Defence Council of the United Kingdom

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The Defence Council of the United Kingdom is the body legally entrusted with the defence of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories and with control over the British armed forces, and is part of the Ministry of Defence.[1]


Prior to 1964, there were five bodies responsible for the armed forces: the Admiralty, the War Office, the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Aviation, and a smaller Ministry of Defence. By Orders-in-Council issued under the Defence (Transfer of Functions) Act 1964,[2] the functions of these bodies were transferred to the Defence Council and the Secretary of State for Defence, who heads a larger Ministry of Defence.

The Secretary of State for Defence, who is a member of the Cabinet, chairs the Defence Council, and is accountable to the Queen and to Parliament for its business. The letters patent constituting the Defence Council vest it with the power of command over Her Majesty's Forces and give it responsibility for their administration, or in the words of the letters patent:

" administer such matters pertaining to Our Naval Military and Air Forces as We through Our Principal Secretary of State for Defence direct them to execute And to have command under Us of all Officers Ratings Soldiers and Airmen of Our Naval Military and Air Forces...".

In practice, the Defence Council is a formal body, and almost all its work is conducted by or on behalf of the three service boards chaired by the Secretary of State which report to the Defence Council, namely the Admiralty Board, the Army Board and the Air Force Board.


As of July 2014, membership of the Defence Council is as follows:[3]

A sign erected under the auspices of the Defence Council







  1. ^ "Defence Council". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  2. ^ London Gazette (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) (43277): 2545. 20 March 1964 Retrieved 10 June 2011.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ MOD website