Prince Charles exercises a secret veto over a wide swath of UK legislation


UK government ministers have been secretly offering Prince Charles a veto over proposed legislation since 2005, under a little-known law that gives the prince the right to silently kill or amend legislation if it might negatively affect his interests. The legislation the prince was consulted upon includes bills on the Olympics, road safety and gambling. No one knows the full extent of these consultations, nor what changes the prince made to the legislation before it went to Parliament. Among the prince's assets are the Duchy of Cornwall, worth £700m, and he received £18m/year in income.

When I took my "Life in the UK" test before becoming a permanent resident, I was struck by the incoherence of the section on the UK's "unwritten constitution," which, to my Canadian eyes, seemed to suggest that the UK didn't really have a constitution, just a mismash of badly articulated principles that have to be tediously litigated and contested every time they collide. Now that I'm a British citizen, it becomes clearer and clearer that this is, indeed, the case.

MPs and peers called for the immediate publication of details about the application of the prince's powers which have fuelled concern over his alleged meddling in British politics. "If princes and paupers are to live as equals in a modern Britain, anyone who enjoys exceptional influence or veto should exercise it with complete transparency," said Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives in Cornwall. "The duchy asserts that it is merely a private estate. Most people will be astonished to learn that it appears to have effective powers of veto over the government."

"We should know why he is being asked and the government should publish the answers," said Lord Berkeley, who was last month told to seek Charles' consent on a marine navigation bill. "If he is given these powers purely because he owns land in Cornwall it is pretty stupid. What about the other landowners who must also be affected by changes to legislation?"

Revelations about Charles' power of consent come amid continued concern that the heir to the throne may be overstepping his constitutional role by lobbying ministers directly and through his charities on pet concerns such as traditional architecture and the environment.

Prince Charles has been offered a veto over 12 government bills since 2005

(Image: Prince Charles, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from victoriajohnsonphotography's photostream)

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