In R (Project Management Institute) v Minister for the
Cabinet Office and others  EWCA Civ 21, the Court of
Appeal upheld a decision of the Privy Council to recommend the
grant of a Royal Charter to a charitable professional association.
This was the first time that a decision to grant a Royal Charter
had been challenged in the court.
The Privy Council had recommended the grant of a Royal Charter
to the Association for Project Management ('APM'), a
professional association structured as a charitable company. This
decision was later challenged by way of judicial review by a
competing professional association, the Project Management
At present, Royal Charters are granted rarely and are reserved
for bodies that work in the public interest (such as charities or
professional institutions) which demonstrate their pre-eminence,
stability and permanence in their particular field. Privy Council
guidance in relation to professional bodies sets out certain
criteria the Privy Council will consider, including that the body
represents a field of activity which is unique and not covered by
other professional bodies.
APM, a registered charity with over 16,000 members in the UK,
had applied for a Royal Charter to further its work of advancing
project management. The claimant, PMI, a not-for-profit company
incorporated in Pennsylvania with 800,000 members worldwide,
objected to the application on various grounds, including that the
grant would put PMI at a competitive disadvantage to the detriment
of the profession of project management and the public interest
generally. PMI also argued that the decision was irrational and
contrary to published policy (as APM did not satisfy all of the
Privy Council's criteria) and that the Privy Council was biased
towards APM because of the government's history of dealings
An appeal against the High Court's decision dismissing
PMI's claim was allowed as this was the first time that the
grant or refusal of a Royal Charter had been challenged in the
The Court of Appeal held that PMI was entitled to seek judicial
review of the decision because, as a competitor claiming that it
would be adversely affected by the decision, it had a sufficient
interest within section 31(3) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 to
challenge the lawfulness of the decision to grant a Royal
However, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and upheld the
decision of the Privy Council to recommend the grant of a Royal
Charter to APM. Although the Privy Council's website set out
the five main criteria which a body applying for a Charter would
normally be expected to meet, the Privy Council was permitted to
take the public interest into account as outweighing any failure to
meet the main criteria in full.
The Court of Appeal also held that in making its decision, a
fair minded and informed observer would not conclude that there was
a real possibility that the Privy Council was biased, having
considered all the relevant facts, nor was there a basis for any
suggestion of predetermination.
What does this mean for charities established by Royal
It is rare that we have any case law relating to the grant or
amendment of a Royal Charter. This case gives a clear indication
that the public interest will override any criteria set out in
Privy Council policy in relation to the grant or amendment of a
The Privy Council's guidance on Royal Charters is available
The full decision is publicly available here.
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