Parliamentary Convention Called “King’s Consent” — Corruption from the Top Down

Parliamentary Convention Called “King’s Consent” — Corruption from the Top Down

Bills affecting the royal prerogative and the personal property and “personal interests” of the monarch require what is called “King’s Consent.” In Canada it is typically expressed by what is called a “Minister of the Canadian Crown.” It is a “Parliamentary Convention” which exposes how blatantly the Royals can intervene to introduce or block legislation according to their personal private interests.

The website of the royal family describes consent as “a long established convention.” This conventions means that “in the United Kingdom, as well as bills that affect the prerogative, bills affecting the hereditary revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall require King’s Consent. Bills affecting the latter also require Prince’s Consent from the Prince of Wales in his capacity as Duke of Cornwall. In certain circumstances, such as for the House of Lords Act 1999, the consent of the Prince of Wales, in his capacity as Earl of Chester or Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, must also be obtained where a bill affects his interests. In 1993, both Queen’s Consent and Prince’s Consent were required in respect of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 that enabled the ordination of women in the Church of England.”

According to the explanation it is all very proper. “Consent is usually signified in one (in unicameral legislatures) or both houses (in bicameral legislatures) of parliament, at either the second or third reading, by a privy counsellor and is recorded in Hansard. Where proposed legislation which might affect the royal prerogative or the private interests of the crown is sponsored by the cabinet (as is the case for most bills considered by parliament), the department sponsoring the bill must write to the palace giving as much time as possible, but never less than 14 days before the bill is introduced to parliament. In the Scottish parliament, consent is signified by a member of the Scottish government. In the Canadian parliament, Royal Consent can be signified in only one legislative chamber. In the UK Parliament consent is signified using the following wording (with similar wording for Prince’s Consent):

“I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the [name of bill], has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Measure.”

If consent is required but not signified, a bill may make no further progress through parliament. If a bill is mistakenly allowed to progress even though the required consent was not signified and the error is discovered before royal assent has been given, the proceedings may later be declared void. Where a bill requires the consent of the Prince and Steward of Scotland or the Duke of Rothesay, the Scottish parliament cannot debate any question whether the bill be passed or approved unless such consent to those provisions has been signified by a member of the Scottish executive. Once a bill has passed parliament and received royal assent, it is regarded as legally valid by the courts, regardless of any deficiency in parliamentary procedure, in accordance with the usual principles of parliamentary privilege.

The entire thing is a fraud because it is a process whereby bills can be changed before they are tabled in the parliament in the first place. The Guardian newspaper reported in February 2021 that memos had been found in the U.K. National Archives revealing that the advance notice of forthcoming bills allows the monarch to lobby for legislative changes without actual consent being invoked. The documents were reviewed by Thomas Adams, a specialist in constitutional law at Oxford University, who said they revealed “the kind of influence over legislation that lobbyists would only dream of.” The existence of the consent procedure appeared to have given the monarch “substantial influence” over draft laws that could affect her, Adams said.

As of 2021, over 1,000 bills had been submitted to the Queen or Prince Charles for Queen’s or Prince’s Consent. More than 50,000 people had, by February 28, 2021, signed a petition requesting a parliamentary inquiry into the convention of Queen’s Consent. Buckingham Palace responded to The Guardian, with typical double speak which avoids answering the question. The Palace stated that consent was always granted when requested and that legislation was never blocked.

The facts The Guardian presented show that Buckingham Palace is known to have requested changes to draft legislation in some cases; it is not known how many. In 1973, when a companies bill incorporating transparency measures was to be introduced in the UK parliament, after receiving advance notice as required by the consent procedure, the Queen’s lawyer and the trade department agreed an exception for heads of state. This allowed the Queen to avoid the embarrassment of disclosure of beneficial ownership of shares by the Crown until at least 2011. Consent was not required for the bill, as eventually introduced.

The Guardian revealed that Prince Charles had used Prince’s Consent to have proposed legislation changed so that his Duchy of Cornwall leasehold tenants would not have the right to buy their homes that was provided by what later became the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993

Prime Minister John Major is said to have expressed his “particular concern” about this aspect. The government did not wish to grant this exception, fearing that it would create a precedent for other major landowners, but ultimately, reluctantly, included the special exemption to avoid what a Whitehall official described as “a major row with the Prince of Wales,” saying “the will of ministers can prevail over that of monarchy but a constitutional crisis would add a further dimension of controversy to the bill which would be better avoided.”

It was reported in July 2021 that the advance notice provided by the consent procedure was used in the Scottish Parliament in 2021 to arrange for draft legislation to be modified so that the Queen, one of the largest landowners in Scotland, would become the only person in the country not required to facilitate the construction of pipelines to heat buildings using renewable energy. The Scottish government did not disclose the intervention of the Queen’s lawyer when the energy minister added the exemption to the green energy bill, key legislation to combat the climate emergency. It is not known why the Queen’s lawyer wanted the bill change, The Guardian wrote.

Since its creation in 1999, the Scottish Parliament has given the Queen advance notice of at least 67 parliamentary bills deemed to affect her. It is not known how many were consequently changed. The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie asked the Scottish government in a parliamentary question for a list of acts amended as a result of exchanges with the Queen’s representatives. The Scottish government ultimately refused to answer the question, but confidential briefing notes were later disclosed which said that it was almost certain that some bills had been changed before introduction, but that as they had not been “amended” in parliamentary terms they would not have been included.

In response to these reports about consent in Scotland, Buckingham Palace said: “The royal household can be consulted on bills in order to ensure the technical accuracy and consistency of the application of the bill to the crown, a complex legal principle governed by statute and common law. This process does not change the nature of any such bill.”

In 1999, the Queen, acting on ministerial advice, refused to signify her consent to parliament debating the Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill. This was a private member’s bill which sought to transfer from government (strictly speaking, the monarch acting on ministerial advice) to parliament the power to authorize military strikes against Iraq. This prevented the bill from being debated. In 1988, the Palace of Westminster (Removal of Crown Immunity) Bill could not be debated in the parliament because Queen’s Consent was withheld, as with the Reform of the House of Lords Bill in 1990.

(TML Daily, September 19, 2022 with files from UK National Archives, Wikipedia, The Guardian, House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (2014). The impact of Queen’s and Prince’s Consent on the legislative process: Eleventh Report of Session 2013-14 (PDF) (Report). The Stationery Office, The House of Commons)