In the Commonwealth realms, Queen's Consent (or King's Consent when the monarch is male, or Royal Consent in Canada) is required before the legislature can debate a bill affecting the prerogatives or the interests (hereditary revenues, personal property, or other interests) of the relevant crown. In the United Kingdom, this extends to matters affecting the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall; for the latter, Prince's Consent must also be obtained. The Scottish Parliament adheres to the same requirement of consent.
In Canada, no act of parliament binds the monarch or his or her rights unless the act states that it does so. Queen's Consent (or Royal Consent) is typically granted by the governor general on behalf of the sovereign and specially communicated to parliament. Typically, though, it is expressed by a minister of the Canadian Crown.
In the United Kingdom, as well as bills that affect the prerogative, bills affecting the hereditary revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall require Queen's Consent. Bills affecting the latter also require Prince's Consent from the Prince of Wales in his capacity as Duke of Cornwall. In certain circumstances, such as for the House of Lords Act 1999, the consent of the Prince of Wales, in his capacity as Earl of Chester or Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, must also be obtained where a bill affects his interests. In 1993, both Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent were required in respect of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 that enabled the ordination of women in the Church of England.
Effect on parliamentary proceedings
Consent is usually signified in the one (in unicameral legislatures) or both houses (in bicameral legislatures) of parliament, at either the second or third reading, by a privy counsellor and is recorded in Hansard. Where proposed legislation is sponsored by the cabinet (as is the case for most bills considered by parliament), it is the usual practice for the relevant ministers to inform the monarch (or Prince of Wales, when necessary) well before the bill is introduced to parliament. In the Scottish parliament, consent is signified by a member of the Scottish government. In the Canadian parliament, Royal Consent can be signified in only one legislative chamber.
If consent is required but not signified, a bill may make no further progress through parliament. If a bill is mistakenly allowed to progress even though the required consent was not signified and the error is discovered before royal assent has been given, the proceedings may later be declared void. Where a bill requires the consent of the Prince and Steward of Scotland or the Duke of Rothesay, the Scottish parliament cannot debate any question whether the bill be passed or approved unless such consent to those provisions has been signified by a member of the Scottish executive. Once a bill has passed parliament and received Royal Assent, it is regarded as legally valid by the courts, regardless of any deficiency in parliamentary procedure, in accordance with the usual principles of parliamentary privilege.
Consent granted or withheld on advice of the cabinet
If Queen's Consent is withheld, it is, according to the tenets of constitutional monarchy and responsible government, done on the advice of ministers of the Crown. A spokesman for the Queen stated in 2013 that: "It is a long established convention that the Queen is asked by parliament to provide consent to those bills which parliament has decided would affect crown interests. The sovereign has not refused to consent to any bill affecting crown interests unless advised to do so by ministers."
Similarly, the Prince of Wales grants and withholds the Prince's Consent on the advice of the sovereign's British ministers, as the Duchy of Cornwall is within British jurisdiction. No bill affecting the Duchy of Cornwall has been refused consent by either the sovereign or the Duke of Cornwall. Each granting of consent by the Prince of Wales is a "matter of public record".
In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II, acting on the advice of her British Cabinet, refused to signify her consent to the Parliament of the United Kingdom debating the Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill, which sought to transfer from the sovereign to parliament the power to authorize military strikes against Iraq. This prevented the bill from being debated. In 1988, the Palace of Westminster (Removal of Crown Immunity) Bill could not be debated in the British parliament because Queen's Consent was withheld, as with the Reform of the House of Lords Bill in 1990.
Relationship to royal assent
Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent are distinct from royal assent. Royal assent is granted after a bill has passed through parliament, whereas Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent, where required, are granted before parliament has debated or voted to pass a bill. Royal assent is also required for all legislation, whereas Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent are only required for legislation affecting specific topics. In practice, royal assent is less frequently denied than is Queen's Consent or Prince's Consent. Royal assent forms part of the constitution and lies under the royal prerogative, while Queen's Consent and Prince's Consent are internal parliamentary rules of procedure that could, in principle, be dispensed with by parliament. As Erskine May wrote:
These several forms of communication are recognised as constitutional declarations of the Crown, suggested by the advice of its responsible ministers, by whom they are announced to Parliament, in accordance with established usage. They cannot be misconstrued into any interference with the proceedings of Parliament, as some of them are rendered necessary by resolutions of the House of Commons, and all are founded upon parliamentary usage, which both houses have agreed to observe. This usage is not binding upon Parliament; but if, without the consent of the Crown, previously signified, Parliament should dispose of the interests or affect the prerogative of the Crown, the Crown could still protect itself, in a constitutional manner, by the refusal of the royal assent to the bill. And it is one of the advantages of this usage, that it obviates the necessity of resorting to the exercise of that prerogative.
- Elizabeth II (2004), "Speaker's Ruling", Journals of the Senate, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada (15), retrieved 15 October 2015
- Queen's or Prince's Consent
- Rule 9.11 of the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament
- Elizabeth II (2005), Interpretation Act, 17, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada (published 1 April 2005), archived from the original on 5 July 2009, retrieved 7 August 2009
- Parliament of Canada, Royal Consent Given to Bills, Queen's Printer for Canada, retrieved 15 October 2015
- House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 30 Apr 1996 (pt 1)
- Prince's Consent asked on 12 bills, Oxford Times
- I hope that I need detain the House...: 29 Oct 1993: House of Commons debates - TheyWorkForYou
- Robert Booth (31 August 2012). "Secret royal veto powers over new laws to be exposed". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
- e.g. Hansard HC Deb 20 July 1949 vol 467 cc1385-6
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Iraq attack bill fails". BBC News, 16 April 1999. Retrieved on 12 April 2007.
- "Palace of Westminster (Removal of Crown Immunity) Bill". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 8 July 1998. col. 1370–.
- "Reform of the House of Lords Bill". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 26 January 1990. col. 1241–.
- 3rd ed., p. 353
- House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. The Impact of Queen’s and Prince’s Consent on the Legislative Process: Eleventh Report of Session, 2013-2014. 26 March 2014. London: The Stationery Office, Limited.
- House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. The Impact of Queen’s and Prince’s Consent on the Legislative Process: Government Response to the Committee's Eleventh Report of Session, 2013-2014. 16 June 2014. London: The Stationery Office, Limited.
- Parliament of Canada: Royal Consent Given to Bills