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Queen’s and Prince of Wales’s Consent

Volume 593: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2015

[Relevant documents: Eleventh Report from the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Session 2013-14, on The impact of Queen’s and Prince’s Consent on the legislative process, HC 784, and the Government response, HC 224.]

I beg to move,

That this House approves the recommendations of the Procedure Committee in its Fourth Report of Session 2014-15, on Queen’s and Prince of Wales’s consent (HC 871), and accordingly:

(a) endorses the practice of not requiring consent to be re-signified when a bill has been carried over from one session to the next;

(b) orders that, where it is required, Queen’s and/or Prince of Wales’s consent be signified at third reading, whatever the nature and extent of the prerogatives or interests engaged; and

(c) endorses the practice of noting the need for consent in relation to a particular bill by including a note on the Future Business section of the order paper that consent is to be signified on third reading as soon as this requirement is known.

In its report on “The impact of Queen’s and Prince’s Consent on the legislative process”, published in March 2014, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee made several proposals to change the process for obtaining and signifying consent to Bills before Parliament. The Procedure Committee agrees that consent should not be re-signified when a Bill has been carried over from one Session to the next, and we recommend that the House should formally endorse that practice.

In a departure from the recommendations made by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, the Procedure Committee suggests that consent should continue to be given by a Privy Counsellor, as we have seen no evidence that any Bill has been delayed by the fact that a Privy Counsellor was not present. The Committee’s view is that continuing the current signification process is more open and transparent.

Currently, consent can be signified either on Second Reading or on Third Reading, depending on the extent or nature of the way in which the prerogatives or interests of the Queen or Prince of Wales are affected. However, even when consent has been signified on Second Reading, amendments at subsequent stages can require consent to be re-sought and re-signified on Third Reading. We therefore share the concerns of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee that the signifying of consent at different legislative stages can add confusion to the legislative process.

On 30 October, the other place agreed that, where necessary, whatever the nature or extent of the interests or prerogatives engaged, consent by the Queen or Prince of Wales should be signified in that House on Third Reading. Following the decision of the other place and the recommendations of our colleagues on the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, we recommend that, where it is required, consent should be signified on Third Reading, whatever the nature and extent of the prerogatives or interests engaged.

We recommend that the House should formally endorse the practice of noting the need for consent in relation to a Bill by including a note in the future business section of the Order Paper that consent is to be signified on Third Reading, as soon as this requirement is known.

I will be even briefer than I have been by my standard today; we have important business to discuss.

I thank the Procedure Committee for its work. It is right that the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee offered no substantive evidence that requiring signification by a Privy Counsellor in person had delayed Bills—Governments have found enough ways to hold up Bills that they do not particularly like—and we therefore think this is a sensible way forward.

I rise to speak in support of the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and that of the Chair of the Procedure Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker). The proposals arise from the report of the Procedure Committee published in December 2014, which was itself the result of earlier work by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. I am grateful to both Committees for their work. As was stated in response to the report of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in June 2014, Queen’s and Prince of Wales’s consent is a long-standing parliamentary requirement for certain Bills, so it is for Parliament to decide on these matters.

The Procedure Committee’s proposed changes are entirely sensible. They will increase transparency by noting under future business when a Bill requires consent, simplify the procedures by endorsing the practice of not requiring consent to be re-signified when a Bill is carried over between Sessions and increase consistency between Bills by ensuring that consent, when required, is always signified on Third Reading. The Government are happy to support these small and sensible tidying-up reforms. We will continue actively to co-operate with Parliament on its requirements in relation to the legislative process. I hope that the House will support the motion.

Question put and agreed to.