Right Honourable title back for NZ's elite

From now on Prime Minister John Key will be right -- Right Honourable.

The Queen has approved the use of the right honourable title by current and future prime ministers, governor-generals, speakers and chief justices.

Until 2000 most senior members of the judiciary and executive from New Zealand were able to use the title due to their appointment to the United Kingdom's Privy Council.

Former prime minister Helen Clark decided not to suggest further appointments to the Privy Council and that has been continued under the current government.

Mr Key said Buckingham Palace approached him a couple of months ago with a suggestion from the Queen that the right honourable title be applied to those in the four positions.

Mr Key said that was consistent with other countries and he supported the move.

It would not be retrospective.

Mr Key said he was happy to be called honourable but appreciated the Queen's wish to recognise the service of prime ministers.

"To be honest for the last 18 months, half the time I'm called the right honourable and half the time I'm not, so it really doesn't make much difference."

The changes were effective immediately which means in addition to Mr Key, Speaker Lockwood Smith and Governor-General Anand Satyanand will gain the title.

Chief Justice Sian Elias was already a right honourable because she was appointed in 1999.

Those who miss out on the tittle, because they served after 2000 and left before today, were former governor-general Silvia Cartwright and former speaker Margaret Wilson.

The title is for life.

Mr Key did not believe reinstating the title tied New Zealand to Britain's apron strings.

"I don't think so, Canada's done the same thing.

"The sense from the Queen was that these four roles are very significant in New Zealand and ... so the feeling was that she wanted to have those specifically recognised."

The Queen did not feel it was appropriate to have the current prime minister called the honourable when in other realms they were called the right honourable.

A press secretary for the Queen said it was at her request that the title would be applied to "preserve an important mark of distinction for the holders of the nation's highest public offices".

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