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Privy Council Office Business - Frequently Asked Questions

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 Constitutional Settlement Division of the Cabinet Office. 

Enquiries should be addressed to the Cabinet Office, Constitutional Settlement Division, Post Point 5.25, 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ. Phone: 020 3334 3816 or 020 3334 3817. 

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?

The Privy Council is not involved in the process of granting city status, which is administered by the Ministry of Justice.  For historical information please visit ; contact details can be found at

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 about 550 members, and members are entitled to the prefix 'Right Honourable.'

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


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 Queen 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 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.

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