On 21 November 2022, the second reading of the Counsellors of State Bill [HL] is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords. The bill’s remaining Lords stages are expected to take place on 23 November 2022. 

The bill would add the Princess Royal (Princess Anne) and the Earl of Wessex (Prince Edward) to the pool of members of the royal family who can act as counsellors of state if the sovereign is absent from the UK or ill, but not to the extent that a regency is required. King Charles indicated his support for this change in a message to both Houses of Parliament on 14 November 2022. The bill would not make any other changes to the existing provisions on counsellors of state. 

Current legislation specifies that the counsellors of state consist of the spouse of the sovereign and the four people next in the line of succession to the crown, not counting those who are disqualified, for example for not being of full age. There is no provision for making anyone else a counsellor of state. The current counsellors of state are the Queen Consort, the Prince of Wales (Prince William), the Duke of Sussex (Prince Harry), the Duke of York (Prince Andrew) and Princess Beatrice. Counsellors of state can be excepted if they are absent from the UK during the period in which the sovereign is delegating royal functions, but no replacement can be appointed for someone who is absent.

All powers and authorities belonging to the crown, whether prerogative or statutory, can be delegated to the counsellors of state, except for dissolving Parliament otherwise than on the express instructions of the sovereign, and granting peerages. When the sovereign delegates royal functions, the letters patent that make the delegation specify what functions the counsellors of state may or may not perform. The letters patent usually specify that counsellors of state are required to act in pairs.

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