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 Secret papers show extent of senior royals' veto over bills

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PostSubject: Secret papers show extent of senior royals' veto over bills   Wed 16 Jan 2013, 12:29

Secret papers show extent of senior royals' veto over bills



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

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 estate.
"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.

Royal influence

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.

The Queen
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)

Prince Charles
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

This article was amended on Tuesday 15 January 2013 because it stated
that Prince Charles has used the veto on more than a dozen occasions
when it should have said that he has been asked to consent to 20 pieces
of legislation.

Source:-
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jan/14/secret-papers-royals-veto-bills
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