite web |url=http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page14291 |title=Privy Council Appointment of Nicholas Clegg MP |publisher=Prime Minister's Office |date=18 January 2008 |accessdaymonth=12 September |accessyear=2008] First Ministers of the devolved assemblies, [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/848851.stm |title=Morgan made Privy Counsellor |publisher=BBC |date=24 July 2000 |accessdaymonth=12 September |accessyear=2008] some senior ministers outside the cabinet, [e.g. David Hanson, a Minister of State, cite web |url=http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page11037 |title=Privy Council Appointment of David Hanson MP |publisher=Prime Minister's Office |date=20 February 2007 |accessdaymonth=12 September |accessyear=2008] and on occasion senior Parliamentarians [e.g. Jeffrey Donaldson, MP cite web |url=http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page11647 |title=Privy Council Appointment of Jeffrey Donaldson and Peter Robinson Clegg |publisher=Prime Minister's Office |date=9 May 2007 |accessdaymonth=12 September |accessyear=2008] are appointed Privy Counsellors. As Privy Counsellors are bound by their oath to keep matters discussed at Council meetings secret, the appointment of the leaders of Opposition parties as Privy Counsellors allows the Government to share confidential information with them "on Privy Council terms". This usually only happens in special circumstances, such as in matters of national security. For example Tony Blair met with Leader of the Opposition Iain Duncan Smith and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy on privy council terms to discuss the evidence for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2589087.stm |title=So what is the Privy Council? |publisher=BBC |date=18 February 2003 |accessdaymonth=12 September |accessyear=2008]

Although the Privy Council is primarily a British institution, officials from some other Commonwealth realms are also appointed to the body. The most notable continuing instance is New Zealand, whose Prime Minister, senior politicians, Chief Justice and Court of Appeal judges are conventionally made Privy Counsellors,cite web |url=http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/honours/overview/honourable_privycouncil.html |title=The title "The Honourable" and the Privy Council |publisher=Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet |work=New Zealand Honours |accessdaymonth=3 August|accessyear=2008] as formerly were the prime ministers and chief justices of Canada and Australia. [cite web |url=http://www.parl.gc.ca/36/2/parlbus/chambus/senate/orderpaper/ord-e.htm |title=Order Paper and Notice Paper, 20 October 2000 |publisher=Senate of Canada |year=2000 |accessdaymonth=12 September |accessyear=2008] [cite web |url=http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foa-com-judges.htm |title=Commonwealth Judges |publisher=Ministry of Justice |work=Forms of address |year=2008 |accessdaymonth=12 September|accessyear=2008] Prime Ministers of some other Commonwealth countries which retain the Queen as their sovereign continue to be sworn as Privy Counsellors.

The following oath is administered to Privy Counsellors before they take office:

You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto the Queen's Majesty, as one of Her Majesty's Privy Council. You will not know or understand of any manner of thing to be attempted, done, or spoken against Her Majesty's Person, Honour, Crown, or Dignity Royal, but you will lett and withstand the same to the uttermost of your Power, and either cause it to be revealed to Her Majesty Herself, or to such of Her Privy Council as shall advertise Her Majesty of the same. You will, in all things to be moved, treated, and debated in Council, faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience; and will keep secret all Matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in Council. And if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Counsellors, you will not reveal it unto him, but will keep the same until such time as, by the Consent of Her Majesty, or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof. You will to your uttermost bear Faith and Allegiance unto the Queen's Majesty; and will assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Pre-eminences, and Authorities, granted to Her Majesty, and annexed to the Crown by Acts of Parliament, or otherwise, against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States, or Potentates. And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to Her Majesty. So help you God. [cite web|url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199798/cmhansrd/vo980728/text/80728w22.htm#80728w22.html_sbhd8|title=HC Hansard Vol 317 Col 182|date=28 July 1998|work=Hansard|publisher=Parliament of the United Kingdom|accessdaymonth=14 July|accessyear=2008]

Membership ceases upon the dissolution of the Privy Council, which automatically occurs six months after the death of a monarch. (Formerly, until a statute to the contrary was passed during the reign of Anne, the death of a monarch brought an end to the Council immediately.) [Blackstone, I.176] By convention, however, the Sovereign reappoints all members of the Council after its dissolution; [H. Cox, p389] hence, membership is, in practice, for life.

