The Queen and Prince Charles are using their little-known power of veto over new laws, according to Whitehall documents.
The Telegraph, January 2013.
At least 39 bills have been subject to Royal approval, with the senior royals using their power to consent or block new laws in areas such as higher education, paternity pay and child maintenance.
Internal Whitehall papers prepared by Cabinet Office lawyers show that on one occasion the Queen vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, which aimed to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament. She was also asked to consent to the Civil Partnership Act in 2004.
In the Whitehall document, which was released following a court order, the Parliamentary Counsel warns that if consent is not given by the royals “a major plank of the bill must be removed”.
Legal scholar John Kirkhope, who fought to access the papers following a freedom of information case, said the document revealed senior royals have “real influence and real power”. “There has been an implication that these prerogative powers are quaint and sweet but actually there is real influence and real power, and totally unaccountable,” he said.
The document also contains a warning to civil servants that obtaining consent can cause delays to legislation. Royal approval may even be needed for amendments to laws, it says. Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, which includes land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, said the findings showed the Royals “are playing an active role in the democratic process”. He called for greater transparency in order to evaluate whether the powers were “appropriate.” “This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a ceremonial role,” he said.
“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.”
The power of veto has been used by Prince Charles on more than 12 government bills since 2005 on issues covering gambling to the Olympics.