Monday, March 05, 2007

Labour to abolish Privy Council

The Government’s constitutional vandalism is set to continue with the abolition of one of the United Kingdom’s oldest departments of state, and the oldest form of legislative assembly still functioning in the UK. According to The Daily Telegraph, the Privy Council, which can trace its origins to the 12th century, is being ‘downgraded’ as part of ‘efficiency savings’.

Not content with the dog’s breakfast it has made of the House of Lords, or the embarrassment caused by attempts to abolish the Lord Chancellor, the Government is intent on tinkering with an institution which fulfils a crucial role in the UK’s constitutional settlement. The Privy Council is indeed a council of government, which in many respects was supplanted at the Glorious Revolution by the Cabinet, but its members also give counsel, and in that regard Privy Councillors are actually Her Majesty’s Privy Counsellors. Each member, whether from the Government, the Opposition, the Lords Temporal, or the Lords Spiritual, has the right of access to the Sovereign in order to tender advice on public affairs. Peers enjoy right of access individually; members of the House of Commons possess the right collectively.

The following oath is administered to Privy Counsellors before they take office:

You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto The Queen's Majesty as one of Her Majesty's Privy Council. You will not know or understand of any manner of thing to be attempted, done or spoken against Her Majesty's Person, Honour, Crown or Dignity Royal, but you will lett and withstand the same to the uttermost of your power, and either cause it to be revealed to Her Majesty Herself, or to such of Her Privy Council as shall advertise Her Majesty of the same. You will in all things to be moved, treated and debated in Council, faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience; and will keep secret all matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in Council. And if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Counsellors you will not reveal it unto him but will keep the same until such time as, by the consent of Her Majesty or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof. You will to your uttermost bear Faith and Allegiance to the Queen's Majesty; and will assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Pre-eminences, and Authorities, granted to Her Majesty and annexed to the Crown by Acts of Parliament, or otherwise, against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States, or Potentates. And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to Her Majesty. So help you God.

To the modern mind, this oath might appear a little over-egged. It is, however, the oath by which acts of treason may be exposed, prevented, or restrained. And while ‘treason’ is also one of those terms which appears to belong to a bygone era, it is the taking of this oath which has been adduced as being incompatible with the support of successive governments for UK membership of the European Union. Essentially, when the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 was ratified by the House of Commons a year later, Her Majesty became a ‘citizen’ of the EU, subject to its laws, and the judgements of its courts.

One cannot simultaneously be both sovereign and subject. The Government is therefore resolving the conflict by eradicating the oath by which government ministers are required to uphold Her Majesty’s sovereignty. Well, something had to give…


Anonymous Voyager said...

Labour has pursued a policy of "creeping coup" since 1997...however Labour was always a party which was awe of the Tories and until Margaret Thatcher began dismantling institutions of state they would never have dared to do so.

The 1980s began the long-unwinding of the British polity

6 March 2007 at 06:31  
Anonymous Ulster Man said...

The only 'institutions' dismantled by Thatcher were government by trade union, and inefficient state-run industries. She respected tradition, history, and the country's institutions. She would never have tampered with the Lords, or ancient institutions like the Privy Council.

6 March 2007 at 09:45  
Anonymous Voyager said...

She abolished the GLC after trying to overturn the election result, emasculated local councils, interferred in the Statutes of Oxford Colleges, created OFsted and the National Curriculum.........N Ireland missed out on much of our legislation which is why you retained grammar schools.

Imagine a police force serving five times the population of N Ireland with very few police stations.....that is what West Yorkshire has.

Thatcher dismantled the regiments in the British Army, and took Britain very much deeper into the EU than any previous govt.....the Single European Act......I am surprised she did not get the Charlemagne Prize

6 March 2007 at 11:53  
Anonymous Ulster Man said...

With the possible exception of Army regiments, I just don't call those 'institutions'. Regiments are historic (like the RUC.......) but she didn't unravel the Constitution the way NuLab is doing. Grammar schools might also be 'institutions', except she didn't get rid of them all in England, so you could say the institution survived. She didn't and probably wouldn't have changed things that go back 800 years. That's what Blair is doing, and it is destabalising.

6 March 2007 at 13:09  
Blogger Paul Linford said...

Much as I agree with the tenor of your post, my understanding of the proposal under discussion is that it involves the abolition of the Privy Council OFFICE, not the Council itself.

The PCO is a small department of Government whose role is to support the Leaders of the House of Commons and Lords. It would seem to make sense, as Labour is suggesting, if this function was transferred to the Cabinet Office, which performs a siimilar role in supporting central machinery of government functions. It would not however mean the Privy Council itself ceased to exist.

6 March 2007 at 13:22  
Anonymous billy said...

I've probably misunderstood this but if HM ends up a commoner and we get a replubic I wouldn't be unhappy. Anything rather than Charles and Camilla at the top.

6 March 2007 at 15:16  
Blogger Scott said...

This makes me so angry. I can't stand all this disrespect, this frivolous contempt they have for the traditions and institutions of our country. WHY WON'T THEY JUST STOP? Who's more likely to be correct, and who has a better right to decide the structure and material of our constitution and country - 10 centuries of men and women, or one parliament of John Prescott and Tony Blair?

6 March 2007 at 17:25  
Blogger Jeremy Jacobs said...

Didn't the narcissist meglomaniac Blair say in May 1997 (I'm paraphrasing a bit here) "I'm going to smash conservatism" or something like that?

6 March 2007 at 22:55  
Anonymous Voyager said...

narcissist meglomaniac

You mean Narcissistic Personality Disorder where everyone else is an extra in his play ?

Of course.....look how far the narcissists get in this society...way beyond their competence

7 March 2007 at 08:20  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Billy 3.16. Helen Mirren already is a commoner - you have let yourself be carried away.

7 March 2007 at 12:06  
Blogger Cato, author of said...

Your Grace has rightly highlighted this further example of the petty minded attacks on our Constitution which the intellectual pygmies of New Labour delight in. Our constitution is under siege. We must all fight to defend it before it is too late.

7 March 2007 at 21:38  

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