Queen's consent on bills
9.6Bills affecting the prerogative (being powers exercisable by the Sovereign for the performance of constitutional duties)1 on the one hand, or hereditary revenues, personal property or interests of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster2 or the Duchy of Cornwall3 on the other, require the signification of Queen's consent in both Houses before they are passed. When the Prince of Wales is of age, his own consent as Duke of Cornwall is given.4 Church of England Measures may similarly require consent.5 See paras 30.79 –30.82 for circumstances in which consent has or has not been required.
Prior to February 2015, consent was required to be signified prior to second reading if the interest or prerogative involved was fundamental to the bill.6 Signification of Queen's consent is now required only at third reading, whatever the nature and extent of the prerogatives or interests engaged.7 The need to secure Queen's or Prince of Wales's consent must nonetheless be indicated as soon as the requirement is known. This is done by a rubric under the relevant item in the Future Business section of the Order Paper (in the Commons) or in the Bills in Progress section of House of Lords Business (in the Lords). If amendments are tabled which would potentially introduce or remove a need for consent, a rubric has been inserted provisionally.8 Although in the case of the Queen's recommendation (see para 9.5 ), Ministers of the Crown give the necessary signification entirely on their own authority, Queen's consent is not signified unless authority to do so has first been obtained through individual application to Her Majesty. Such applications are submitted by a Minister of the Crown, normally the responsible Secretary of State. Accordingly, the consent must be signified by a Privy Counsellor who is almost invariably a serving Minister of the Crown. In the House of Lords this is an absolute requirement. In the House of Commons, consent to public bills has on rare occasions been signified by a Privy Counsellor who is not a serving Minister of the Crown, but this is acceptable only if the Privy Counsellor is in a position to give assurance that the consent has indeed been obtained.9 The Chairman of Ways and Means has signified consent to private bills.10
The Queen's consent is expressed in terms to the effect that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the bill, has consented to place her prerogative or interest, or both, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the bill. In the Commons, when the third reading of the bill is expected to be taken, a note indicating that consent is required appears by its title on the Order Paper, and consent is signified formally by a Privy Counsellor in response to a request from the Chair.11 In the Lords, consent is signified by a Privy Counsellor immediately before the motion for third reading is made.
The fact that a bill affecting the interests of the Crown has been mentioned in the Speech from the Throne does not exempt it from the need for Queen's consent.12
- 1. For a fuller definition of the royal prerogative, see 20 Halsbury's Laws (5th edn) (2014), para 166, and guidance by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on Queen's or Prince's Consent.
- 2. CJ (1998–99) 396.
- 3. On rare occasions the Queen, or Prince of Wales when of age, gives consent as Prince and Steward of Scotland, CJ (1847) 551; ibid (1969–70) 321; ibid (1978–79) 259.
- 4. For example, CJ (1994–95) 282, 408; ibid (2009–10) 332. See also HC Deb (1995–96) 276, c 419W.
- 5. CJ (1969–70) 220; CJ (1985–86) 197.
- 6. For an account of the criteria previously used to determine the stage at which consent should be signified, see Erskine May (24th edn, 2011), p 165.
- 7. Both Houses agreed resolutions embodying recommendations to this effect from their respective Procedure Committees. See House of Commons Procedure Committee, Fourth Report, HC 871 (2014–15); House of Lords Procedure Committee, Third Report, HL 50 (2014–15); House of Commons Votes and Proceedings 24 February 2015; House of Lords Minute, 30 October 2014.
- 8. In the Commons, amendments to the Mineral Workings Bill 1950–51 were made both on re-committal and on consideration which affected the Crown's interests in the Duchy of Lancaster and in the Duchy of Cornwall. The King's consent, which had not previously been required, had to be given on third reading the same day, and a notice to this effect was placed on the Order Paper in anticipation of the amendments being made. The consent was signified separately in respect of each Duchy, CJ (1950–51) 262; Notices of Motions (1950–51) p 3283. In the case of the Diseases of Fish Bill 1982–83, an amendment made on consideration rendered it unnecessary to signify Queen's consent on third reading, although a notice that consent was required had appeared on the Order Paper and consent had been obtained, CJ (1982–83) 326; Supplement to the Votes (1982–83) Vol 5, p 466 (Amendment No 19).
- 9. CJ (1982–83) 376; ibid (1985–86) 213; HC Deb (1995–96) 281, c 756; Votes and Proceedings, 23 November 2018.
- 10. CJ (1993–94) 467; ibid (2003–04) 573.
- 11. In the absence of the Queen from the United Kingdom, the communication refers instead to Counsellors of State, acting on Her Majesty's behalf, CJ (1973–74) 146.
- 12. Parl Deb (1833) 17, cc 966–70; CJ (1833) 381.