Commonwealth group to meet amid reports of succession plans

The Commonwealth group is set to meet amid reports that they will discuss who will succeed the Queen as its head • Former Maltese foreign minister George Vella is amongst the high-level group

A ‘high-level’ Commonwealth group is to meet amid reports they will discuss the Queen’s succession.

According to a BBC report, the Commonwealth has secretly begun considering who might succeed the Queen as its head.

Succession to lead the organisation is not hereditary and will not automatically be passed to the Prince of Wales.

The group is meeting to officially review how the Commonwealth is run by its secretariat and governors. In a statement published on Tuesday, it said that members of the group would not be discussing the issue of the succession of  the Head of the Commonwealth, nor is part of the group's mandate.

Former Maltese Foreign Minister George Vella is amongst the seven-member high-level group.

Apart from Dr Vella, the high-level group consists of Lord Howell, a former British energy secretary, Louise Frechette, a former United Nations deputy secretary general and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian minister of finance.

The Commonwealth compromises 53 states and territories, mostly former parts of the British empire. They include Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where the Queen remains head of state.

An agenda for the all-day meeting, seen by the BBC, tabled “wider governance considerations” for discussion; which insiders say is code for succession planning.

One source told the BBC: “I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up.”

A second source told the BBC the issue of who is to succeed Queen Elizabeth, who will turn 92 in April, is expected to be discussed by Commonwealth leaders on the margins of the summit – particularly when they meet without officials “on retreat” at Windsor Castle.

The group is made up of senior former ministers from the Commonwealth.

The group is expected to report to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in April, which is likely to be the last that the monarch will attend.

The Queen was proclaimed Head of the Commonwealth at her coronation when she was head of state in seven of its eight members.

While many Commonwealth figures presume there will be no realistic alternative to Prince Charles, there has in the past been talk of electing a ceremonial leader to improve the organisation's democratic credentials.

According to the BBC, the Queen is backing Prince Charles to succeed her and has sent senior members of her team around the world to campaign for his appointment to Commonwealth leaders.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which was held in Malta in 2015 the Queen told Commonwealth leaders she could not “wish to have been better supported and represented in the Commonwealth than by the Prince of Wales who continues to give so much to it with great distinction”.

The Commonwealth is home to 2 billion people, 60% of whom are under the age of 30.

According to his website, the Prince of Wales has visited 41 of the 52 Commonwealth countries, including  Malta just last year.