Queen to meet Joe Biden at Windsor Castle
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Queen Elizabeth II, 95, is the head of state and holds a number of constitutional powers through historic royal conventions. While the Queen’s Assent is the process by which the monarch signs off on Parliamentary bills before they are transformed into law, the Queen’s Consent is effectively when the Queen grants “permission” to Parliament to debate a bill before it becomes law.
Prince Charles, 72, also holds the right to exercise Prince’s Consent. In February, a Guardian investigation into the Royal Family’s use of these conventions showed Charles had exercised his law-making powers to prevent tenants on his Duchy of Cornwall estate from being able to buy their homes out right.
In its exposé, the Guardian described the Prince’s Consent as “a secretive procedure” and implied the Royal Family was flexing its influence without the knowledge of the British public.
Express.co.uk spoke to a constitutional expert about the fiddly topic of Queen’s Consent and whether or not it should be abolished.
According to academic Iain MacMarthanne, the problem lies not in the Royal Family’s use of these rights but in the outdated nature of the institution itself which he claims needs a dramatic overhaul.
The Guardian’s ongoing investigation into Queen’s Consent is blinded by “republican zeal” and “misses the real problem”, Mr MacMarthanne argued.
The constitutional expert told Express.co.uk: “Despite the integrity of their investigation into the Queen’s and Prince’s Consents, the Guardian once again allows their republican zeal to get in the way of addressing the real problem, consequently the focus of their ire is on a symptom.
“Their investigation also highlights the lack of a real appreciation and understanding, which is widely shared, of what the institution of monarchy is really about, and what the powers and position may be of any incumbent on the throne and their heir, and why this is so.”
Mr MacMarthanne made clear the Queen and Charles are totally within their right to exercise their law-making powers and have done nothing illegal in doing so.
However, he claimed the British monarchy would do well to follow other European royal families and extract itself from the UK’s law-making processes entirely.
Mr MacMarthanne added: “Our constitution, and the law, permit the use of the Queen’s and Prince’s Consent, and how this is to be exercised is clearly laid down and freely available.
“The use and exercise of the consents by the Queen and Prince of Wales is therefore not illegal, regardless of how questionable its use or any outcome may be.
“However, as the nuances of the King having two bodies is beyond comprehension these days, not least because we have moved on somewhat from the idea of the divinity of kings, then making the necessary distinctions to see the consent for what it historically is will be lost to most.”
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Mr Macmarthanne claimed the monarchy in its current state risks being “centuries-old and irrelevant”.
He said: “This is the inherent problem with the institution, that too many vestiges, which are centuries old and irrelevant, remain extant.
“The rights accorded to the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall are prime examples of this, together with the idea that the monarch in person is the law.
“Whether the consents are being misused is hardly the question, the question should be why they continue to exist at all; and the greater question, one which The Guardian should pursue, is why our ‘modern’ constitution has not been subjected to scrutiny, review, and revision in centuries, which allows these feudal customs to remain.”
Mr MacMarthanne claimed conventions like consent should “be abolished with all haste” in order to make the monarchy more modern and transparent.
He said: “These rights, with others, that cast doubt as to the openness and accountability of the monarchy require to be abolished with all haste.”
The expert also explained calls to abolish the monarchy should not be conflated with calls for a constitutional update.
He added: “The debate as to whether or not we should be a republic must be seen as separate to the need to remove the monarch from the law-making process.”
Mr Macmarthanne argued The British monarchy could transition to a purely ceremonial model like some of its European counterparts.
He said: “Other European nations, which are monarchies, have successfully transitioned their sovereign from being ‘politically’ involved to being solely ceremonial, and there is consequently no reason as to why Britain can’t follow suit.
“Unfortunately, there is no mechanism with which to formally debate this in Parliament, another vestige from a bygone time, and accordingly it is highly unlikely change will be forthcoming.
“Until such times as this happens the consents, with other remaining relicts, remain an insult to what should be an open and accountable democracy, free from interference by any person, be they the monarch, their heir, or any representative of them.”
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