One characteristic of the UK’s unique constitutional framework is that it is considered a constitutional monarchy. Discuss what is meant by “constitutional monarchy” before going on to provide a detailed evaluation of the powers of the royal prerogative in the twenty-first century. This essay will look at what is meant by “constitutional monarchy”, before going on to look at and evaluate the powers of the royal prerogative in the twenty-first century. Constitutional monarchy.
A constitutional monarchy is a form of constitutional government, where either an elected or hereditary monarch is the Head of State. Britain has a constitutional monarchy. The constitutional monarchy is in which the monarch acknowledges the rights of the legislature and the executive branch of government, it also means that ‘the monarch’s power is largely exercised by the elected government. ’ In addition, the British constitution isn’t set out in a single document. Instead it is made up of a combination of laws and conventions.
Over time there has been a transition in the UK from an executive monarch, where the monarch has total control and power of the nation, to a “constitutional monarchy where the sovereign is the head of state and symbolically represents the nation, but he or she is not the head of government. ”# Constitutional monarchy has a long history in the UK, up “until the seventeenth century British monarchs were known as executive monarchs, which means that they had the right to make and pass legislation. ”#
Vernon Bogdanor examined that in a constitutional monarchy we find “a set of conventions which limit the discretion of the sovereign so that his or her public acts are in reality those of ministers. ”# The effect of this transition from an executive to a constitutional monarchy is a reduction of the monarchs powers. “A significant amount of power has been delegated to the Prime Minister and Parliament. For example the ability to make and pass legislation is in the hands of Parliament, and the Queen should remain politically neutral therefore not following or showing signs of support for one or more political parties.
”# The Queen mustt therefore be looked upon as an icon with insignificant importance as she appears to possess no real powers. However the truth is that the Queen is indeed a powerful figure with more authority than most would realise. In the twenty-first century there are still a few prerogative powers, named “reserve powers,”#which can be utilised by the queen under her own will and judgement. Prerogative powers The royal assent is the most well known prerogative power of the queen.
It is a constitutional convention that the queen should agree to give royal assent, by this it means whilst it is not official law that she must agree, it is expected of her and problems could rise if she did not agree, but in exceptional circumstances she can refuse. The Queen has not used this reserve power since 1708 where Queen Anne withheld royal assent from the Scottish Militia Bill 1708. In the modern day it is becoming more and more unlikely for the Queen to refuse the royal assent as it would create tension between the Queen and the government and generally cause political and social disruption which would not be beneficial to anyone.
The Queen also has the prerogative power to appoint a Prime Minister of her own choice. She could also choose to appoint nobody as Prime Minister as there is no legal requirement for a Prime Minister to even exist. Whilst this is the legal position of the appointment of a Prime Minister, the reality is of course different. “By convention, grounded in political necessity, she must appoint a man or woman who can form a government which will have the confidence of the House of Commons, has an indisputable claim to be appointed Prime Minister.
”# “The Queen has the prerogative power to dismiss ‘her’ ministers, single or collectively but, again, the legal power is overlaid by convention. In practice the fate of individual ministers is in the hands of the Prime Minister. ”#”No Prime Minister has been dismissed by the Sovereign since 1783, when George III dismissed the fox-north coalition government. It must now be unconstitutional for the Sovereign to dismiss the Prime Minister and his or her colleagues in all but the most exceptional circumstances.
”#The last dismissal was a very long time ago, for the Queen to exercise her power of dismissal it would take exceptional circumstances, for example a constitutional crisis in which action must be taken for the greater good of the nation. During a hung Parliament, which is a period where no one political party has an out-and-out majority, it would be considered an exceptional circumstance whereby the Queen could exercise her prerogative power as the monarch. “The power of dismissal is said still to survive for use if a government should act to destroy the democratic or parliamentary bases of the constitution.
”#According to Turpin and Tomkins, “dismissal of a government may still be an available measure of a last resort, but it is likely to generate vehement public controversy. ”# “The prerogative power of dissolving Parliament belongs to the Sovereign, but its exercise depends in ordinary circumstances on the judgment of the Prime Minister. ”#Following the constitutional convention, the prime Minister must seek permission from the Queen to dissolve Parliament.
In modern times this power is exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Queen is highly unlikely to reject a request, the last time the Queen rejected a request of this kind was in 1923. “In general the Sovereign has the right to refuse a dissolution only where the grant of a dissolution would be an affront to, rather than an expression of, democratic rights. ”# The Queen is the only individual who can officially declare when the country is at war and when war is over. This is another of the powers of the Royal prerogative, but of course, she is given advice and told when to do so.
