Who wields the Royal veto?

by D.J. Webb

An intriguing article on the Telegraph website claims that the Royal family are regularly vetoing new laws, although the article appears sloppily written, and in particular the writer doesn’t appear to know the difference between the formal casting of a veto and the registering of some kind of objection to a law in advance.

Be that as it may, a Court has forced disclosure of Whitehall documents showing that “at least 39 bills have been subject to Royal approval, with the senior royals using their power to consent or block new laws in areas such as higher education, paternity pay and child maintenance”. Clearly, the writer doesn’t realise that all government bills are subject to Royal approval, and not just 39 of them. But the writer then goes on to state that “internal Whitehall papers prepared by Cabinet Office lawyers show that on one occasion the Queen vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, which aimed to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament”.

Clearly, the Queen did not veto any such bill–as a “veto” would require a bill to pass all stages in both Houses of Parliament, be presented for Royal Assent, and then be vetoed–something that has not happened since 1707. Let us assume that the Queen expressed her uneasiness with the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill, but the government still decided to push ahead an unamended bill that ignored the Queen’s objections–if she were then presented with it for her final consent could she have vetoed it? And if so, why did she not veto entry into the EU, the edifice of multiculturalism, and countless laws unpicking English Common Law and much else?

It seems what we are really dealing with is government pusillanimity–a refusal to press ahead with a policy in the face of Royal objections, thus daring her to cast a formal veto and throw the whole constitution into crisis.

Even more surprisng is the comment that “the power of veto has been used by Prince Charles on more than 12 government bills since 2005 on issues covering gambling to the Olympics”. Let me rush to add that this Telegraph article is written by a young, female writer, and these are generally not the brightest writers. My rule of thumb is that if an article is written by a female, it is almost certain to be humdrum in its contents. Prince Charles has no “power of veto” as he has not acceded to the throne yet. But he might express an objection, which I, if a government minister, would drop into the nearest waste-paper bin, particularly in view of his fanaticism over “climate change”.

The article adds, “in the Whitehall document, which was released following a court order, the Parliamentary Counsel warns that if consent is not given by the royals ‘a major plank of the bill must be removed'”. Hmm–but we are not dealing with a formal veto, and there is nothing constitutionally wrong with Parliament pressing ahead with passage of a bill through both houses and then presenting a bill for Royal Assent they know the Queen has expressed an informal objection to.  Parliamentary Counsel is giving quite inaccurate advice here–but it is really a political decision for the Front Bench of the House of Commons whether to press ahead or not, not something to be passed over to Parliamentary Counsel to decide.

I am wondering if we are not dealing with another phenomenon entirely: where the Civil Service and the wider Establishment are uncomfortable with a Bill, they might pretend that a Royal objection is sufficient to cause it to be dropped, thus using the Queen a human figleaf. Yet we have also read that Civil List has been replaced by giving the Royals a percentage of revenue from the Crown Estates under pressure from Prince Charles. Yet the Crown Estates were only passed to the Hanoverians under strict assurances the Coronation Oath would be upheld, and I don’t really agree that any of the possessions of the Royal family are “theirs”, apart from their undergarments, as everything they have can be traced back to the 1701 Act of Succession. Giving this family a percentage of the Crown Estates despite having failed to fulfil the Coronation Oath seems totally unjust.

Maybe they are more influential behind the scenes than is generally realised, and that the rot stops at the top. The Queen seems a passionate multiculturalist, and so there is clear evidence that she sides with the wider Establishment on all key issues. Whether the Queen wields the veto, the prime minister wields it but lacks the strength of character to press it in the face of objections, or the Civil Service wields it in order to prevent policies they support from being introduced is difficult to say for sure. What we don’t have is accountable government any more, and this is why it is time for conservatives to think about abolishing the Monarchy.


  1. The Telegraph is clearly going downhill – regardless of whether a female or a male writer is involved. By the way some of the best journalists are women – although, sadly, I do not think that any of these women work for the Telegraph.

    If only Frank Johnson (and so on) were still alive.

    As for “abolishing the monarchy” – in terms of actual policy it already has been abolished (alas!).

    A friend of mine insists that George VI limited the Atlee government nationalisation plans by the threat of abdication – I do not know the truth (or otherwise) of this claim.

    However the present monarch? Sadly the present Queen would sign any nationalisation – although the good lady would also sign any denationalisation. Just the same with any other policy – or the exact opposite of that policy. For example, the Queen may well support “multiculturalism” – but if the government did not, the lady would sign anti “muliticultural” Bills into Acts. One must remember that the Queen firmly believes that it is her DUTY to sign into law any Bill put in front of her. Queen Victoria might have stormed in rage about her oath (and so on) – but that was long ago in a very different country.

