Amendment 1

Part of Counsellors of State Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 23 November 2022.

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Photo of Viscount Stansgate Viscount Stansgate Labour 4:00, 23 November 2022

My Lords, I will not unduly take up the time of the Committee in introducing this amendment because my sense is that there are many Members who would not necessarily want to waste scarce parliamentary time unnecessarily.

My amendment is simple and straightforward: it proposes that, once the Bill has reached the statute book, if a Counsellor of State dies then the King may provide a replacement. It does not say the King has to do so; it simply says that he may if he wants to, and proposed new Section (1A) in the amendment provides the mechanism for doing so with the suitable involvement of Parliament. That is it.

The amendment is designed to be helpful. After all, the Bill is before us because the King has suggested that changing the Regency Act 1937 would be helpful to him in the discharge of his duties, and has asked us that two new names be added for life to the list of Counsellors of State. The Committee will know that both Princess Anne and the Earl of Wessex have already served in this role in years gone by.

As the Leader of the House said at Second Reading, it is the custom and practice for Counsellors of State to act in pairs, and he gave several examples in his speech. We saw that with our own eyes at the State Opening of Parliament when the Prince of Wales, as he then was, and Prince William, as he then was, acted as Counsellors of State and made it possible for this Session of Parliament to be opened. I believe that is the only time that Her late Majesty the Queen ever delegated these functions to Counsellors of State because of illness.

The Bill before us will solve the immediate problem and my amendment seeks only to avoid another, and to save some time. If one of the new Counsellors of State proposed in the Bill were to predecease the King, action would have to be taken again. We might even have to have a new Bill. Why? Because, as the Committee well knows, underlying the Bill is the fact that at least two of the existing Counsellors of State would not be publicly acceptable in the role that they would then have. That is why the King has recognised that there is a problem and why he has suggested the solution outlined in the Bill. My amendment is designed merely to help the King in future, and I commend it to the Committee.