The Queen’s role in British politics is supposed to be one of studied neutrality. By convention, she doesn’t vote in elections nor make statements that could be construed as party political. As head of state she conducts the ceremonial opening of parliament as well as other symbolic roles, but in theory at least, she plays no role in government decision-making or the setting of policy.
However, documents discovered by the Guardian in the National Archives tell a different story. The Guardian’s David Pegg tells Anushka Asthana about a paper trail that shows how more than 1,000 laws have been vetted by the Queen or Prince Charles through a secretive procedure before they were approved by parliament. These laws include everything from social security, pensions, race relations and food policy through to obscure rules on car parking charges and hovercraft. But they also include draft laws that affected the Queen’s personal property such as her private estates in Balmoral and Sandringham – and anything involving the nature of her wealth, estimated to run into the hundreds of millions of pounds.
The secretive process of “Queen’s consent” has no formal basis in law, but still exists today as a parliamentary convention. And revelations of the extent of its use have left constitutional experts calling for urgent reform.
Buckingham Palace said Queen’s consent had only ever been refused on the advice of ministers. “Whether Queen’s consent is required is decided by parliament, independently from the royal household, in matters that would affect crown interests, including personal property and personal interests of the monarch,” a palace spokesperson said.
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