Privy Council

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Privy Council

The Privy Council is the British Crown's private council. It is composed of more than three hundred members, including cabinet members, distinguished scholars, judges, and legislators. Once a powerful body, it has lost most of the judicial and political functions it exercised since the middle of the seventeenth century and has largely been replaced by the Cabinet.

The Privy Council derived from the King's Council, which was created during the Middle Ages. In 1540 the Privy Council came into being as a small executive committee that advised the king and administered the government. It advised the sovereign on affairs of state and the exercise of the royal prerogative. It implemented its power through royal proclamations, orders, instructions, and informal letters, and also by giving directions to and receiving reports from the judges who traveled the circuits, hearing cases in cities and towns, twice a year. It concerned itself with public order and security, the economy, public works, public authorities and corporations, local government, Ireland, the Channel Islands, the colonies, and foreign affairs.

The inner circle of advisers in the Privy Council met in the royal chamber or cabinet and was therefore called the cabinet council. In the eighteenth century, the cabinet became the council for the prime minister, the leader of Parliament. The United States adopted the cabinet idea, though its legal status is not identified in the Constitution. Cabinet members are presidential advisers who serve as Executive Branch department heads.

The power of the Privy Council disappeared between 1645 and 1660 during the English Civil War and the government of Oliver Cromwell. It never recovered its former position. Long policy debates shifted to Parliament, and important executive decisions went to committees. In modern days members of the Privy Council rarely meet as a group, delegating their work to committees.

The lord president of the council, who is a member of the cabinet, is the director of the Privy Council Office. The most important committee is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which comprises all members of the council who have held high judicial office. Usually, however, three to five Lords of Appeal sit to hear appeals from the United Kingdom, the British Crown colonies, and members of the Commonwealth. The committee does not give a judgment but prepares a report to the sovereign, and its decision may be implemented in an Order in Council. The work of the committee has diminished because it rarely hears ecclesiastical appeals and because many Commonwealth countries have abolished the right of appeal.

Further readings

Lehrfreund, Saul. 1999. "The Death Penalty and the Continuing Role of the Privy Council." New Law Journal (August 20).

Owen, D.H.O. 1992. "The Privy Council and the Professional Foul." Medico-Legal Journal 60 (spring).


Curia Regis.

See: bench

Privy Council (PC)

the great council of state comprising the sovereign and the councillors. Councillors are addressed as ‘The Right Honourable’. The cabinet discharges the advice function, and a judicial committee sits as the highest court of appeal for some Commonwealth states such as New Zealand and formerly for Canada and Australia. It now has power to adjudicate on certain aspects of devolution, notably under the Scotland Act 1998 and to declare legislation incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998.

PRIVY COUNCIL, Eng. law. A council of state composed of the king and of such persons as he may select.

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Although Jeremy was unavailable for today's meeting, he has confirmed he will be joining the Privy Council," the spokesman said .
On the Privy Council, Ms McVey joins leaders of the opposition parties, senior judges, top bishops and Commonwealth representatives.
This is why I resigned in protest from the Privy Council.
That decision is one that ought to be taken by the elected Parliament not decided in smoke-filled rooms, or pizza-filled rooms I think it is nowadays, of the Privy Council.
The second method is far more objective, using software analysis techniques, collectively known as the digital humanities, both to discern the emphases of the reports and to demonstrate how the Clerk of the Privy Council has used its power of narrative.
Newman principal and vice chancellor Professor Peter Lutzeier said: "I'm delighted that we've now received the green light from the Privy Council to use the full university title.
The President of the Privy Council then passed the file on to Minister of National Defence.
After hearing a day-and-a-half of legal submissions last month, the Privy Council, sitting at London's Supreme Court on Parliament Square, rejected his appeal that the police's actions amounted to an "abuse of process.
The Privy Councils approval last Friday for the commission to be established follows the resignation of the former Attorney General, John Cauchi, because of what he termed government interference.
Summary: <p>Canada will contribute $1 million to help organize the sixth Francophone Games, which will take place in Beirut from September 27 to October 6, according to an announcement Thursday by Josee Verner, of intergovernmental affairs minister, president of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and francophone minister.
But, during the course of the judgment, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council came close to declaring that pre-nups should have the full force of the law behind them, and claimed that was an issue for the Government.
The evidence offered for it is two Privy Council orders, of 1598 and 1600 which, Gurr claims, were a "reaffirmation" of the 1594 deal.