Too many Privy Counsellors

On a number of occasions in the last few years, Alistair Lexden has drawn attention to a neglected example of unduly generous prime ministerial patronage. He returned to the issue in his last letter of 2018, which was published in The Times on December 29.

Sir, With more than 670 members, the bloated Privy Council is larger than the House of Commons. It certainly does not need the three additions that Mrs May is providing through “a shameless use of patronage” (“Sir John Redwood hails honour and pushes for no deal”, Dec. 29).

Monarchs once faced down profligate prime ministers. Queen Victoria insisted that the distinction of belonging to her Privy Council should not be debased through lavish promotions to it. Her grandson, George V, said appointment to the Privy Council was “a greater honour than a peerage.” Some of Churchill’s nominations were resisted by George VI. Backbench MPs were rarely admitted.

During the Queen’s reign, the Privy Council has more than doubled in size. All members are required to assemble on the accession of a new monarch. Instead of the traditional meeting place, St James’s Palace, they will need to hire the Royal Albert Hall on the next occasion.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords