There are times when I have to admit to shaking myself in wonderment at some of the ancient laws still on statute books or rights and customs observed in Westminster in the law making process that still holds sway over Scotland.
I suppose we are reminded of this periodically when something bizarre happens... Tony B£air, instead of resigning from his seat, takes the Chiltern Hundreds, or an MP wishing to stop a debate dons a top hat and cries “I spy stangers”.
I was reminded again of this when the topic of Magna Carta, signed in Latin in 1215 was raised on the David Letterman show on tv. (You’d have thought an English public school boy would have been able to translate Magna Carta into English, but apparently Cameron couldn’t. Eton, it seems, just isn’t what it used to be.) Anyway Magna Carta is what it used to be, as its 1297 version, with the title (originally in Latin) "The Great Charter of the Liberties of England, and of the Liberties of the Forest," is still on the statute book of England and Wales.
Most of these things are a lightly amusing, a bit time wasting, but don't really do any great harm.
However, another anachronism is the little known powers remaining to the Queen and the Duke of Cornwall, to scrutinise laws that may affect them personally, to have proposed laws altered, and for this to be kept secret from the public. That is slightly more serious, and yet another chip in the veneer of the so called democracy that we live in.
Now the Cabinet Office has been ordered, by the DeputyCommissioner for Information, to release details of how this system works as laid out in a government manual “The Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall”.
This is no ancient and no longer used right and privilege. In the last two years Charles has been asked to consent to at least 12 draft bills on everything from wreck removals to co-operative societies. Between 2007 and 2009 he was consulted on bills relating to coroners, economic development and construction, marine and coastal access, housing and regeneration, energy and planning. The Queen has had changes made to law concerning the employment of apprentices, on the basis that it would affect her as an employer.
The government has yet to decide whether to appeal the decision of the Information Commission. If it does, it is likely that the matter will go to the High Court.
Can it possibly be right that two individuals should have powers to alter Bills that may impact on millions of others every bit as much as it impacts on them, just because of an accident of birth?
When I was sorting out the link for this article, I noticed the following comment on the Guardian story:
Good news. Hopefully this will shed light on the nonsense in the Scottish Parliament whereby no Bill can be debated at Stage 3 unless the Queen has consented to place her prerogative and interests at disposal of Parliament. As, for example, in relation to the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Scotland Bill.
Any ideas what this is about?