Politics

Guardian uncovers evidence of Monarchy abuse of power

Monarchy
The Royal Family is an internationally recognised symbol of the United Kingdom, but they seem to have more impact on our democracy than many had thought. Source: Carfax2 (via. Wikimedia Commons)
A recent investigation by the Guardian has uncovered evidence that the British Monarchy have interfered in UK democracy.

By Hallum Cowell | Deputy Editor

An investigation by the Guardian has found evidence that the royal family, including the Queen and her son Prince Charles, has vetted and obstructed laws.

On February 7, the Guardian published their investigation into the Queen’s political lobbying, followed a few days later by similar stories focusing on Prince Charles.


Assenting to Consent

The Queen has two roles when it comes to passing laws in the UK. The first is Royal Assent, where the ruling monarch approves laws already passed through the House of Commons and House of Laws. It is effectively a final formal act to bring these bills into law. 

The other element of the Queen’s involvement is Queen’s consent.

Queen’s consent has traditionally been seen as another element of the ceremony of the UK Government. A 2014 Parliamentary Committee advised removing this element of government, but because it was believed to have no real impact it remains.

It requires the ruler’s consent on legislation “which would affect the prerogative or interests of the Crown” before it is sent for final approval by the Commons or Lords.

The Guardian, who unearthed evidence that Queen’s consent was being used to undemocratically change laws in the UK, have said that over 1,000 draft laws have been sent to the Queen of Prince of Wales under the law of Queen’s consent.

Effectively, if a law which is soon to be voted on in Parliament impacts the private or professional interests of the monarchy, specifically the Queen or Prince of Wales, then it is sent to the ruling Monarch to be checked. The Guardian argues that this allows the monarchy to then lobby the government to change the law in ways that benefit the Crown.


The Royal Shell Company

The Queen has reportedly lobbied for changes to draft laws with the aim of concealing the extent of her wealth.

unearthing a number of government memos held in the national archives, journalists found that transparency laws introduced in 1973, and 76, included a clause which exempted companies run by “heads of state” from disclosing share details.

The memos recovered seem to suggest that the Queen hired lawyers to lobby the government to amend the law in this way, in an effort to prevent the Queen’s personal wealth from being scrutinised.

The Guardian also reports that in the 1970s an agreement was reached between the monarchy and the government to create a “state-backed shell corporation” where the Queen could deposit her private wealth free from scrutiny, thanks to the exemption in the 1973 and 1976 laws.

The law was intended to prevent investors from covertly building up majority shares in companies through the use of front companies or nominees, granting corporate directors the legal right to demand that any nominees owning company shares revealed the identities of their clients.

It is believed that the Queen used a company called “Bank of England Nominees Limited” to contain shares., under the new law companies could ask who owned these shares and determine the wealth of the Queen, and, an  exemption was introduced  to prevent this.

The memos recovered by the Guardian show communications between the Department of Trade and Industry and Civil servants about a meeting with the Queen’s Lawyer.

The memo contains the civil servant relaying the wishes of the Queen’s lawyer, Mr Farrer, “As I recall he – or rather I think, his clients – are quite as concerned over the risk of disclosure to directors of a company as to shareholders and the general public.”

Continuing on he writes: “He Justifies this not only because of the risk of inadvertent or indiscreet leaking to other people, but more basically because disclosure to any person would be embarrassing.”


The Prince’s property portfolio

Further information has since come to light, this time concerned with heir to the throne, Prince Charles.

The Guardian found that Charles had vetted three bills in such a way that subsequently prevented  residents who live on estates owned by the Prince from buying these homes.

The investigation found that between 1970 and 2020 at least 275 draft laws were seen by Prince Charles and were vetted by him. Included in these laws is everything from Fox hunting to inheritance.

The Prince of Wales holds an extensive  estate portfolio, including London’s Oval cricket ground and most of Dartmoor.

The Guardian’s investigation revealed three key examples of the Monarchy using the Queen’s consent to modify draft law: the 1967 leasehold reform act, the 1993 leasehold reform, housing and urban development act and the 2002 commonhold and leasehold reform act.

In each of these cases laws which were intended to allow leaseholders to buy their leased homes included special exceptions for property owned by royalty.


Monarchical Vetting

Through royal consent the Monarchy has vetted over a thousand bills, including five laws relating to pensions, seven relating to the NHS, and two relating to animal welfare.

One of the laws in 2006 which pertained to animal welfare was given an amendment which prevents animal welfare inspectors entering the royal estate.

Other laws of interest include the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, a number of agricultural bills and the Ivory Bill.

The Guardian highlights that some of the bills which have been vetted as part of royal consent seem “remarkably obscure”, including bills pertaining to the British museum, salmon and parking codes.

Dr Adam Tucker, a constitutional law specialist at Liverpool University, said “A lot of these bills are not distinctively about the crown, or mainly about the crown, or obviously about the crown in any way,” he said. “And yet they obviously still have some content which drags them into the process.

Adding that, “Seeing the sheer range, in this relentless list form, really drives home the sheer breadth of things that the procedure captures.”  


The Response

Buckingham palace refused comment when asked by the Guardian upon the release of their report but have since made a statement saying that “Queen’s consent is a parliamentary process, with the role of sovereign purely formal. Consent is always granted by the monarch where requested by the government. Any assertion that the sovereign has blocked legislation is simply incorrect.”

It also stated: “If consent is required, draft legislation is, by convention, put to the sovereign to grant solely on advice of ministers and as a matter of public record.”

The Anti-monarchy group Republic released a statement authored by Graham Smith which claims “This is a clear abuse of power for personal gain, and it cannot be ignored”


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