Secret royal veto powers over new laws to be exposed
Information commissioner orders release of guide to how Queen and Prince Charles must be consulted before laws are passed
A little-known power enjoyed by the Queen and Prince of Wales to alter new laws is due to be exposed after the government lost a legal battle to keep details of its application private.
The information commissioner has ruled that the Cabinet Office must publish an internal Whitehall guide to the way the senior royals are consulted before legislation is introduced to ensure it does not harm their private interests.
The application of the controversial veto was revealed by the Guardianlast year and has been described by constitutional lawyers as “a royal nuclear deterrent”. Some believe it may underpin the influence Prince Charles appears to wield in Whitehall over pet issues ranging from architecture to healthcare.
A judgment issued last week by the deputy information commissioner, Graham Smith, means the Cabinet Office has until 25 September to release the confidential internal manual. It details how the consent of “The Crown and The Duchy of Cornwall” is obtained before bills are passed into law and what criteria ministers apply before asking the royals to amend draft laws. If it fails to do so it could face high court action.
In the past two parliamentary sessions Charles has been asked to consent to at least 12 draft bills on everything from wreck removals to co-operative societies. Between 2007 and 2009 he was consulted on bills relating to coroners, economic development and construction, marine and coastal access, housing and regeneration, energy and planning. In Charles’s case, the little-known power stems from his role as the head of the £700m Duchy of Cornwall estate, which provides his £17m-a-year private income.
The government battled to keep the manual secret, claiming publication would breach legal professional privilege, and a spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said it was still deciding whether to challenge the ruling at the information tribunal.