Colleagues have questioned the “curious” decision to allow Princes Harry and Andrew to represent King Charles.
Councilors of state who can represent the monarch when he is on a mission abroad or ill include the Duke of Sussex, who is based in California after stepping down as working king, and the disgraced Duke of York.
Meanwhile, a former courtier told Parliament that a change in law allowing the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex to represent the King “will bring much-needed strength and depth to the bank”.
Lord Janvrin, who served as the late Queen’s private secretary between 1999 and 2007, made the football analogy against the backdrop of the World Cup, as peers debated Councils of State bill being speeded up in Westminster.
The legislative move comes after the king requested the change on the occasion of his 74th birthday to “ensure the continued efficiency of public business when I am unavailable”.
A change in law allowing the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex to represent the King. From right to left are: Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and Princess Anne, the Princess Royal
Appointments for the advisers are made under the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953 and those who can currently stand in for Charles include the Queen Consort and the four longest serving adults in the line of succession – Prince of Wales, Harry, Andrew and Princess Beatrice.
The Bill will add Anne and Edward to the list but will not remove Andrew and Harry.
However, the House of Lords heard that only “working members” of the Royal Family would be called upon to serve as Councilors of State.
At the second reading of the bill, Lord Janvrin, an independent crossbencher, said: “The current pool of working members of the Royal Family who are eligible and available to serve as State Advisers is very small for known reasons.
“The addition of the Earl of Wessex and the Princess Royal makes very practical sense.
“If I can, if a lot of thought is on football, it will give the bench some much-needed strength and depth.”
The issue was continued by fellow Crossbencher and lead counsel Lord Pannick, who told the upper chamber in relation to Harry and Andrew: “It is an odd feature of this bill to keep two people on the team sheet who will not play part of the game, but of course I understand why that is.’
He called on the government to undertake a review of existing regulations to “see if they are fit for the modern world”.
The legislative move comes after the king requested the change while celebrating his 74th birthday
Labor colleague Lord Berkeley welcomed the law, saying: “It is very important to ensure that the machinery of government keeps running when the monarch is abroad or prevented from doing so.”
However, he questioned the position of the Duke of York and the Duke of Sussex, saying: “Two more Members are rightly being added in relation to this Bill so presumably two Members can also be excluded which I would suggest should be excluded are no longer working members.”
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, a member of the Green Party, said: “It just seems ridiculous that we still have this system here.”
She added: “This is so inconsequential to the lives of most people who are struggling to live and work right now.”
Fellow worker Viscount Stansgate, son of the late leftist arsonist Tony Benn, said: “This is a necessary piece of legislation and it should be passed. It is also that we know why it is necessary.
“The monarch cannot always be available to perform his or her duties, and by tradition stretching back centuries, and most recently enshrined in law, others from the royal household have been appointed to assist the sovereign.”
Councilors of state who can represent the monarch when he is on a mission abroad or ill include the Duke of Sussex, who is based in California after stepping down as working king, and the disgraced Duke of York
But he added: “I think there are a lot of people in this country who would find this current list an odd mix.”
Liberal Democrat colleague Lord Newby said: “The British Constitution is a very strange beast and this bill sheds light on one of its darkest corners.
“How many people in the general public know that there is such a thing as councils of state? How many could you name, and if you knew who they are, how many would think this is a reasonable current arrangement?’
Commenting on the bill, he said: “It gets us out of a hole that would be a good idea to eventually fill.”
The Labor leader of the Lords Baroness Smith of Basildon said: “I cannot think of a more suitable member of the Royal Household to fill those two positions as additional Councilors of State.”
Lord Keeper of the Seals, Lord True, told colleagues: “This law represents a practical solution and safeguard to ensure that the machinery of government can continue.”
He underlined: “The Royal Household has confirmed that in practice working members of the Royal Family – working members – will be encouraged to serve as Councilors of State and that diaries will be put in place to make this workable.”
The bill received a second reading and is scheduled to complete its remaining stages on Wednesday before going to the House of Commons.
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