The Sovereign may however remove an individual from the Council, and individuals may choose to resign to avoid expulsion. The last individual to leave the Privy Council voluntarily was Jonathan Aitken, who left on 25 June 1997cite web | author = Rayment, Leigh | title = PRIVY COUNSELLORS 1969 - present | date= 10 September 2008 | url = http://www.leighrayment.com/pcouncil/pcouncil4.htm | accessdaymonth=17 September|accessyear=2008| quote = Jonathan William Patrick Aitken (resigned 25 June 1997) ] following allegations of perjurycite web | author = Staff reporter | title = Queen Accepts Aitken's Resignation | year= 1997 | publisher= British Broadcasting Corporation | url = http://www.bbc.co.uk/politics97/news/06/0626/aitken.shtml | accessdaymonth=12 February|accessyear=2008| quote = The Queen has accepted Jonathan Aitken's resignation from the Privy Council. [...] Two former disgraced ministers, John Profumo and John Stonehouse, have also resigned from the Council, but no one has been thrown off since 1921 when Sir Edgar Speyer was struck off for collaborating with the Germans in the First World War.] . He was one of only three Privy Counsellors to resign in the twentieth century (the others being John Profumo, who resigned on 26 June 1963cite web | author = Rayment, Leigh | title = PRIVY COUNSELLORS 1915 - 1968 | date= 2 April 2008 | url = http://www.leighrayment.com/pcouncil/pcouncil3.htm | accessdaymonth=17 September|accessyear=2008| quote = John Dennis Profumo (resigned 26 Jun 1963) [...] John Thomson Stonehouse (resigned 17 Aug 1976) ] , and John Stonehouse, who resigned on 17 August 1976). The last individual to be expelled from the Council against his will was Sir Edgar Speyer, 1st Baronet, who was removed on 13 December 1921cite web | author = Rayment, Leigh | title = PRIVY COUNSELLORS 1836 - 1914 | date= 1 April 2008 | url = http://www.leighrayment.com/pcouncil/pcouncil2.htm | accessdaymonth=17 September|accessyear=2008| quote = Sir Edgar Speyer (struck off 13 Dec 1921) ] for pro-German activities during the First World War.


Meetings of the Privy Council are normally held once each month wherever the Sovereign may be residing at the time.cite web |url=http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page4693.asp |title=Queen and Privy Council |publisher=Royal Household |work=Monarchy Today |accessdaymonth=3 August |accessyear=2008] The Sovereign attends the meeting, though his or her place may be taken by two or more Counsellors of State.Gay, p4] cite web |url=http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page4694.asp |title=Counsellors of State |work=Monarchy Today|publisher=Royal Household|accessdaymonth=3 August|accessyear=2008] Under the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953, [LondonGazette|issue=48172|date=29 April 1980|startpage=6361] Counsellors of State may be chosen from amongst the Sovereign's spouse and the four individuals next in the line of succession who are over 21 years of age (18 for the Heir to the Throne).

Normally the Sovereign remains standing at meetings of the Privy Council, so that no other members may sit down, thereby keeping meetings short. The Lord President reads out a list of Orders to be made, and the Sovereign merely says "Approved." [Brazier, p199]

Only a few privy counsellors attend these regular meetings. The settled practice is that day-to-day meetings of the Council are attended by four privy counsellors, usually the Ministers responsible for the matters being approved. Unless prevented from attending, the Government Minister holding office as Lord President of the Council is usually among the privy counsellors present. [cite web |url=http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/Page499.asp |title=Role and Responsibilities |publisher=Privy Council Office |accessdaymonth=31 August|accessyear=2008] Under Britain's modern conventions of parliamentary government and constitutional monarchy, every order made in Council has been drafted by a Government Department and has already been approved by the responsible Ministers—the action taken by the Queen in Council is a mere formality required for the valid adoption of the measure.

