The Royal Family has approved more than 1,000 laws with the Queen’s consent | The Queen

Over 1,000 laws have been approved by the Queen or Prince Charles through a secret procedure before being approved by the elected members of the British parliament, established the Guardian.

The vast number of laws under royal scrutiny cover issues ranging from justice, social security, pensions, race relations and food policy to arcane rules on parking fees and hovercraft.

They included bills that affected the Queen’s personal assets such as her private estates at Balmoral and Sandringham, and potentially anything that was meant to affect her personally.

The Guardian has compiled a database of at least 1,062 Private Members’ Bills which have been submitted for the Queen’s consent, from the start of Elizabeth II’s reign to the present day.

The database shows that the opaque procedure of the Queen’s consent was exercised much more widely than previously believed.

Queen’s Consent Database

According to the procedure, government ministers privately notify the Queen of the terms of parliamentary bills and seek her consent to debate them.

As part of a series exploring the use of the consent procedure, the Guardian has published documents from the National Archives which reveal that the Queen has at times used the procedure to privately lobby the government.

Quick Guide

What is Queen’s Consent?

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The Queen’s Consent is a little-known procedure by which the government seeks permission from the monarch for parliament to debate laws that affect her. Unlike Royal Assent, which is a formality that takes place at the end of the bill-drafting process, Queen’s Consent takes place before Parliament is allowed to debate the legislation.

Consent must be sought for any legislation affecting either the royal prerogative – the fundamental powers of the state, such as the ability to declare war – or crown property, such as royal palaces. Buckingham Palace says the procedure also covers assets the monarch owns privately, such as the Sandringham and Balmoral estates.

If the Parliamentary Solicitors decide that a Bill requires Consent, a Government Minister writes to the Queen to formally request her permission to debate the Bill. A copy of the bill is sent to the Queen’s private lawyers, who have 14 days to review and advise her.

If the Queen grants her consent, parliament can debate legislation and the process is officially recorded in Hansard, the record of parliamentary debates. If the Queen refuses her consent, the bill cannot go forward and Parliament is effectively barred from debating it.

The Royal Family claim that consent was never withheld except on the advice of government ministers.

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The investigation revealed evidence suggesting she used the procedure to persuade government ministers to change a 1970s Transparency Act to hide her private wealth from the public.

The documents also show that on other occasions, the monarch’s advisers demanded exclusions from proposed road safety and land policy laws that appeared to affect his estates, and lobbied for government policy on historic sites be changed.

Both the Queen and Prince Charles have the power to verify laws through the consent process. Photography: Rex/Shutterstock

The database of 1,062 laws relates to legislation that the Queen has reviewed under the consent rules, and it is unclear on which occasions she has also lobbied for changes to be made to the Bill. The Guardian has uncovered evidence of lobbying for changes to at least four bills, but it may have interfered with many more.

Asked by the Guardian, the Queen’s representatives declined to say how many times she had asked for changes to the legislation since her accession to the throne in 1952.

the the royal family describes the consent process as “a long-established convention that the Queen is asked by parliament to give her consent…for the debate of bills which would affect the prerogative or interests of the crown”.

The database compiled by the Guardian reveals the wide scope of the UK bill that ministers decided to send to the palace for consideration.

Some of the bills the Queen has considered before they pass Parliament relate to wealth or taxation. One of Britain’s wealthiest families, with the monarch’s property investments exempt from inheritance tax and collections of art and jewelery built up over centuries, the Windsors are notoriously cautious about their finance.

The Imperial State Crown.
The Imperial State Crown. Photo: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Members of the Windsor family can have their wills sealed to the public, unlike any other family in Britain, ensuring an unrivaled level of secrecy around their private estate. No confirmed figure of the Windsor family’s wealth exists, although estimates have placed it in the hundreds of millions of books.

In 2014, for example, the Queen and the heir to the throne projected the Inheritance and Powers of Trustees Bill. Two years earlier, she approved the Trusts (Capital and Income) Bill. Trusts are legal arrangements often used by wealthy families to protect their assets from tax and public scrutiny.

She has also reviewed bills covering whole areas of government policy-making. At least 11 Railway Bills were approved by the Queen, sometimes relating to land belonging to the Royal Estates.

In 2013, the Queen gave her consent to the Parliamentary Bill to build High Speed ​​Rail Line 2 between London and Birmingham. Transport ministers had informed the palace that the bill affected “crown interests” as the department was to acquire 21 plots of land belonging to the crown estate while the line was being built.

At least 10 Housing Policy Bills have been submitted for the Queen’s Consent, along with five relating to Pensions Acts, seven relating to the NHS and at least two relating to animal welfare. The government granted the Queen an exemption in a 2006 law to prevent animal abuse, preventing inspectors from entering her private estates.

Some of the bills submitted for the Queen’s consent are remarkably arcane and apparently have little relevance to the monarchy, raising questions about why the Windsors were asked to scrutinize the bills. They include a British Museum Bill 1963a Salmon Bill 1986and the 2019 parking bill (code of practice) regulate the behavior of private car blocking companies.

English Museum
A 1963 British Museum Bill required the Queen’s consent. Photography: Aliyah

Dr Adam Tucker, a constitutional law specialist at the University of Liverpool, said the extent of the laws drawn up to undergo the Queen’s consent procedure was startling.

“A lot of these bills aren’t specifically about the crown, or primarily about the crown, or obviously about the crown in any way,” he said. “And yet they obviously still have content that pulls them into the process.

“Seeing the range of things, in this relentless list form, really drives home the breadth of things that the procedure captures.”

In other cases, the connection to the financial interests of the Crown is obvious, such as a 1988 bill affecting the Duchy of Lancasterthe private estate which brought the Queen an income of several million pounds.

Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the mechanism encompasses bills that affect the Queen’s private interests, such as her private estates, as well as anything that affects the Queen personally, whether as an individual or as a as landowner or employer.

Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham Estate.
Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham Estate. Photography: David Goddard/Getty Images

A spokesman for the Queen said: “Whether the Queen’s consent is required is decided by Parliament, independently of the Royal Household, in matters which would affect the interests of the Crown, including property. personal and personal interests of the monarch.

“If Consent is required, the Bill is, by convention, subject to the Sovereign to grant only on the advice of Ministers and in the public domain.”

She added: “The Queen’s consent is a parliamentary process, with the Sovereign’s role being purely formal. Consent is always granted by the monarch at the request of the government. Any claim that the sovereign blocked the legislation is simply incorrect.

The Cabinet Office said: “The Queen’s consent is a long-standing convention and a requirement of the parliamentary process. Consent is systematically requested by the government and accepted by the monarch systematically. »

An unquestioned rule

Many laws appear to relate to matters of royal prerogative, the powers of the state that are formally vested in the monarch but exercised by the government.

The fact that the approval procedure takes place is briefly noted in the parliamentary record. In the House of Commons, a minister nods when asked by the Speaker, while in the House of Lords, a minister will read a passage by heart of the text.

Politicians rarely question the procedure. One of the rare occasions was in 2015 when Labor peer Lord Berkeley asked why the queen’s consent was needed for the corporate bill after reading the passage by heart.

Lord Taylor, the then Chief Government Whip in the Lords, replied that it was ‘a courtesy Her Majesty extends to the House before we consider third reading of a Bill. It is not normal to discuss interests in detail.

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Pamela W. Robbins