    In tiny Liechtenstein things are rather different…..

    When the international “liberal” elite (the “Council of Europe” and so on) put pressure on Liechtenstein to turn the Prince into a glorified automatic pen – the Prince defied them all.

    The Prince refused to “stay out of politics” (to have a “dignified” role only as Walter Bagehot put it – if he had ever said that to Queen Victoria’s face the Queen might well have kicked him in the shins, but we now live in Bagehot’s desired world).

    The Prince of Liechtenstein said he would rather leave the country than be turned into a puppet of the politicians – and demanded that the people vote on the matter. And they voted in favour of their Prince.

    But the United Kingdom is not Liechtenstein – the monarch has no real power here.

  2. Of course this is indeed true, the Royal family have absolutely no powers over government policy or laws, although of course like all mortals they do have opinions as right of everyone, however, the likelyhood of these opinions being able to infulence the totaliterian governments we have seen of late is an impossibility, firstly the role of the queen these day’s is one of a head of state as such, but not powers to control state or the mechanisims of parlimentary laws, the in the main role they serve as representatives of the state, although they do raise concerns in certains areas such as poverty, of charity issues, they have no powers to change the law on social or ecomnomic policy, I have to say the queen is often quite wrongly accused, and blamed for unpopular laws brought in by government by the uneducated, but in reality she is not guilty of the attacks she often faces by ignorant people, as a head of state I believe she had given her best to the people of the U.K. in her capacity as head of state, she is one of the few people who has been able to maintain morality and true christian beliefs, we should be thankful in that respect. of course going on the comments of woman journalists, yes, they do write rubbish, they do wright flights of fancy, I think rediculous ill informed articles, that provide misinformation to the population should go in the paper bin, journalists have a right to present true facts, not write stories about fantasy Island, I express my own point of view based on fact, that’s the way it is!

  3. Of course these fickle arguments about getting rid of the monarcy have no
    real validity, firstly look at william, despite the condemnation, he does provide
    service to the people and does provide contribution to the U.K. as a helicoper
    pilot at least, as for the arguments about wealth, as said when Nero died his
    wealth never left Rome, it is a fact the monarcy is indeed an
    ecomonic industrialised institution, they do create a lot of jobs, and yes
    a lot of people do come from all over the world to see the palace, this I know as I
    asked them the reason for their visit when I lived in London. of course
    there are different views on the Queen, but never in my whole life have I
    ever uncovered anything to suggest she is a bad head of state, at the
    moment the arugument to remove the monarcy has no substance, and
    there are far more important things journalists should give their time and
    attention to! especially the female fantasy writers.

  4. Yes the real problem is that most members of the House of Commons are not very good (to put it mildly).

    Change that and real reform is possible. But as long as most members of House of Commons are no good, real reform is not possible.

    Even if, by some freak accident, I was declared “King Paul the FIrst” tomorrow.

    By the way it is the same in the Republic of Ireland.

    F.G. appear to be nice people – but they are hung up on this E.U. thing.

    Either Ireland is an independent nation or Ireland is not an independent nation.

    There is no monarch in the South to blame for things – it is the politicians who will not face things squarely.

    And it is the same in the U.K.

  5. Ireland do appear to be suffering an identity crisis at the moment, part
    of the EU masterplan to take over the whole of europe, many of the
    germans have realised this, the irish at the moment are more interested
    in flying six flags. Mind you again the bankers have caused some of the
    problems in Ireland as well as the politicians, it hard to beleive they let
    empty housing estates stand empty in a housing crisis! Vote for Norman
    Wisdom I say.

  6. The Prerogative has never been formally restricted and the monarch has much the same powers in theory as they had when the monarch was the chief executive power. The reason we have always been told that the monarch cannot now veto treaties, Bills etc is because it would cause a constitutional crisis which would potentially end the monarchy.

    The Queen, for example, could have vetoed any treaty or Bill arising from our membership of the EEC and later the EU, but that would have risked losing the monarchy. Whether it would have happened is debatable, especially if she had done things such as refusing to allow the Single Market Treaty to be ratified which fundamentally altered the relationship between Britain and the EU or refused to ratify that Treaty or sign into law any legislation arising from the Treaty or any further treaty without a referendum. In those circumstances I think the monarchy would have been safe because the public would have been with her.

    The Queen no longer actually signs treaties or Bills into law in the normal way of things but she could insist that she did sign them.

  7. For example, if they did vetoe bills, especially one’s for the tory government,
    they would indeed in the public perception be viewed actively political,
    obviously britains changing culture and population has exposed they are
    not as popular as they were a decade ago, such actions could cause a
    “Straw that broke the camels back” senario,especially if they acted in the interests
    of politicians. Particularly with the current unease amongst ordinary people
    regarding those at westminister.

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