Can I complain to the Privy Council about a Chartered Body?

The Privy Council does not have any kind of policing role in respect of Chartered bodies. The grant of a Charter gives a body the rights and powers of a natural person. The Privy Council (which, under the modern constitution is part of the Executive) cannot intervene in the internal affairs of Chartered bodies any more than it could intervene in the private affairs of a citizen. No part of the Executive can do that unless it has been given specific statutory powers. The Privy Council has no such statutory powers, and it would therefore be acting beyond its powers if it attempted to do so.

The Privy Council has no power to investigate, or even to take a view on, any matter of fact or law relating to a Chartered body. Only the courts can do that, and the Privy Council is not a Court (it does have a Judicial Committee, but the scope of its activities is clearly laid down in statute, and they do not include matters relating to Chartered bodies). The only power that the Privy Council has in relation to Chartered bodies is the reactive one of considering changes to Charters and Bye-laws that are submitted to it for approval. The Privy Council has no power to require a Chartered body to make any changes to its constitution; and if it sought to do so indirectly (e.g. by refusing to approve an amendment unless further unrelated amendments were made) it would be liable to judicial review on the grounds that it was abusing its powers.

If you believe that a Chartered body is in breach either of its Charter or of the general law then the correct recourse is to the body itself; and if that fails to provide a remedy, and if you believe that it has acted unlawfully, to the courts. It cannot be to the Privy Council which has no power to take a view on any matter of fact or law. Before considering court action against a body it would be sensible to seek professional legal advice.

Is the Privy Council responsible for approving the use of the word ‘Royal’ to be used in the name of an institution?

Issues relating to the use of the word ‘Royal’ are administered by the Royal Names Team of the Cabinet Office. Enquiries should be emailed to: royalnames@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

If an institution uses the word ‘Royal’ in its title, does it mean that it has been granted a charter?

No. The use of the prefix ‘Royal’ does not necessarily denote the existence of a Charter, it can be granted at the prerogative of the Monarch, and the Privy Council is not involved in the process. For example, Queen Victoria gave permission for ‘The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ to become ‘The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ in 1840.

Does the Privy Council grant City Status?

No, the Privy Council is not involved in the process of granting city status.

I’ve noticed that an Institution seems to be subject to a Charter and an Act of Parliament. Which takes precedence?

An Act of the Crown in Parliament takes precedence over a Charter.

How do you become a Privy Counsellor?

Appointments are made by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister and are for life – there is no fixed number of Members. All Cabinet Members are appointed to the Privy Council, as are some senior members of the Royal Family, senior judges, two Archbishops, the Speaker of the House of Commons, leaders of Opposition parties, and leading Commonwealth spokesmen and judges. The Council now numbers over 700 members, and members are entitled to the prefix ‘Right Honourable.’

Does the Privy Council have any jurisdiction in Australia, Canada or New Zealand?


Appointment of Governors-General of Australia

For all information regarding the appointment of Governors-General of Australia since the founding of the Federation in 1901 (including the current post holder), please contact the National Archives of Australia.

Why does the Privy Council stand up during meetings?

We understand that this custom in place at Privy Council meetings was initiated by Queen Victoria following the death of the Prince Consort (1861), when she wished to reduce her public duties to the minimum necessary, although there is no documentary evidence. We know that the Prince Consort always attended Councils until his death, and the Council may have stood at the first Council after his death as a mark of respect. All that Queen Victoria needed to do, of course, to ensure that the Council stood was to remain standing herself. Etiquette does not allow sitting while the Sovereign is standing. To this day even The King stands at a PC meeting.

What is the Quorum for a Privy Council meeting?

The quorum needed to hold a meeting of the Privy Council is the Lord President plus three Privy Counsellors. This number was introduced by Queen Victoria.

Are Members “Privy Councillors” or “Privy Counsellors”?

Both are correct, but “Counsellors” is the preferred usage.

What are “Privy Council Terms”?

Appointments to the Privy Council are also made to allow non-Cabinet Ministers attending Cabinet; First Ministers of the devolved administrations; and, senior members of opposition parties, to be given briefings on confidential terms (‘Privy Council terms’). There is no formal guidance on briefings given under “Privy Council terms”. It is simply a recognised convention which allows Privy Council members to be briefed on confidential terms, should the Government wish to do so. Such an arrangement is entirely voluntary, and anyone not wishing to be briefed on such terms may decline the invitation. Having accepted a briefing on ‘Privy Council terms’, he or she is understood to have agreed to treat it as confidential. Such briefing is always a matter for, and at the discretion of, the Government of the day; there are no special requirements.

Churchyard Closure Orders

Information on Churchyard closures and copies of related Orders in Council are held by the Ministry of Justice. They can be contacted by email at coroners@justice.gov.uk