The Queen did not interfere in parliamentary affairs. It was a cornerstone of Britain’s constitutional monarchy. Or at least it should be.
The Guardian’s inquiry into the secret power of the Queen’s consent, thereby inviting the King to view the draft laws in advance and to approve them, casts doubt on this basic assumption.
The investigation found evidence that he had used arbitrary practice to persuade the government to change a draft law to hide his personal wealth from the public for decades.
The exact origin of the Queen’s consent is not clear. There is evidence that it was first used in connection with maritime law in 1728, when King George II allowed Parliament to debate the suppression of the piracy bill.
“It simply came to our notice then. This is not a modern development, ”he said Dr. Adam Tucker, A senior lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Liverpool, was one of three experts in 2014 who provided evidence to a parliamentary committee examining the mechanism of approval.
In its current incarnation, the process applies to two types of laws. First, it affects the basic powers of the state, known as the state declaration, i.e. the ability to declare war or conduct foreign affairs. Although such powers are formally vested in the king’s person, in practice they are exercised by the government.
The second type of law, which affects the crown’s income, property, or interests, refers to historic lands, mainly known as the Crown Estate and the Queen’s Estate. Duchy of Lancaster, And the estate of Prince Charles, Cornwall Duchy.
The current guidance of public prosecutors states that this includes property owned by the Windsor family privately, Such as Sandringham or Palmoral, As well as the Queen’s private investments.
If prosecutors advise that approval is required, the minister handling the bill writes a letter to the Queen’s private secretary, explaining how the law affects itself and formally seeking her approval. At times, ministers have stated that it is their “humble duty” to seek approval for bills, according to Whitehall documents.
Copies of the draft law are attached to the request, which the Queen also sends to private attorneys Forer & Co, who examine the draft bill and advise her. Royals and their lawyers are given at least two weeks to examine the draft law.
Buckingham Palace insists the king’s role is “absolutely legitimate.” Assorted files show that the Queen was not given enough time to respond, or that the palace complained from time to time that the government had conducted the procedure too casually.
In 1983, Robin Butler, an aide to the prime minister, warned that “this is not a formality, as the clauses in these bills often have to be referred by the palace to the Queen’s attorney for legal advice.”
A similar arrangement exists for the Prince of Wales and his private estate, the Duchy of Cornwall.
If the approval is withheld, Parliament is barred from completing the study of the law. “Without the consent of the Queen or the Prince (if it is required), the question of a third reading of the bill cannot be put …” Parliamentary guidance In the states.
Some constitutional scholars have previously had doubts about maintaining such a harmonization as the Queen’s approval in the 21st century.
Tucker said: “This includes individuals who reflect the content of the material and the law. This includes a two-week delay, while the Queen’s lawyers are given time to advise the Queen on the content of the law. ”
He contradicted that procedure with state approval, by which the Queen approves the laws at the end of the legislative process, not during it. “There is a real difference between how serious the two processes are and how important they are.”
Tucker and two constitutional scholars told the 2014 parliamentary committee that there were no democratic justifications for the process.
Robert Blackburn, A professor of constitutional law at King’s College London has warned that “a misguided future monarch or prince of Wales has an inherent danger of having a strong moral opinion in the case of a bill involving state approval, and he or she has the right to impose his or her opinion on the matter in which he or she can be trusted.”
Rodney Frazier, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Manchester, wrote that the monarch had a unique right among Britain to recognize the proposed laws. “Why should a sovereign and a lord of Cornwall have that advantage, and why should a sovereign have a theoretical ability to strangle the law early in its life?” he said.
Neither the government nor Buckingham Palace routinely disclosed what views the King expressed when asked to approve draft bills.
Previous attempts to understand even the basic function of opacity practice have been vigorously opposed. In 2011, an academic sought government guidance on how consent was used, two years before a lawsuit was filed.
Six years ago a parliamentary committee recommended several changes to improve transparency, but little was done.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen’s approval had not yet been denied on the advice of ministers. “Whether the Queen’s approval is required is determined by Parliament, independently of the royal family, in matters affecting the interests of the crown, including personal property and the personal interests of the king,” a palace spokesman said.