Queen's Consent

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In the United Kingdom, Queen's Consent (or King's Consent when the monarch is male) is required before either House of Parliament can debate a Bill affecting the prerogative of the Crown or the interests (hereditary revenues, personal property or other interests) of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall. In the case of the Duchy of Cornwall, Prince's Consent must also be obtained.[1] The Scottish Parliament adheres to the same requirement of consent.[2]

Bills affected[edit]

The following bills require Queen's Consent:[1]

  • bills affecting the royal prerogative
  • bills affecting the hereditary revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall
  • bills affecting the personal property of the monarch
  • bills affecting the "personal interests" of the monarch

The following bills require Prince's Consent:[1]

  • bills affecting the Duchy of Cornwall

Effect on Parliamentary proceedings[edit]

Consent is usually signified in both Houses of Parliament, at either the Second or Third reading, by a Privy Counsellor. It is recorded in Hansard. 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.[3] 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 in the United Kingdom.[1]

Where proposed legislation is sponsored by the Government (as is the case for most bills considered by Parliament), it is the usual practice for the relevant ministers to inform the monarch and Prince of Wales, where necessary, well before the bill is introduced into Parliament.[1]

In the Scottish Parliament, consent is signified by a member of the Scottish Government.[2]

Consent granted or withheld on advice of the Government[edit]

According to the UK monarchy's website, "[Queen's] Consent has not been withheld in modern times, except on the advice of Government".[4] A spokesman for the Queen stated in 2013 that: "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."[5]

Similarly, the Prince of Wales's website states that "In modern times, neither the Sovereign nor the Duke of Cornwall has ever refused to consent to any bill affecting Crown or Duchy of Cornwall interests. Every instance of The Prince’s consent having been sought and given to legislation is a matter of public record."[6] A spokesman for the Prince stated in 2013: "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."[5]"

Relationship to Royal Assent[edit]

Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent are quite distinct from Royal Assent.[1]

  • Royal Assent is granted after a bill has passed both houses of Parliament, whereas Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent, where required, are granted before Parliament has debated or voted to pass a bill (usually at the Second or Third Reading).
  • Royal Assent is required for all legislation, whereas Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent are only required for legislation affecting specific subjects (as listed above).
  • In practice, Royal Assent is always granted (it has not been refused since 1708), whereas it is not unheard of for Queen's Consent or Prince's Consent to be withheld (see list below).
  • Royal Assent forms part of the constitution of the United Kingdom and lies under the royal prerogative. Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent are of a different character; they are internal Parliamentary rules of procedure that could in principle be dispensed with by Parliament (see "Character" section below).

Character[edit]

The requirements for Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent are internal rules of procedure that Parliament has chosen to adopt, and could in principle dispense with. As Erskine May writes (speaking both of Queen's Consent and of other communications from the Crown to Parliament):[7]

These several forms of communication are recognised as constitutional declarations of the Crown, suggested by the advice of its responsible ministers, by whom they are announced to Parliament, in accordance with established usage. They cannot be misconstrued into any interference with the proceedings of Parliament, as some of them are rendered necessary by resolutions of the House of Commons, and all are founded upon parliamentary usage, which both houses have agreed to observe. This usage is not binding upon Parliament; but if, without the consent of the Crown, previously signified, Parliament should dispose of the interests or affect the prerogative of the Crown, the Crown could still protect itself, in a constitutional manner, by the refusal of the royal assent to the bill. And it is one of the advantages of this usage, that it obviates the necessity of resorting to the exercise of that prerogative.

Cases where consent has been withheld[edit]

In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II, acting on the advice of the Government, refused to signify her consent to Parliament debating the Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill, which sought to transfer from the Sovereign to Parliament the power to authorize military strikes against Iraq.[8] This prevented the Bill from being debated.

In 1998, the Palace of Westminster (Removal of Crown Immunity) Bill could not be debated because Queen's consent had not been given.[9]

In 1990, the Reform of the House of Lords Bill could not be debated because Queen's consent had not been given.[10]

Prince's Consent[edit]

In certain circumstances, such as for the House of Lords Act 1999, the consent of the Prince of Wales, in his capacity of Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester, or Prince and Great Steward of Scotland or as Duke of Cornwall, must also be obtained where a Bill affects his interests. This is known as Prince's Consent.[11]

Erskine May states that:

"The Prince’s consent is required for a bill which affects the rights of the principality of Wales and earldom of Chester, or which makes specific reference to, or special provision for, the Duchy of Cornwall; and the Prince’s consent may (depending on the circumstances) be required for a bill which amends an Act which does any of those things."[12]

In the Scottish Parliament where a Bill requires the consent of the Prince and Steward of Scotland or the Duke of Rothesay, the 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.[2]

Church Measures[edit]

In 1993, both Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent was required in respect of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 that enabled the ordination of women in the Church of England.[13]

Parliamentary guidance[edit]

The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has produced guidance on the need for Queen's or Prince's Consent and the procedures associated with them.[1] This document was made public as the result of a ruling of the Information Commissioner in 2012.[14]

References[edit]