Full meetings of the Privy Council are only held when the reigning Sovereign announces his or her own engagement (which last happened on 23 November 1839, ["The Times", 25 November 1839, p5] in the reign of Queen Victoria); or when there is a Demise of the Crown, either by the death or abdication of the monarch. The current statutes regulating the establishment of a Regency in the case of minority or incapacity of the Sovereign also require any Regents to take their oaths before the Privy Council. [Regency Act 1937, Sect. 2.2 and 4.1]

In the case of a demise of the crown, the Privy Council—together with the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, the Aldermen of the City of London and representatives of Commonwealth nations—makes a proclamation declaring the accession of the new Sovereign and receives an oath from the new monarch relating to the security of the Church of Scotland, as required by law. That special assembly of the Privy Council and others held to proclaim the accession of the new Sovereign and to receive the required statutory oath from the monarch, is known as an Accession Council. The last such meetings were held on 6 February and 8 February 1952. Given that Her present Majesty was abroad when the last Demise of the Crown took place, the Accession Council had to meet twice, once to proclaim the Sovereign (meeting of 6 February 1952), and then, after the new Queen had arrived in Britain, to receive from Her the oath required by statute (meeting of 8 February 1952). ["The Times", 7 February 1952, p6; "The Times", 8 February 1952, p6]


The Sovereign exercises executive authority by making Orders-in-Council upon the advice of the Privy Council. Orders-in-Council, which are drafted by the government rather than by the Sovereign, are secondary legislation and are used to make government regulations and to make government appointments. Furthermore, Orders-in-Council are used to grant the Royal Assent to laws passed by the legislative authorities of British Crown dependencies.cite journal|title=Statutory Instruments |author=House of Commons Information Office |year=2008 |month=May |issn=0144-4689 |id=Fact Sheet No.L7 Ed 3.9 |url=http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/L07.pdf |format=pdf |accessdaymonth=3 August|accessyear=2008]

Distinct from Orders-in-Council are Orders of Council. Whilst the former are made by the Sovereign on the advice of the Privy Council, the latter are made by members of the Privy Council without the participation of the Sovereign. They are issued under the specific authority of Acts of Parliament, and are normally used to regulate public institutions.

The Sovereign, furthermore, issues Royal Charters on the advice of the Privy Council. Charters grant special status to incorporated bodies; they are used to grant city and borough status to towns, [cite web |title=Royal Charter |url=http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/page26.asp |publisher=Privy Council Office |accessdaymonth=30 August|accessyear=2008] and "chartered" status to certain professional or educational bodies. The Privy Council therefore deals with a wide variety of matters, including university statutes,Gay, p5] graveyards, [H. Cox, p393] coinage, and dates of bank holidays.

The Crown-in-Council also performs certain judicial functions. Within the United Kingdom, the Crown-in-Council hears appeals from ecclesiastical courts, the Court of Admiralty of the Cinque Ports, prize courts and the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, appeals against schemes of the Church Commissioners and appeals under certain Acts of Parliament (eg the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975).cite web |url=http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/Page32.asp |title=Jurisdiction |publisher=Privy Council Office |accessdaymonth=15 August|accessyear=2008] The Crown-in-Council was formerly a supreme court of appeal for the entire British Empire, [Iwi, p128] however a number of Commonwealth countries have now abolished such appeals. [N. Cox, "Abolition or Retention of the Privy Council", Sect. 11] The Privy Council does continue to hear appeals from several Commonwealth countries, from British Overseas Territories, Sovereign Base Areas and crown dependencies. The aforementioned cases are theoretically decided by the monarch in Council, but are in practice heard and decided by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, [N. Cox, "Abolition or Retention of the Privy Council", Sect. 2] which consists of senior judges who are Privy Counsellors.Gay, p6] The decision of the Committee is presented in the form of "advice" to the monarch, but in practice it is always followed by the Sovereign, who formally approves the recommendation of the Judicial Committee. [Maitland, p463] The Judicial Committee has direct jurisdiction in cases relating to the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Northern Ireland Act 1998, though this will be transferred to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom once the latter starts functioning.

