royal prerogative

royal prerogative
   The royal prerogative comprises a number of powers or privileges performed in the past by the monarch but now performed in his or her name by ministers. Their authority derives from the Crown, rather than from Parliament, so that parliamentary authority is not required by the Executive as it conducts these tasks. Prerogative powers are exercised by ministers individually or collectively. They include the rights to: exercise mercy (a prerogative of the Home Secretary); declare war; make treaties; give orders to the armed forces; appoint ministers; and dispense honours (all duties performed by the Prime Minister and his colleagues). Because of the opportunity to act in this way, the Thatcher Government was able to deploy troops in the Falklands conflict (1982). So too was Tony Blair able to commit British troops to a military invasion of Iraq, in 2003. In neither case was it legally essential to have parliamentary approval, although over Iraq in particular many Members of Parliament (MPs) felt entitled to – and were given – an early debate and vote on the controversial decision. This has probably created a precedent, for it is unlikely that in future any British government would send forces into action without allowing MPs a chance to express their opinion.
   Former leftwing Labour MP Tony Benn campaigned for the abolition of the royal prerogative in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, arguing that all governmental powers in effect exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister and Cabinet should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and require parliamentary approval. At the time, ministers argued that – given the breadth of topics involved – requiring parliamentary approval in each instance where the prerogative is currently used would overwhelm parliamentary time and slow the enactment of legislation. However, Gordon Brown has indicated a willingness to cede some prerogative powers, most notably the Prime Minister’s right to take the country into war without parliamentary approval.
   See also: monarch, monarchy

Glossary of UK Government and Politics . 2013.

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