The impact of Queen's and Prince's Consent on the legislative process - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Conclusions are in plain text, recommendations are in italics.

The process

1.  We accept that it is not always appropriate for the Government to publish its legal advice, but individuals should not have to resort to freedom of information requests to obtain material that is suitable for publication and would throw light on the legislative process, as happened in the case of the pamphlet on Queen's Consent. We are encouraged by the positive attitude of First Parliamentary Counsel towards the publication of potentially useful information. (Paragraph 3)

2.  We recommend that the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel continue proactively to publish its internal documents that could be of interest to the wider public, unless there is a strong reason not to do so. (Paragraph 3)

Origins and basis of the process

3.  Consent is a matter of parliamentary procedure. If the two Houses of Parliament were minded to abolish Consent, they could do so by means of addresses to the Crown, followed by a resolution of each House. Legislation would not be needed. (Paragraph 20)

Should Consent continue to be part of the legislative process?

4.  We recommend that, if the House authorities decide that Consent is needed for a Private Member's Bill, the Government should as a matter of course seek Consent. This would remove any suggestion that the Government is using the Consent process as a form of veto on Bills it does not support. Members should, in turn, make sure that they publish the text of their Bill in time for Consent to be sought. (Paragraph 27)

5.  We entirely accept that correspondence between the Government and the Royal Household is not normally published. However, given that the correspondence in this instance is a matter of routine, we recommend that, when Consent is being sought for a Private Member's Bill, the letter from the Department to the Royal Household should be copied to the Member concerned if the Member requests this. This would increase transparency and remove any perception of undue Government influence. (Paragraph 29)

6.  When the Queen or the Prince of Wales grant their Consent to Bills, they do so on the advice of the Government. We have no evidence to suggest that legislation is ever altered as part of the Consent process. The fact that the Prince of Wales has in the past both granted his Consent to a Bill, in a constitutional capacity, and petitioned against it, in a personal capacity, indicates the formal nature of the process. However, the process of Consent is complex and arcane and its existence, and the way in which the process operates, undoubtedly do fuel speculation that the monarchy has an undue influence on the legislative process. The fact that Consent is sometimes characterised as a veto underlines this point. In reality, it is a veto that could be operated by the Government, rather than the monarchy. (Paragraph 35)

7.  The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen has the right to be consulted, to advise and to warn. But beyond that she should have no role in the legislative process. Consent serves to remind us that Parliament has three elements—the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Queen-in-Parliament—and its existence could be regarded as a matter of courtesy between the three parts of Parliament. Whether this is a compelling justification for its continuance is a matter of opinion. (Paragraph 41)

8.  We recommend that if a Bill is re-introduced in a subsequent session the precedent of not seeking resignification of Consent be followed. (Paragraph 42)

9.  We recommend that Consent should no longer need to be signified personally by a Privy Counsellor. Consent should instead be indicated on the Order Paper. This would prevent a situation in which the absence of a Privy Counsellor meant that Consent could not be signified, and the debate could not take place, thus delaying progress on the Bill. (Paragraph 43)

10.  To improve transparency, we recommend that, if Consent is required for a Bill, the requirement be published as soon as the Bill is printed. (Paragraph 44)

11.  Currently, in some instances Consent is signified at Second Reading, and in others at Third Reading. We recommend that Consent be signified at Third Reading in both Houses, in all instances. (Paragraph 45)

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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 26 March 2014