Embargo on royal files 'is absurd'

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Indy Politics
(First Edition)

THE 100-YEAR embargo on royal files should be reduced, allowing them to be made public after 30 years, a leading academic expert on Whitehall said last night, writes Anthony Bevins.

Peter Hennessy, Professor of Contemporary History at London University's Queen Mary and Westfield College, said: 'It is absurd that I can see the CIA's 1961 file on the Queen, but not early 1960s material on the Royal Prerogative.'

In a lunchtime talk today, Professor Hennessy will call for a clarification of the monarch's residual and reserve powers to dissolve Parliament and appoint prime ministers.

He wants the principles governing the use of the Queen's powers to be published - along with the historical documents on which they are based - and he will also call for Commons select committee scrutiny of the Royal Prerogative as well as royal finances.

Professor Hennessy believes that scrutiny would probably require the creation of a special joint committee of Parliament, taking members from the select committees on Public Accounts, Treasury and Civil Service, Defence, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs - and the House of Lords.

'I am as sure as I can be that the monarchy will survive, and I think it should,' he said last night. 'But it would help if a degree of predictability could be achieved on the exercise of the reserve powers. Risk of crisis and any possible politicisation must be removed. Family matters cannot be so organised as to be made more stable and predictable. Constitutional matters can be, and should be.'