Rights and privileges of members

Though the Privy Council as a whole is "The Most Honourable", individual Privy Counsellors are entitled to the style "The Right Honourable". Peers who are also members of the Privy Council append the post-nominal letters "PC" to indicate membership as they are already entitled to the style "The Right Honourable" (in the case of barons, viscounts and earls) or other higher style (in the case of dukes and marquesses), even when they are not Privy Counsellors. For commoners, on the other hand, "The Right Honourable" is sufficient identification of status as a Privy Counsellor. [cite web |url=http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/en/faqs/knighthood-honours/right-honourable |title=What does Right Honourable mean? |work=UK in USA |publisher=Foreign and Commonwealth Office |year=2007 |accessdaymonth=11 September |accessyear=2008] The Earl of Mar and Kellie and the Earl of Scarbrough prefer not to be addressed as 'The Rt Hon' at all on the grounds that the prefix more properly belongs to Privy Counsellors. [cite web| publisher=Burke's Peerage| title=British titles—Earl |url=http://www.burkes-peerage.net/articles/peerage/page66-earl.aspx |accessdaymonth=11 September|accessyear=2008] The Ministry of Justice takes a similar position. [cite web |url=http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foa-peers.htm |title=Peers|publisher=Ministry of Justice |work=Forms of address |year=2008 |accessdaymonth=11 September|accessyear=2008]

Privy Counsellors are entitled to positions in the order of precedence. [Blackstone, I.318] At the beginning of each new Parliament, and at the discretion of the Speaker, members of the House of Commons who are Privy Counsellors usually take the oath of allegiance before all other members except the Speaker him or herself and the Father of the House (the most senior member of the House). [cite web|url=http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2000/rp00-017.pdf|title=The Parliamentary Oath|date=14 February 2000|accessdaymonth=8 September|accessyear=2008|author=Walker, A; Wood, E|publisher=House of Commons Library|work=Research Paper 00/17|format=pdf] Often, whenever a Privy Counsellor rose to make a speech in the House of Commons at the same time as another member, the Speaker would first recognise the Privy Counsellor. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/a-z_of_parliament/p-q/82534.stm |title=Privy Council |publisher=BBC |date=19 May 1998|accessdaymonth=29 August|accessyear=2008] This informal custom, however, was considered obsolete by 1998. [cite web|url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199798/cmselect/cmmodern/600iv/md0404.htm|title=Modernisation of the House of Commons - Fourth Report|chapter=Precedence for Privy Counsellors|publisher=Modernisation of the House of Commons Select Committee|date=4 March 1998|accessdaymonth=8 September|accessyear=2008]

Also, only Privy Counsellors can present Royal Messages to the Houses of Parliament, [Hayter, Sect. 2.29] and only they can signify, at the monarch's command, the royal consent to the examination of a bill affecting the rights of the Crown. [Hayter, Sect. 7.177]

Privy Counsellors are allowed to sit on the steps to the Sovereign's Throne in the House of Lords Chamber during debates. They share this privilege with hereditary Lords who were members of the House of Lords before the reform of 1999, diocesan bishops of the Church of England (who are not yet Lords Spiritual), retired bishops who formerly sat in the House of Lords, the Dean of Westminster, Peers of Ireland, the eldest child of members of the House of Lords, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. [Hayter, Sect. 1.37]

Each Privy Counsellor has the individual right of personal access to the Sovereign. Peers are considered to enjoy the same right individually; members of the House of Commons possess the right collectively. In each case, personal access may only be used to tender advice on public affairs.N. Cox, "Peerage Privileges", pp25–6]

Other councils

The Privy Council is one of the four principal councils of the Sovereign. The other three are: the courts of law, the Commune Concilium (Common Council, or Parliament) and the Magnum Concilium (Great Council, or the assembly of all the Peers of the Realm). All are still in existence, or at least have never been formally abolished, but the Magnum Concilium has not been summoned since 1640 and was considered obsolete then. [Blackstone, I. Chapter 5]

Several other "Privy Councils" have advised the Sovereign. England and Scotland once had separate Privy Councils, but the Act of Union 1707, which united the two countries into the Kingdom of Great Britain, replaced both with a single body. Ireland, on the other hand, continued to have a separate Privy Council even after the Act of Union 1800. The Privy Council of Ireland was abolished in 1922, when the southern part of Ireland separated from the United Kingdom; it was succeeded by the Privy Council of Northern Ireland, which became dormant after the suspension of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. No further appointments were made, and less than ten appointees were alive as of May 2008. [cite web|url=http://leighrayment.com/pcouncil/pcouncilI.htm|title=Privy Counsellors – Ireland|author=Rayment, Leigh|date=30 May 2008|accessdaymonth=8 September|accessyear=2008]

