Plans being considered to increase number of royals able to stand in for King Charles in his absence

ITV News reporter Geraint Vincent explains why there is increased scrutiny of the counsellor of state role

Plans are being considered to increase the number of senior royals allowed to stand in for the King in his absence, ITV News understands.

'Counsellors of state' are meant to represent Charles should he ever be unable to complete official duties, like signing acts of parliament into law.

There are calls for the list of five - Princess Beatrice, Prince William, Camilla, Queen consort, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew - to be expanded, as the latter pair are no longer working royals.

Now that Harry lives in the US, it could prove difficult for him to stand in for his father.

As for Andrew, counsellor of state is one of the very few titles he retains after being stripped of so many during the the scandal over his association with Jeffrey Epstein.

The prospect of tweaking the list of counsellors was raised by Labour Peer Viscount Stansgate on Monday in the House of Lords when he asked the government what plans it had, if any, to amend the Regency Act.

The Labour Peer asked Lord True, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords: “Does the minister not think it time to approach the King to discuss the potential amendment of this 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?"

Listen to the ITV News Royal Rota podcast

Dr Craig Prescott, a constitutional expert from Bangor University, told ITV News: "The problem is that three of [the five counsellors] - you have Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice - are no longer conducting public duties.

"But also you would expect that when the King is away, so would be the Queen travelling with him, so in practice you are only left with Prince William, and the practise is that two counsellors of state are required to act together."

Labour MP Rachael Maskell told ITV News she's among those who believe both Andrew and Harry should be excluded from such a significant constitutional role.

Prince Andrew is currently one of the five counsellors of state. Credit: PA

She added: "I think there needs to be question about how somebody arrives at the position of being counsellor of state, but also what are the determinations that this person is fit to hold such an important office."

Another option would be simply to increase the number of counsellors, with Princess Anne and Prince Edward being obvious candidates.

It is thought any amendment to increase the number of counsellors would be completed later this year, before the prospect of the King and Queen Consort going on overseas tours in 2023.