Downing Street today revealed a little known committee in Boris Johnson’s department set in motion Donald Trump’s controversial state visit to the UK.
A spokesperson for Number 10 said that a committee of civil servants in the Foreign Office is responsible for deciding who is eligible for a state visit, before the invitation goes to Buckingham Palace for approval.
Huff Post UK has learned the Royal Visits Committee is part of the Protocol department within the Foreign Office, which is responsible for organising the details of the Prime Minister’s overseas trips – including what gifts to take world leaders and whether to offer a state visit.
More than a million people have signed a petition calling for the visit to be scrapped after Trump announced his controversial travel ban refugees and citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries.
Speaking this morning, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “There is a process whereby each year the Government looks at recommendations made by a committee for state visits.
“Those are put to Buckingham Palace, which agrees to those visits and the invitation is extended on behalf of Her Majesty by the Government. That is what the process is.”
When pushed on why Trump was offered the state visit just days into his presidency, the spokesperson said: “There is no sort of set time frame for how long somebody has to be a President for before they are invited to a state visit. The process of a state visit is a very clearly structured set out process.
“If you want more details I suggest you go the Foreign Office.”
The Royal Visits Committee is chaired by the Foreign Office Permanent Under Secretary Sir Simon McDonald, and is made up civil servants representing the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and the Prime Minister.
Also present are the Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen, the National Security Adviser, a representative from Department of International Trade and the Foreign Office’s Director of Protocol.
Former Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant, who served in the department from 2009 to 2010 when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, said it was extremely unlikely May did not have an influence in whether to invite Trump for a state visit.
He told Huff Post UK: “Somebody in the meeting would say what are we going to offer when we go on a visit? What are we going to get them for a gift? What about a state visit?
“I don’t believe for one minute that Theresa May didn’t have a say on whether a state visit would be offered.”