Thursday, July 27, 2006

Scrapping the royal prerogative for war

The Lords constitution committee has published a report saying the royal prerogative should no longer be used as the legal basis for sending UK troops into actions. According to the reports it should be Parliament that votes on such things. Whilst this sounds fine, won't such a change mean there is a fundamental constitutional shift in the allegiance of the Armed Forces?

As I understand it, members of the Armed Forces take an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown, not Parliament. If Parliament has formal power over the deployment of the Armed Forces what does that mean for their Oath of Allegiance? I don't wish to sound alarmist, but what happens if Parliament votes to implement Martial Law? What safeguard would exist to stop that? As it stands, the Crown and the Royal Prerogative (which remains the Monarch's and not the Prime Minister's in actuality) is what protects against that sort of thing happening.

If we do scrap the Royal Prerogative and replace it with a vote in Parliament there must be necessary protection from abuses of powers, and there will need to be changes to the Oath of Allegiance I would've thought.

Edit: In the comments Dynamite has kindly pointed out that we won the English Civil War and so the monarch is only a theoretical impediment to tyranny, and by implication doesn't matter anyway. Ones belief in the value of the Monarch's roles I think comes down to personal opinion and on that I disagree. The way the system works at the moment you have one PM and one Monarch. If the Monarch wanted to act, it would be, for want of a better term, one against one. However, in the case of a Parliament it would be many against one and so Parliament would claim legitimacy even if it was like a loaded Reichstag. As I said in the last paragraph, we need safeguards if we remove the prerogative.


Paul Evans said...

Come on, we won the English Civil War! Seriously though, the monarch is a theoretical imediment to tyranny, but in reality 'royal pergoative' is simply a convention which means 'executive perogative' - and I pick parliament over most executives any day...

dizzy said...

Thing is dynamite, if you read my last paragraph my primary concern is that there is a safeguard now (theoretical, conventional, or otherwise), and there may not be one if we just go at it like a bull in a china shop and not consider the ramification of our actions on the balance in our Constitution.

Ranting Guttersnipe said...

Pedantic question I know but how could we have actually lost a civil war?

The civil war itself was less about the setting up of a democratic republic and more about the religious make up of England, Parliament being chiefly puritan and the King's supporters being mainly catholic.

That said, with Parliament's victory the Army fell under the command of Parliament and has remained so ever since.

Hence the Army is just referred to as the British Army whereas we have the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines whose allegiance is to the crown.

I may be incorrect on this but I believe the Army make their oath to the country not the monarch.

I'll bet James Cleverley would know.

dizzy said...

I thought that about the British Army, but it is only non-royal in name alone I think. Their oath is:

"I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me."

Oath was taken from wikipedia so it might be wrong.

Paul Evans said...

Actually, I was being hilariously partisan and historically dubious by claiming (as a Lib Dem) political descent from the Parliamentarians. Am I right in thinking that "Tories" and "Whigs" actually arose during the Exclusion Bill?

On the more sensible point, the idea of "safeguard" is appealing, but I don't understand how can the executive ever be more legitimate than the elected legislature from which it derives its authority.