Bizarre news article in The Guardian this morning. It’s on the exposure through the release of secret papers of the extent of the monarchy’s veto over legislation. You’d assume something like this is page one material for this paper, but they’ve casually stuck it in national news. And then it comes with this ‘correction’ that could change almost everything:
This article was amended on Tuesday 15 January 2013 because it stated that Prince Charles has used the veto on more than a dozen occasions when it should have said that he has been asked to consent to 20 pieces of legislation.
What? Is that supposed to be a small difference?
I want to think this is all far more trivial than it may appear, and that it’s easy to misinterpret purely procedural steps. It’s hard to stomach the possibility that there is something intrinsically and deeply undemocratic going on here. And yet, we get information like this:
In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.
And defences like this:
In modern times, the prince of Wales has never refused to consent to any bill affecting Duchy of Cornwall interests, unless advised to do so by ministers.
Yeah, but why would ministers advise the prince to refuse consent to a bill which has already, presumably necessarily, passed parliament? If the procedure of Royal Assent is exactly that – purely procedural – then in no cases whatsoever should ministers have to advise the prince to veto and nor should he ever in fact veto anything.
So this is a mystery to me. And when you add in the fact that this information has only reached us after a court battle over Freedom of Information powers, with the Cabinet strongly resisting publication, you have to wonder how kosher this all is. Why resist if there’s nothing fishy to hide? I see no reason to trust them.