There are many generals and high ranking people who make the big decisions in regards to war, the Queen’s role in officially declaring or ending war is a mere formality. In the twenty-first century the Queen is likely to feel pressurised to never reject a request as it could possibly cause political controversy. “The best safeguard for constitutional monarchy lies not in any specific set of constitutional rules or conventions, but rather in a willingness on the part of both politicians and people to preserve the role of the monarchy by avoiding actions which have the effect of compromising its neutrality.
”#The Queen is expected to be politically neutral as she is the Head of State and should not have allegiance with one or any political party. Therefore, in a way, whilst the Queen has these significant powers mentioned, indirect circumstances can limit her power as she may feel unable to use them via her own free will and judgment as conventions tend to dictate what should be done, pressure from the Prime Minister and advisors heavily influence decisions and the usage of the prerogative powers and could cause political controversy.
“Modern governments, having assumed that attributes of the Crown, are invested with most of those common law powers, privileges and immunities that formally constituted ’royal’ prerogative, but of which relatively few are not exercised or enjoyed by the Queen in her own person. ”# However, whilst this is not a power, it is certainly an immunity which creates power, this is that the Queen is able to avoid liability under a statue, this is known as Crown immunity. This means the Queen can not be criminally prosecuted in a court, this gives her power above all other citizens.
In the modern democratic state in which we live there is really no justification for such immunity, however the Queen is of course excepted not to abuse this immunity and she has always respected this. It is highly arguable that whilst the Queen technically has significant power, she is most unable to exercise it via free will. “A sceptical view of the ’personal prerogative’ of the Sovereign is taken by Robert Blackburn, who argues that the Sovereign exercises her legal powers exclusively in accordance with established conventions and procedures, leaving no room for personal discretion.
”#Nevil Johnson also seems to agree, “there is no prerogative power that can in the normal conditions of political life be exercised independently by the monarch. ”#However, situations are not always occurring under ’normal conditions,’ in the event of extraordinary or emergency conditions, for example a hung parliament, there would be a high possibility that the Queen would indeed exercise the prerogative powers independently. In the twenty-first century there has been slight tension between the monarch and certain political bodies.
David Cameron, now Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, called for the Queen to be stripped of many of her traditional powers in February 2006. He called on his party’s democracy taskforce, chaired by Kenneth Clarke, to “consider the use by ministers of the power of the royal prerogative. ”#There are four main power areas in which David Cameron wished the Queen to be stripped of and the power given to parliament, these are being the right to declare war and send troops abroad, to make international and European treaties, to make appointments and award honours and to make major changes in the structure of the government.
He has specifically ruled out changes to what he calls “the personal prerogative powers of the monarch, such as the power to dissolve parliament and appoint a Prime Minister. ”#”Mr Cameron is anxious to make it clear that he does not have Her Majesty in his sights, but the powers ministers now exercise on her behalf. ”#The fact that Cameron is not going after the ’personal prerogative powers’ illustrates that he is not just trying to shield Parliament from the Queens powers. Former Labour MP Tony Benn become well known for his views against the royal prerogative and he campaigned for the abolition of it.
He argued that the decisions the Queen is able to make via royal prerogative should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny exclusively. Conclusion For historic and twenty-first century purposes, it is highly unlikely that the Queen will ever be stripped of her royal prerogative powers. Due to conventions, all of the decisions she makes are all most all pre-approved by Parliament. Some, such as Tony Benn, still feel threatened that the Queen may act in extraordinary manner and ignore conventions and make a decision on her own accord.
However, as it has been explained, this is only likely to happen if the government is acting in an undemocratic manner. It is a strength that the UK has a monarch and government working together, as the Queen is an impartial person acting in a neutral manner for the greater good of the citizens, however her royal prerogative powers has a heavily influence as the constitutional monarchy we have in the UK separates the ceremonial and official duties of the Queen and the government.
“The monarch and prerogative powers enables stability, continuity and a national focus, as the Head of State remains the same even as government comes and go. ”# Bibliography Hilaire Barnet, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Eight Edition Colin Turpin and Adam Tomkins, British Government and the Constitution, Sixth Edition Vernon Bogdanor, The Monarchy and the Constitution, Oxford University Press, 1998 Nevil Johnson, Reshaping the British Constitution, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004 CFP Hennessy, The Hidden Wing, 1996 Hilaire Barnett, Understanding Public Law, 2010 http://royal. gov. uk http://politics. guardian. co. uk/.