A “high-level group” of Commonwealth leaders is meeting in London to review the governance of Commonwealth nations – amid a report that it will also discuss the succession to Queen Elizabeth when she dies.
The session will bring together seven former ministers and senior officials from across the organisation. It is developing policies on the future governance of the Commonwealth and, according to a report by the BBC, will also examine who should take over on the Queen’s death.
Succession to lead the organisation is not hereditary and will not pass automatically to the Prince of Wales.
A statement is expected later on Tuesday but sources insisted that devising procedures to select the next head of the Commonwealth was “outside the group’s formal mandate” and not on the meeting’s agenda.
Anote Tong, a former president of Kiribati, will chair the meeting of the Higher Level Group in London. It was appointed at the last Commonwealth heads of government meeting (CHOGM) in Malta in 2015.
The next meeting will be hosted by the UK in April. The Commonwealth compromises 53 states and territories, mostly former parts of the British empire. They include Australia, New Zealand and Canada, in each of which 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 that the issue of who is to succeed Queen Elizabeth, who is 91, 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 Guardian has spoken to a person with knowledge of the meeting who confirmed its existence but played down the succession discussion.
The source said the meeting was “a high-level group that has been commissioned to review the governing of the Commonwealth, but not so much who is going to succeed the Queen of England”.
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 by Commonwealth leaders.
At the CHOGM 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 decision and recommendations of the group would be presented at the CHOGM in April.
The Commonwealth is home to 2 billion people, 60% of whom are under 30.
According to his website, the Prince of Wales has visited 41 of the 52 Commonwealth countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada on numerous occasions.
The Foreign Office did not comment immediately about the session.