Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning has been appointed by the Queen as a member of the Privy Council, the centuries-old body made up of senior politicians, judges and clergymen who advise the sovereign on matters of state.
The body can trace its origins back to Norman times, and today there are about 400 members.
These include all cabinet ministers but it’s less common for junior ministers like Mr Penning, now serving at the Department for Work & Pensions after spells at transport and in Northern Ireland, to get the nod.
Leaders of the opposition parties, senior judges, top bishops and some Commonwealth representatives are also included in the membership, as are some members of the royal family – Prince Phillip is the longest-serving member, having been appointed to the role by King George VI.
There are official meetings of the council once a month at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, although only a handful of invited members attend.
Mr Penning said: “It’s a great privilege.
“The Privy Council is one of the most ancient arms of government and I am deeply honoured to become a member.”
Appointment to the council, which is for life, means that Mr Penning can now use the title ‘Right Honourable.’
Because appointment is for life, many senior Labour figures are also members including former cabinet ministr and High Commissioner to South Africa Lord Boateng.
As Paul Boateng he became Britain’s first black cabinet minister in 2002, and spent part of his boyhood in Hemel Hempstead, studying at the former Apsley Grammar School, now Longdean School.
As well as advising the Queen, the council has a range of other responsibilities.
It has a role in overseeing the affairs of hundreds of institutions, charities and companies which have been incorporated by royal charter.
It is also involved in the work of a number of UK statutory regulatory bodies covering a number of professions, mainly in the fields of healthcare and higher education, and in appointing the High Sheriffs of England and Wales as well as appointments to governing bodies.
It is also the court of final appeal for the UK overseas territories and Crown dependencies, and for those Commonwealth countries that have retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council, including Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize and Tuvalu.
Mr Penning will be expected to take a formal oath of allegiance to the Queen as he takes up his appointment.
It was previously considered treason to reveal the contents of the oath, but it has been public record since 1998.
The wording is: You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto the Queen’s Majesty, as one of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. You will not know or understand of any manner of thing to be attempted, done, or spoken against Her Majesty’s Person, Honour, Crown, or Dignity Royal, but you will lett and withstand the same to the uttermost of your Power, and either cause it to be revealed to Her Majesty Herself, or to such of Her Privy Council as shall advertise Her Majesty of the same. You will, in all things to be moved, treated, and debated in Council, faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience; and will keep secret all Matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in Council. And if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Counsellors, you will not reveal it unto him, but will keep the same until such time as, by the Consent of Her Majesty, or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof. You will to your uttermost bear Faith and Allegiance unto the Queen’s Majesty; and will assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Pre-eminences, and Authorities, granted to Her Majesty, and annexed to the Crown by Acts of Parliament, or otherwise, against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States, or Potentates. And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to Her Majesty. So help you God.