Queen's Secret VETO Power on UK Laws
|The Queen was asked for consent on a range of bills,|
including those affecting her estates. There is growing
concern in parliament at a lack of transparency over
the royals’ role in lawmaking. Photograph: Sergeant Dan Harmer
Secret papers show extent of senior royals' veto over bills
Court order reveals how approval of Queen and Prince Charles is sought on range of bills
The Guardian, Monday 14 January 2013
The extent of the Queen and Prince Charles's secretive power of veto
over new laws has been exposed after Downing Street lost its battle to
keep information about its application secret.
Whitehall papers prepared by Cabinet Office lawyers show that overall at
least 39 bills have been subject to the most senior royals'
little-known power to consent to or block new laws. They also reveal the
power has been used to torpedo proposed legislation relating to
decisions about the country going to war.
The internal Whitehall pamphlet was only released following a court
order and shows ministers and civil servants are obliged to consult the
Queen and Prince Charles in greater detail and over more areas of
legislation than was previously understood.
The new laws that were required to receive the seal of approval from the
Queen or Prince Charles cover issues from higher education and
paternity pay to identity cards and child maintenance.
In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions
Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member's bill that sought to
transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the
monarch to parliament.
She was even asked to consent to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 because
it contained a declaration about the validity of a civil partnership
that would bind her.
In the pamphlet, the Parliamentary Counsel warns civil servants that if
consent is not forthcoming there is a risk "a major plank of the bill
must be removed".
"This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a ceremonial role,"
said Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, which includes
land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the Prince of Wales' hereditary
"It shows the royals are playing an active role in the democratic
process and we need greater transparency in parliament so we can be
fully appraised of whether these powers of influence and veto are really
appropriate. At any stage this issue could come up and surprise us and
we could find parliament is less powerful than we thought it was."
Charles has been asked to consent to 20 pieces of legislation and this
power of veto has been described by constitutional lawyers as a royal
"nuclear deterrent" that may help explain why ministers appear to pay
close attention to the views of senior royals.
The guidance also warns civil servants that obtaining consent can cause
delays to legislation and reveals that even amendments may need to be
run past the royals for further consent.
"There has been an implication that these prerogative powers are
quaint and sweet but actually there is real influence and real power,
albeit unaccountable," said John Kirkhope, the legal scholar who fought the freedom of information case to access the papers.
The release of the papers comes amid growing concern in parliament at a
lack of transparency over the royals' role in lawmaking. George has set
down a series of questions to ministers asking for a full list of bills
that have been consented to by the Queen and Prince Charles and have
been vetoed or amended.
The guidance states that the Queen's consent is likely to be needed
for laws affecting hereditary revenues, personal property or personal
interests of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall.
Consent is also needed if it affects the Duchy of Cornwall. These
guidelines effectively mean the Queen and Charles both have power over
laws affecting their sources of private income.
The Queen uses revenues from the Duchy of Lancaster's 19,000 hectares of
land and 10 castles to pay for the upkeep of her private homes at
Sandringham and Balmoral, while the prince earns £18m-a-year from the
Duchy of Cornwall.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "It is a long established
convention that the Queen is asked by parliament to provide consent to
those bills which parliament has decided would affect crown interests.
The sovereign has not refused to consent to any bill affecting crown
interests unless advised to do so by ministers."
A spokesman for Prince Charles said: "In modern times, the prince of
Wales has never refused to consent to any bill affecting Duchy of
Cornwall interests, unless advised to do so by ministers. Every instance
of the prince's consent having been sought and given to legislation is a
matter of public record."
Graham Smith, director of Republic, the campaign for an elected head of
state, has also called for full disclosure of the details of the
occasions when royal consent has been refused.
"The suggestion in these documents that the Queen withheld consent
for a private member's bill on such an important issue as going to war
beggars belief," he said. "We need to know whether laws have been
changed as the result of a private threat to withhold that consent."
The Cabinet Office fought against the publication of the 30-page
internal guidance in a 15-month freedom of information dispute. It
refused a request to release the papers from Kirkhope, a notary public
who wanted to use them in his graduate studies at Plymouth University.
It was ordered to do so by the Information Commissioner. The Cabinet
Office then appealed that decision in the Information Tribunal but lost.
Here is a list of government bills that have required the consent of the
Queen or the Prince of Wales. It is not exhaustive and in only one case
does it show whether any changes were made. It is drawn from data
gleaned from two Freedom of Information requests.
Agriculture (miscellaneous provisions) bill 1962
Housing Act 1996
Rating (Valuation Act) 1999
Military actions against Iraq (parliamentary approval bill) 1999 – consent not signified
Pollution prevention and control bill (1999)
High hedges bills 2000/01 and 2002/03
European Union bill 2004
Civil Partnership Act 2004
Higher Education Act 2004
National Insurance Contributions and Statutory Payments Act 2004
Identity cards bill 2004-06
Work and families bill 2005-06
Commons bill 2006
Animal Welfare Act 2006
Charities Act 2006
Child maintenance and other payments bill (2006/07)
Rating (Empty Properties) Act 2007
Courts, Tribunals and Enforcement Act 2007
Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
Fixed term parliaments bill (2010-12 session)
Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970
Land Registration (Scotland Act) 1979
Pilotage bill 1987
Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Act 1997
House of Lords Act 1999
Gambling bill 2004-05
Road Safety bill 2004-05
Natural environment and rural communities bill 2005-06
London Olympics bill 2005-06
Commons bill 2006
Charities Act 2006
Housing and regeneration bill 2007-08
Energy bill 2007-08
Planning bill 2007-08
Co-operative and community benefit societies and credit unions bill 2008-09
Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction (Lords) 2008-09
Marine and Coastal Access (Lords) 2008-09
Coroners and justice bill 2008-09
Marine navigation aids bill 2009-2010
Wreck Removal Convention Act 2010-12
Thanks to: americankabuki.blogspot.nl