What is the Royal Prerogative?
An important part of the British Constitution is the Royal Prerogative. This includes the various powers that judges, in developing the Common Law, have seen as belonging to the Monarch.
The Constitutional Convention is that, in modern democratic society, they are exercised by the Prime Minister and are not subject to approval by Parliament They are:-
- The power to appoint Ministers. The Prime Minister appoints the whole of the Government. The Prime Minister can also remove any Minister at any time.
- The power to reorganise Government departments.
- The power to commit armed forces into action. This has been modified by the decision of Blair to hold a Parliamentary vote over the declaration of war against Iraq and Cameron to do the same over military action in Syria but most military decisions still do not need Parliamentary approval.
- The power to agree treaties though they are made available to Parliament for 21 days before approval. Parliamentary approval is now needed though for changes to EU treaties.
- The power to make a range of appointments to public bodies and to the Church and Army and Judiciary. Select Committees do not interview some of the people that the Government is proposing to appoint, such as the Director-General of the BBC and, where they have interviewed people for posts, their view is only advisory. Gordon Brown decided that he would accept the Church’s recommendations on Bishops whereas before the PM could choose from two names.
- The power to award honours, including appointing members of the House of Lords. There is now an Independent Appointments Commission which looks at the Prime Minister’s proposed candidates for peerages.