An application for a Royal Charter takes the form of a Petition to The Sovereign in Council. Charters are granted rarely these days, and a body applying for a Charter would normally be expected to meet a number of criteria. Each application is dealt with on its merits, but in the case of professional institutions the main criteria are:
(a) the institution concerned should comprise members of a unique profession, and should have as members most of the eligible field for membership, without significant overlap with other bodies.
(b) corporate members of the institution should be qualified to at least first degree level in a relevant discipline;
(c) the institution should be financially sound and able to demonstrate a track record of achievement over a number of years;
(d) incorporation by Charter is a form of Government regulation as future amendments to the Charter and by-laws of the body require Privy Council (ie Government) approval. There therefore needs to be a convincing case that it would be in the public interest to regulate the body in this way;
(e) the institution is normally expected to be of substantial size (5,000 members or more).
It should be stressed that appearing to meet these criteria does not mean that a body will automatically be granted a Charter.
The fact of a formal Charter application will be published by this office, to allow other interested individuals or organisations to comment or to lodge counter-petitions. Because the process of Petitioning for a Charter is thus a public one, and can also be expensive in terms of the preparation of the formal documents, this Office encourages institutions to have taken soundings among other bodies who may have an interest, in order to minimise the risk of a counter-petition. Any proposal which is rendered controversial by a counter-petition is unlikely to succeed.
The Privy Council Office should be approached informally at an early stage so that we can give advice on the likely chances of success of a formal Petition. What is required for this purpose is a memorandum covering:
(a) the history of the body concerned;
(b) the body’s role;
(c) details of number of members, grades, management organisation and finance;
(d) the academic and other qualifications required for membership of the various grades;
(e) the body’s achievements;
(f) the body’s educational role both within its membership and more widely;
(g) an indication of the body’s dealings with Government (including details of the Government Department(s) with the main policy interest, or which sponsor(s) the body, together with contact details of officials who deal with the body), and any wider international links;
(h) evidence of the extent to which the body is pre-eminent in its field and in what respects;
(i) why it is considered that the body should be accorded Chartered status, the reasons why a grant would be regarded as in the public interest and, in particular, what is the case for bringing the body under Government control as described above.
At this stage if the draft Charter and by-laws are available they should be emailed to PCOsecretariat@pco.gov.uk along with the memorandum.
If, after these preliminary discussions, the body wishes to proceed to petition for a Charter the following are the General Rules of Procedure (also at this stage, should the PCO have not yet seen the draft Charter and by-laws they will have to be sent so that the drafting can be agreed):
The application should be made in the form of a Petition, which should commence:
“To The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council.
The Humble Petition of …………………………………
Sheweth as follows:-”
and should conclude:
“YOUR PETITIONERS therefore most humbly pray that Your Majesty may be graciously pleased in the exercise of Your Royal Prerogative to grant a Charter (or Supplemental Charter) to Your Petitioners in the terms of the draft herewith submitted or in such other terms as may to Your Majesty seem proper.
And Your Petitioners will ever pray, etc.”
The Petition should state the authority (e.g. resolution of a meeting of members) under which it is submitted and should contain sufficient information to enable the Privy Council to make a recommendation to Her Majesty. In the case of bodies which do not already have a Charter, this information should always include:
(a) date of the body’s foundation and how, if at all, at present incorporated;
(b) details of past achievements and extent and character of present activities;
(c) size and composition of, and existing qualifications or requirements for, membership;
(d) financial position; and
(e) generally the grounds on which it is submitted that the grant of a Charter is desirable and justified.
In the case of a Petition for the grant of a Supplemental Charter (or where a Charter is being re-written) the reasons for what is proposed should be stated.
Where the petitioning body is already incorporated, the Petition should be submitted in the name of the body concerned and be under its corporate seal duly attested. In the case of an unincorporated association, the Petition should be in the names of the Chairman or President and one or more responsible officers, who should each sign the Petition at the end of the Prayer, and should be sent to The Clerk of the Council, Privy Council Office, 2 Carlton Gardens, London SW1Y 5AA. The text should also be sent by e-mail in electronic Word format. The e-mail address is PCOsecretariat@pco.gov.uk
In the case of a Petition for the grant of a Supplemental Charter electronic copies of any previous unrevoked Charters will also be required for purposes of reference.
In the case of first Charters, and Supplemental Charters which replace the whole or most of existing Charters, the Petitioner will be asked to pay for the cost of printing the formal documents and to complete and return a Payment Authorisation form to the printers, this should be done promptly to avoid any delay in the printers’ preparation work. No charges are made by the Privy Council Office, but fees are payable to the Crown Office in respect of sealing the Charter.