Philip Dunne backs the bill which appoints HRH the Earl of Wessex and Forfar and HRH the Princess Royal as Counsellors of State to ensure a sufficient pool of experienced individuals who are working members of the royal family who can deputise for HM the King in his absence.
I rise briefly to add my support to the Bill, and to congratulate the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on his new role. The Bill has been brought in promptly, following a request from His Majesty the King in the royal message, and entirely appropriately, given that it is within a few weeks of his accession to the throne. It is therefore appropriate to ensure that sufficient Counsellors of State are available as may be required during the course of his reign. It is also entirely appropriate that the Government should put forward His Majesty’s brother and sister, both of whom, as was said earlier, have undertaken this role earlier in their lives. His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex and Forfar was a Counsellor of State for 20 years from his 21st birthday, and Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal was Counsellor of State for 32 years, from her 21st birthday. They are both experienced in this role, and they clearly have the full confidence of His Majesty.
The important point for this House, which has been referenced by all speakers, is that His Majesty needs a sufficient pool of experienced individuals who are working members of the royal family. There is no doubt whatsoever about the extent to which both their Royal Highnesses are committed to the royal family. They have spent their entire working lives in public service, and during the course of last year—a year affected by the covid pandemic —the Princess Royal undertook more royal engagements than any other member of the royal family, and I think two more than His Majesty, then Prince of Wales. The Earl of Wessex undertook more than 200 engagements during the course of that year. There is no doubt that they are entirely suited for the role, or that there is considerable public respect for both their Royal Highnesses, and I commend the Bill to the House.