One of the enduring features of our nation’s governance, the Privy Council predates Britain’s constitutional monarchy.
Its origins lay in medieval times when the reigning King or Queen sought advice from officers of the Crown on key matters of state; meetings held on private terms -hence the name ‘Privy’, from the Latin privatus – have, over time, cemented a formal relationship between the Head of State and senior politicians.
I was honoured to be asked to join the Privy Council in April 2013. It is an appointment in which I take great pride
The Privy Council remains the oldest legislative assembly active in the UK, convening roughly once a month, with Government Ministers and other senior Parliamentarians meeting to discuss matters ranging from the designation of bank holidays to appointments to public bodies. Other Privy Counsellors include members of the Royal Family, the Speaker of the House of Commons, senior judges, and Archbishops.
I was honoured to be asked to join the Privy Council in April 2013. It is an appointment in which I take great pride as I exercise my duty to advise the Queen as a Minister in her Government. It’s this duty -this enormous sense of responsibility- which makes the curious prevarication of Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn, in failing to meet the Queen and so join the Privy Council, so baffling.
Inadvertently this highlights the often overlooked role that the Privy Council performs in our Parliamentary democracy. So that Her Majesty’s Official Opposition are properly informed of key matters of state the Government shares sensitive information, such as those concerning intelligence and security, with the Leader of the Opposition on what are known as ‘Privy Council terms’. In other words they speak confidentially.
It’s easy for those who have little regard for the Monarchy or no grasp of history to view the Privy Council as anachronistic. Others, perhaps, see it as merely symbolic, but symbolism matters – and the particular, but significant, constitutional role of ‘Privy Council terms’ demonstrates why the Monarchy remains at the heart of modern politics.
The Queen’s constitutional duties provide the stability, continuity and unity that shapes the way our country is governed; the role of Head of State which has developed over hundreds of years helps to guarantee our future. That is something in which we can all take great pride.