Thursday, March 27, 2014

The end of the royal veto in the UK?

A couple of years ago, we learned about the secret influence the British royal family had over the UK's legislation. Any bill which affects the "prerogatives of the crown" must have the consent of the monarch. What bills affect those self-claimed "prerogatives"? Pretty much anything, from housing and energy to planning and coroners. But now, Parliament may be about to end the practice:

A cross-party committee of MPs has questioned whether the Queen and the Prince of Wales should keep a residual power of veto over certain parliamentary bills.

MPs on the Commons political and constitutional reform committee said the royal process of consent fuels speculation that the monarch "has undue influence on the legislative process".


The MPs on the committee said it is the government, rather than the monarch, which can use the process of consent to block a bill. Prof Rodney Brazier of Manchester University told MPs he could think of four examples between 1868 and 1999 when the government used the process to block a private member's bill.

Hopefully they'll expunge this anachronism for good. A country's laws should be made by its democratically elected parliament. Subjecting them to the whim of an unelected inbred is highly undemocratic.

This may have consequences here too. Standing Order 309 of the NZ Parliament provides that
No Member’s bill, local bill, or private bill that contains any provision affecting the rights or prerogatives of the Crown may be passed unless the Crown has, by message, indicated its consent to that provision.
As in the UK, this effectively gives the government the power to veto a bill, by advising that consent be denied, even when there is a clear majority for it passing. This is undemocratic. And as in the UK, it applies to more bills than you would think. Sue Bradford's bill abolishing youth rates for example needed government permission to pass, because it changed what "the Crown" (actually Ministers, because the Governor-General always acts on advice and must sign whatever is put in front of them) could do by Order In Council. This is simply unacceptable in a democracy. The legislature should have the final word on laws, not the executive.