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Privy Council

In the United Kingdom, there is a body called His Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council. It exercises a range of executive and other powers, advising the King on British matters of state.

Persons appointed to the Privy Council have usually achieved high political, ecclesiastical or judicial office or achieved eminence in public affairs in the United Kingdom, or the Commonwealth, or both. All members are appointed by the King on the advice of the British Prime Minister.  Once appointed, they are entitled to use the title "The Right Honourable" before their name. Appointment to the Privy Council is for life, although members may resign or be removed from office. Counsellors must be re-sworn of the Council on the accession of a new Sovereign.

In New Zealand, in the past, the service of senior Ministers and members of the judiciary has been given recognition by their appointment to the Privy Council, and the consequent right to use the title "The Right Honourable" (abbreviated to "The Rt Hon") while in office and for life.

The formal responsibility for recommending appointments to the Privy Council to the King rests exclusively with the British Prime Minister. New Zealand Prime Ministers have not been able to make recommendations for appointment and technically have made "suggestions" to the British Prime Minister. From 2000, successive New Zealand Prime Ministers decided not to suggest any further appointments to the Privy Council, with formal steps taken to discontinue the arrangement in 2010. In 2004, the New Zealand government discontinued the right to appeal to the Privy Council and established the Supreme Court as New Zealand’s highest court. All formal links to the Privy Council were severed from that time.

There are currently 19 New Zealanders appointed to the Privy Council (see the list of current New Zealand members of the Council).

Under new rules approved by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010 for the grant, use and retention of the title "The Right Honourable" in New Zealand, the membership of those persons will continue. The Rules provide that persons who are entitled to use the title The Right Honourable and who are also members of The Most Honourable Privy Council may use the letters "PC" after their name to denote such membership.

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 15 November 2022

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