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Pamphlet on Royal consent legislation published


Official legal advice about when Royal consent is required for legislation to proceed has been published after a long-running battle by the Cabinet Office to keep it under wraps.

The previously confidential 23-page pamphlet by Government lawyers sets out the circumstances in which a bill needs the approval of the Queen or the Prince of Wales.

It says the consent needs to be considered where legislation affects the Royal prerogative or hereditary revenues, the Duchies of Lancaster or Cornwall and personal property or interests of the Crown.

The document cites numerous examples in which the Queen's or Prince's consent was required for Parliament to debate a bill - a process distinct from Royal Assent, which is never refused once legislation has completed its passage through the two Houses.

They include the bills that led to the Civil Partnership Act 2004, the Pensions Acts of 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2011, and the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Other legislation requiring the Queen's or Prince's consent has covered child maintenance, Tony Blair's plans for identity cards and higher education.

In at least three cases since 1990 - none mentioned in the pamphlet - Queen's consent has not been granted, preventing legislation from going any further.

That was the case with Labour MP Tam Dalyell's Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill in 1999, which would have transferred from the Queen to Parliament the power to authorise military strikes, the Palace of Westminster (Removal of Crown Immunity) Bill in 1998 and the Reform of the House of Lords Bill in 1990.

The document, drawn up by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel drawing on Erskine May, points out: "If Queen's or Prince's consent is not signified, the question on the relevant stage of the bill cannot be put."

Buckingham Palace said consent was only refused on the advice of ministers.

The pamphlet was initially requested for release under the Freedom of Information Act by PhD student John Kirkhope in August 2011, but the Cabinet Office objected on the grounds that it was covered by legal privilege.

Despite being overruled by the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, the Cabinet Office refused to publish the document until it was taken to an Information Tribunal by Mr Kirkhope.

Anti-monarchy campaign group Republic called for the requirement for royal consent to be scrapped.

Chief executive Graham Smith said: "The royal veto is a serious affront to our democracy. It is extraordinary that in this day and age our elected politicians have to ask the permission of the Queen and her eldest son before they can pass new laws."

He said that the requirement for consent was "real power in the hands of the royals" and called for a list of occasions on which laws have been amended or dropped as a result.

"Nothing short of full disclosure is now required so MPs can get on with scrapping this requirement for royal consent," he said.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "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."