This essay will demonstratethe meaning of royal prerogative powers, who and how it is still exercised inour present day as it is a main factor in the UK’s constitution. It will alsoillustrate criticism over if it is an act of democracy as these powers areunlimited and undefined especially the deployment of armed forces due to theparliamentary and judicial scrutiny not being strict and considered symbolic.
The royal prerogative powers have originatedfrom the 13th century, which means the special power, immunity thatbelongs to the queen. However since the 19th century, the UK haschanged from being an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy where thepowers that were strictly exercised by the Queen is now extended to theministers in the name of the crown who are accountable to the parliament byconvention. Courts accept this set of legal powers as a part of the common law,which are only exercised upon the advice of the PM and ministers by convention,however in case of emergency the Queen can exercise her powers without theirconsent. A.V Dicey defined it as “the residue of discretionary power left atany moment in the hands of the crown”. That being said, the royal prerogatives havebeen split into two types of power.
The executive prerogatives which belongs tothe central government acting on behalf of the crown and the personalprerogatives which is exercised strictly by the Queen. The personal prerogativetackles the dissolution of parliament and holding general election upon requestof the PM that never obtained a refusal since 1834, appointment of the PM whohas to be chosen from the absolute wining party of the house of the commons.Royal assent is required for a Bill to become an act; no Bill has been rejectedsince the refusal of Scotch Militia Bill in 1707. Lastly the dismissal ofministers example the dismissal of the PM of the UK “Melbourne” in 1834. Mostof the personal prerogatives powers are executed upon advice of the PM and herpersonal intervention is very limited due to a convention that states royalassent must be granted by the crown.
Democracy and personal prerogative powersgo hand in hand and is intact. We now come to view the executiveprerogative powers that tackles foreign affaires which is the relation between theUK and other countries, ratifying treaties example treaties of the EU,appointment of ministers and judges by the PM, and deployment of armed forcesoverseas for war which is the most controversial subject that I will discussfurther as it is not seen as act of democracy due to it being exclusively in handsof the PM. The UK constitution does not state the requirement of approval fromthe parliament or limitations on the PM and cabinets in deploying armed forces.That is where the criticism begins to have weak parliamentary and judicialscrutiny over prerogative powers in the UK reflecting the lack of democracy. Courts play a role in scrutiny ofprerogative powers to define limits and questions of how they are used, thecase of proclamations 1611 helped establish this role. Courts affirmed no newprerogative will be recognized by them British Broadcasting Corporation v Johns1965. In addition Human Rights Acts 1988 provided more grounds to courts toterminate the exercise of unfair prerogative powers example R v Secretary ofthe state for foreign and common wealth affairs. To be subjected to thejudicial review it must be an appropriate subject to courts trial like the casestated earlier, however foreign affaires, national security example deployment ofarmed forces, and crown proceedings act 1947 powers exercised by the Queen arenot matters suitable to be determined by courts since 1985.
As for theparliament role in scrutiny has been implemented by Bill of rights 1689 thatstates the parliament’s consent is required for the maintenance of armed forcesduring times of peace. In other words parliamentary scrutiny is where theparliament must be consulted in cases of deployment of the army by convention examplethe invasion of Iraq in 2003 where the British parliament approved that createda precedent for future actions like in 2011 with parliament voting for Libya nofly zone and their refusal for air strikes over Syria in 2013, but wasconsidered to be symbolic and not binding to the government as the UK’sconstitution does not state the obligation to obtain the parliament’s approval. Due to what has been stated many criticismcame to surface regarding these powers especially with deploying armed forces,its legality and accountability. At the same time opposition from parliamentmay indicate lack of support on their behalf towards their country’s interests.This issue reflects loopholes on a modern democratic state and a reform musttake place to obtain a relationship between the government and the people andstrengthen scrutiny. Indeed in march 2004 to strengthen ministerialaccountability in parliament, the house of commons public administration selectcommittee published a report “taming the prerogatives” which illustrated thelack of parliamentary approval over the prerogatives and called for moreoversight. In addition the House of Lords constitution committee looked intothe use of prerogatives to declare war and again parliamentary oversight.
Basically both houses looked into legitimacy and accountability for troopsdeployment to be domestically supported by parliament to legitimatize the act,Checks and Balances to ensure the PM and cabinets have consensus for deployingthe forces rather than it being strictly up to the PM, Have specific authorityto exercise such power to be on date with our modern world due to it beingviewed not democratic. On the other hand, many opposed this notionby showcasing disadvantages of the reforms. Firstly if these subjects wereoverviewed by the parliament the factor of secrecy and surprise would be lostdue to access to information, loss of clarity and coordination due to debatethat would be held, more time consuming, loss of morals by troops If felt theiractions are being debated and not automatically supported by their nation, finallyparliament involvement will also raise legal challenges in courts on statuarybasis and as to when the government can invoke “emergency caveat”. To conclude, the prerogatives will always bea main factor of the UK’s constitution. It is used to this day since the 13thcentury but has immensely evolved to fit our present day. Judicial scrutinyimproved since implementing the Human Rights Act and the parliamentary by theBill of Rights 1689.
However the dilemma to whether it is a good step tostrengthen scrutiny is still in question, as for now it is weak and does notreflect well on a democratic state, and as a whole the matter shows flaws inthe political system as a whole.