HM the Queens role in new legislation becoming law.


War Hero
Hi there,

I'm currently writing an essay entitled, "How does the Government form the policies that affect our lives?"

I need to include an analysis of the monarchs role in developing legislation.

As far as i can see, her role seem's to be, well, minimal. The bill is chucked around parliament through various stages until it is agreed upon then sent to HM to recieve royal assent, but what other roles does she have, if any?

How does she affect the outcome of the bill?

Doesn't sign them, not since Victoria - they attach "Letters patent". She meets with the PM every week, and supposedly knows everyone and everything. Residual role on granting dissolutions of parliament - nearly didn't give one in Oct 1974, Labour were going to be told to soldier on. Also has to decide who to ask to form a government - this could give one leader an advantage in forming a coalition.

So 1) advice to PM, might be influential, 2) minor role in deciding who forms the government which would obviously be influential.


I apologise for my dilatory response to your post.

Under the Royal Assent Act 1967 a new procedure of Royal Assent by Notification was introduced by which the short title of the bills which have received Royal Assent is read out in each House, together with a formula signifying the fact of assent. This is the procedure followed now.

A detailed description of the process of granting Royal Assent was articulated by F.A.R. Bennison, 'Modern Royal Assent Procedure at Westminster' Statute Law Review 1981 p 133. Essentially, Her Majesty does not have the text of the bills to which she signifies her assent. She is only given the short title. For a dissection of the formalities of enactment, see Bernard S Jackson, 'Who Enacts Statutes', 18 Statute Law Review 1997 pp 177-207..

Under accepted constitutional doctrine, in granting Royal Assent, the Monarch acts on the advice of her Ministers. There is no case of refusal since 1707 when Queen Ann refused to approve The Scotch Militia Bill. There is an interesting discussion written by R Blackburn 'The Royal Assent to Legislation and the Monarch's Fundamental Human Rights', Public Law 2003 pp205-10.

You might also wish to consider Walter Bagehot's observation in Law of the Constititution that the Queen is possessed of three rights: The right to be consulted, the right to encourage and the right to warn.

Professor Geoffrey Marshall's aticle "The Crown and Bagehot's dubious death warrant": Public Law 8 [2002] analysises the Monarch's reserve powers.

You may also wish to examine the role of the Monarch as head of the Privy Council. I do not mean the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council but the substantive part of the Privy Council the existence and role of which is shrouded in mystery.

For example, All Goverment Ministers, the senior judiciary, and senior members of the Armed Forces are ex-officio members of the Privy Council. Each swears an oath binding for life, never to discuss the affairs of the Privy Council. We do know, however, that the Monarch chairs a meeting of the Privy Council a number of times during the year. You will be able to research a basic outline of the privy council and its history. What you will not be able to determine is the nature and extent of its powers. Most constitutional texts gloss over the true nature of its constituttional role.

Occasionally, during debates in both Houses, a Minister will let the odd phrase slip when a particularly sensitive issue arises in which he or she will offer to brief another member 'on privy council terms' - in other words - in complete secrecy!

You may conclude from this that the Monarch, through the Privy Council is fully informed of the moste secret and sensitive issues of state, under her 'right to be informed' and that her influence over the affairs of state, legislative or otherwise, is in discharge of her right to 'warn' and 'encourage'.


The most interest aspect of that programme is the constitutional significance of the Council's legislative function issuing primary legislation which is not subject to Parliamentary scrutiny nor which is judiciable nor to which the Human Rights Act 1998 Applies. Such legislation being issued under the Prerogative by way of Orders in Council. Examples given in the programme being the order in council removing the Chagos islanders from their home to make way for a US airbase which would never have got through the Parliamentary process. Thee other example is the order in Council placing government advisers (colloquially referred to as 'Spin Doctors) in authority over the Civil Service.

The existence of the Privy Council is an example not only of a constitutional anomoly but illustrates that there is no clear separation of powers between the executive and legislative organs of the state.

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