Privy Council (UK)

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The Privy Council[1] of the United Kingdom is a centuries-old political body tasked with advising the monarch, and performing both judicial and executive duties. Membership mostly comprises senior politicians, usually with Cabinet experience, and appointments are for life. Other members include senior judges, leaders of the Church of England, and members of the Royal Family. Appointments are officially made by the monarch, but in practice they are usually automatic. Likewise, the decisions of the Council are based on government policy or judicial rulings, undertaken in the name of the monarch only, or else are ceremonial.

Members of the UK Cabinet (the most senior government ministers) must become Privy Councillors in order to exercise their powers of office. This allows them to prefix their name with "Right Honourable", a practice that continues unless the holder resigns from the Privy Council. Only serving members of the government are involved with the Privy Council's actual policy work; for other members, membership is more a reflection of their career achievements, as full meetings of the Council only occur on the death or abdication of the monarch, or when the monarch announces an intention to marry. The Privy Council announces the accession of a new monarch and receives their oath.

The Privy Council also maintains a Judicial Committee, which acts as a final court of appeal for British territories overseas and in some Commonwealth of Nations countries.[2] Other work comes in administering several hundred Chartered Bodies, which are organisations declared legal entities by Royal Charter and thus have the legal rights and responsibilities of an individual.[3] The Privy Council is also responsible for certain statutory regulatory bodies such as the General Medical Council,[4] and plays a role in higher education.[5]

Footnotes

  1. Fully Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.
  2. Privy Council Office: 'Judicial Committee'.
  3. Privy Council Office: 'Charted Bodies'.
  4. Privy Council Office: 'Professional Bodies'.
  5. Privy Council Office: 'Higher Education'.