Too many Privy Councillors

There is widespread agreement that Britain has too many MPs and too many peers with seats in the Lords. The excessive number of Privy Councillors— people who style themselves Right Honourable—has passed almost unnoticed. Alistair Lexden highlighted the problem in a letter published in The Times on October 30.

Sir, Proposals have been made to shrink Lords and Commons alike (“Radical plan for Lords based on election results”, News Oct. 27). There is another bloated institution that needs urgent attention: the Privy Council. In 1924, the Queen’s grandfather, George V, decreed that “especial care” should be taken in making additions to it: a privy councillorship was “a greater honour than a peerage”.

Today the Privy Council has more than 670 members, making it larger than the Commons. Part of the blame rests with David Cameron, who handed out privy councillorships to junior ministers and backbenchers in unprecedented fashion. The full Council is required to meet on the accession of a monarch. At its present size, the Albert Hall will be needed.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords