When I checked out the Court Circular this morning, I saw something surprising:
The Baroness Stowell of Beeston took the Oath of Office as Lord Privy Seal, kissed hands upon her appointment and received the Privy Seal.
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After the Council the Rt. Hon. Oliver Letwin MP had an audience of The Queen, was sworn Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, kissed hands upon his appointment and received from Her Majesty the Seals of Office.
The official reshuffle announcement from Downing Street stated that Baroness Stowell was to become Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Oliver Letwin was supposed to become Lord Privy Seal [UPDATE: the government’s reshuffle page now refers to her as Lord Privy Seal, but this Tweet confirms that she was originally supposed to be Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster].
Assuming this isn’t a clerical error on the part of whoever drafted the Court Circular, this is a potentially interesting development. The office of Lord Privy Seal is a sinecure just like the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster, but its holder is considered one of the Great Officers of State (which are distinct from the Great Offices of State), and it’s ranked higher in the official order of precedence. It’s possible that David Cameron made a last-minute switcheroo in an attempt to de-emphasize the demotion of the Lords Leader. If that’s the case, it’s rather clumsy. Being Lord Privy Seal might get Baroness Stowell a better seat at state banquets, but it doesn’t address the pay gap or put her back in the Cabinet.
Other than the announcement in the Court Circular, there hasn’t been any official confirmation of Baroness Stowell’s ‘promotion.’ I will update this post as soon as I have more information.
UPDATE: Since the Downing Street website now refers to her as Lord Privy Seal, it looks like her ‘promotion’ is official. Still no word on why her title was changed, though.