Canada has had its own Privy Council—the Queen's Privy Council for Canada—since 1867. [cite web |url=http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/index.asp?lang=eng&page=information&sub=council-conseil&doc=description_e.htm |title=The Queen's Privy Council for Canada |publisher=Privy Council Office |date=13 February 2008|accessdaymonth=3 August|accessyear=2008] While the Canadian Privy Council is specifically "for Canada", the Privy Council discussed above is not "for the United Kingdom"; in order to clarify the ambiguity where necessary, the latter is referred to as the Imperial Privy Council. Equivalent organs of state in other Commonwealth Realms, such as Australia and New Zealand, are called Executive Councils. [cite web|url=http://www.pmc.gov.au/guidelines/docs/executive_handbook.pdf|publisher=Australian Government, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet|title=Federal Executive Council Handbook|format=pdf|month=June | year=2005|accessdaymonth=9 September|accessyear=2008] [cite web|url=http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/cabinet/ministers/executive.html|publisher=New Zealand Government, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet|title=Executive Council|accessdaymonth=9 September|accessyear=2008]

ee also

*List of current Privy Counsellors
*Historic list of Privy Counsellors
*Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations



*cite book|last=Blackstone |first=W |year=1838 |title=Commentaries on the Laws of England |location=New York |publisher=W.E. Dean
*cite book |last=Brazier |first=R |title=Ministers of the Crown |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=1997 |isbn=0198259883 |url=http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=O0_uGtkJXBYC
*cite book |last=Cox |first=H |title=The British Commonwealth, Or, A Commentary on the Institutions and Principles of British Government |publisher=Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans |location=London |year=1854 |url=http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=BYkOAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA389&lpg=PA389&dq=%22privy+council%22+reappointed+demise&source=web&ots=lEq8dS-3V9&sig=guRHs3e_XDJD49ebyhX9k5Yg1WU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA389,M1
*cite journal |last=Cox |first=N |title=The Abolition or Retention of the Privy Council as the Final Court of Appeal for New Zealand: Conflict Between National Identity and Legal Pragmatism |journal=New Zealand Universities Law Review |volume=20 |year=2002 |doi=10.2139/ssrn.420373
*cite web |last=Cox |first=N |title=Peerage Privileges since the House of Lords Act 1999 |publisher=Berkeley Electronic Press |work=Selected Works of Noel Cox |url=http://works.bepress.com/noel_cox/8/ |year=2008 |accessdaymonth=29 August|accessyear=2008
*cite book |last=Dicey |first=A |title=The Privy Council : the Arnold prize essay, 1860 |location=London |year=1887
*cite journal |last=Gay |first=O|coauthors=Rees, A|title=The Privy Council |journal=House of Commons Library Standard Note|id= SN/PC/2708 |year=2005 |url=http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/notes/snpc-3708.pdf |format=pdf|accessdaymonth=2 August|accessyear=2008
*cite book |last=Goodnow |first=F |title=Comparative Administrative Law: an Analysis of the Administrative Systems, National and Local, of the United States, England, France and Germany |location=New York |publisher=G.P. Putnam's Sons |year=1897 |url=http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=w4fPtabocawC&printsec=frontcover&dq=privy+council#PPA123,M1
*cite book |last=Hayter |first=P |title=Companion to the Standing Orders and guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords |year=2007 |edition=21st ed |url=http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld/ldcomp/ldctso02.htm
*cite journal |last=Iwi |first=E |title=A Plea for an Imperial Privy Council and Judicial Committee |journal=Transactions of the Grotius Society |year=1937 |volume=23 |url=http://www.jstor.org/stable/742946 |format=subscription required
*cite book |last=Maitland |first=F |title=The constitutional history of England : a course of lectures |location=Cambridge |year=1911
*cite book |author=Warshaw, S |title=Powersharing: White House – Cabinet relations in the modern presidency |publisher=State University of New York Press |location=Albany, N.Y |year=1996 |isbn=0791428699 |url=http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=Oh_QnhG7q24C

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