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Published on October 31st, 2011 | by Ben Phillips
Image © 'The influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.' (John Dunning, 1780)   [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="333" caption="Photo credit: Stannah Lifts"][/caption] The Guardian reveals today that since 2005, ministers have sought the consent of Prince Charles on twelve separate occasions before drafting legislation relating to 'everything from road safety to gambling and the London Olympics'. Charles' effective right of veto over bills with the capacity to affect his private interests derives from the arcane foundational charter of the Duchy of Cornwall, dating from the fourteenth century; it is a distinct procedure from that of 'royal assent', through which a bill approved by Parliament passes into law. 'Neither the government nor Clarence House will reveal', the Guardian writes, 'what, if any, alterations to legislation Charles has requested, or exactly why he was asked to grant consent to such a wide range of laws.' This morning's reaction to the revelations has, understandably, been one of outrage, with the Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George noting that many will be 'astonished to learn that [the Duchy of Cornwall] appears to have effective powers of veto over the government'. A spokesman for Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, lamented the very existence of such a constitutional loophole, commenting that 'Charles’s decision to exploit it betrays his utter contempt for the British people.' The obvious problem this raises, yet again, is not just that of Charles' utter disinterest in the workings of the British constitution and his disdain for any coherent idea of parliamentary sovereignty. His persistent 'cack-handed political interference', in Michael White's words, does not bode well for his succession, which, we may suppose, is not too far off. Still, there are more immediate problems. This is probably the most serious charge of its kind thus far levelled at Charles. We cannot hope to gauge how serious this problem is likely to become in later years without precise details not only of how many bills have been altered at his behest, but how many have been sent to him altogether. Moreover, we need to know how long this has been going on for. The Guardian's Freedom of Information request extended back as far as 2005, but we have no reason to suppose that Charles had never interfered thus before that date. Finally, we need to know how a bill is defined as affecting Charles' private interests. As the case of Lord Berkeley's marine navigation bill makes clear, this is another grey area which in effect licenses Charles to influence a range of legislation in a wholly improper fashion.

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Prince Charles vs. the spirit of democracy

‘The influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.’ (John Dunning, 1780)

 

Photo credit: Stannah Lifts

The Guardian reveals today that since 2005, ministers have sought the consent of Prince Charles on twelve separate occasions before drafting legislation relating to ‘everything from road safety to gambling and the London Olympics’. Charles’ effective right of veto over bills with the capacity to affect his private interests derives from the arcane foundational charter of the Duchy of Cornwall, dating from the fourteenth century; it is a distinct procedure from that of ‘royal assent’, through which a bill approved by Parliament passes into law. ‘Neither the government nor Clarence House will reveal’, the Guardian writes, ‘what, if any, alterations to legislation Charles has requested, or exactly why he was asked to grant consent to such a wide range of laws.’

This morning’s reaction to the revelations has, understandably, been one of outrage, with the Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George noting that many will be ‘astonished to learn that [the Duchy of Cornwall] appears to have effective powers of veto over the government’. A spokesman for Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, lamented the very existence of such a constitutional loophole, commenting that ‘Charles’s decision to exploit it betrays his utter contempt for the British people.’ The obvious problem this raises, yet again, is not just that of Charles’ utter disinterest in the workings of the British constitution and his disdain for any coherent idea of parliamentary sovereignty. His persistent ‘cack-handed political interference’, in Michael White’s words, does not bode well for his succession, which, we may suppose, is not too far off. Still, there are more immediate problems. This is probably the most serious charge of its kind thus far levelled at Charles. We cannot hope to gauge how serious this problem is likely to become in later years without precise details not only of how many bills have been altered at his behest, but how many have been sent to him altogether. Moreover, we need to know how long this has been going on for. The Guardian‘s Freedom of Information request extended back as far as 2005, but we have no reason to suppose that Charles had never interfered thus before that date. Finally, we need to know how a bill is defined as affecting Charles’ private interests. As the case of Lord Berkeley’s marine navigation bill makes clear, this is another grey area which in effect licenses Charles to influence a range of legislation in a wholly improper fashion.

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