The Counsellors of State take the place of the monarch while they are unable to perform official duties temporarily, including due to illness or in their absence abroad. The issue was brought up on Monday in a debate in the House of Lords which asked if it is suitable for Prince Andrew and Prince Harry to continue to hold the position.
According to Hansard, Viscount Stansgate asked “His Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to amend the Regency Act 1937”.
The Lord Privy Seal noted that the Regency Act 1937 outlines the arrangements of triggering a regency and the appointment of Counsellors of State.
He added that “on occasion, the Regency Act 1937 has been amended so that its provisions effectively support the sovereign in the discharge of their duties and ensure the resilience of our constitutional arrangements”.
The Viscount said: “Does the Minister not think it time to approach the King to discuss the potential amendment of the Act, and in particular Clause 6, which at the moment defines regents in relation to their line of succession to the Crown?
“Otherwise, are the Government happy to continue with a situation where the counsels of state and regency powers may be exercised by the Duke of York or the Duke of Sussex, one of whom has left public life and the other of whom has left the country?”
Counsellors of State include the Sovereign’s spouse, so in this case the Queen Consort Camilla and the following four people in the line of succession who are over the age of 21.
While the late-Queen was sovereign, Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Andrew were the Counsellors of State.
Now Charles is monarch, it has been suggested that Princess Anne, Prince Edward, the Princess of Wales, or Sophie Wessex would be suitable to take over the role.
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UK constitutional law and politics expert Craig Prescott took to Twitter to address the debate in the House of Lords.
On Twitter, Mr Prescott said: “I think this was the first time the issue of Princes Harry and Andrew being Counsellors of State has been raised in Parliament.”
The House of Lords concluded its afternoon debate with Lord Privy Seal, Lord True, stating: “The Government will always consider what arrangements are needed to ensure resilience in our constitutional arrangements, and in the past, we have seen that the point of accession has proved a useful opportunity to consider the arrangements in place.”