Information on the extent of political power wielded by the English monarchy was released this week, following a ruling that the information could not be kept secret, despite the Westminster government’s attempts to stop it falling into the public domain.
John Kirkhope, an academic researching the Duchy of Cornwall, made the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act request, which the government sought to stop being revealed, show that the monarchy were consulted on a range of different issues, including ID cards, children’s rights and higher education. All legislation in the UK needs to be approved by the English Head of State before it becomes law.
Even though the government have attempted to play down the role of the monarchy in the past as their role in the constitutional process being a mere formality, the FoI release shows that the English Queen Elizabeth and her eldest son Charles have actually been consulted on particular matters that may affect their broader interests, before a Bill becomes law.
The guidance that is drawn up by parliamentary lawyers regarding issues to be discussed before a Bill of law becomes an actual law, shows that if a Bill of Parliament potentially affected the Crown or the Duchy of Cornwall’s interests in any way, consultation with the monarchy was required.
The recent FoI release for example, shows that the Queen did not approve of a Bill in 1999 that was proposed by a UK Member of Parliament transferring powers to declare war from the Monarchy to the Westminster Parliament. The Bill subsequently was not passed into law.
The revelations follow news released in 2011 that Charles Windsor, who is the English appointed ‘Prince of Wales’ and ‘Duke of Cornwall’, had been consulted on at least 12 government bills since 2005 ranging from gambling to the Olympics. However the extent to which the ‘meddling Duke’ has made alterations to the bills of law that have been run by him has been refused.
Mr Kirkhope told the London based Guardian newspaper that he “finds it extraordinary that they [monarchy] have been consulted on things like National Insurance and children’s rights”, adding “there are some real oddities there”. The campaign group Republic, which campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy, said: “The royal veto is a serious affront to our democracy. It is extraordinary in this day and age our elected politicians have to ask the permission of the Queen and her eldest son before they can pass laws… This is clearly more than a formality.”
Even the usually monarchy-supporting English conservative press have published their concerns about the extent of the royal political prerogative, with the Daily Mail newspaper quoting a Cornish MP as saying “This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a ceremonial role.” Under English law the media is banned from advocating the abolition of the monarchy, which prevents the press from openly stating that the monarchy should be abolished in favour of an elected head of state.
Of particular concern, the Duchy of Cornwall have repeatedly stated that it is a private estate, which would mean that a private individual i.e. Charles Windsor who is the boss of the estate, effectively has political control of the state along with his 86 year old mother – an enviable position that the likes of Rupert Murdoch would no doubt die for!