Revive the Royal Veto

The Conseil Constitutionnel in France has just struck down an article in the Government’s proposed new law on public order. The Law was brought forward to meet the challenges emerging from the Gilets Jaunes demonstrations, but many opposition MPs considered the proposal too drastic. The Conseil agreed. It’s word is finalthere is no appeal.

In a Republique where there is an elected head of State, the French devised a means to stop democratically elected parliaments and presidents from contravening the Constitution – a Constitution which enshrines La Declaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen in stone such that no government can overturn its provisions.

During my time in France, this Constitutional Committee has cancelled entire laws passed by both houses of parliament. It acts as a vital brake on excesses of the moment, and does so by reference to the paramount authority, the Vth Republics Constitution overwhelmingly endorsed in a referendum vote.

The Article struck out on April 4th was deemed to give officials too much power to curtail the rights of individuals to demonstrate on the streets. This defence of liberties was done by an appointed and un-elected Council acting on its express constitutional remit. It comprises experienced experts,  such as former presidents, former senior ministers, and presidents of the Senate or Assembly.

The UK has no such safeguard operating today. There is nothing to stop either the excesses we have witnessed in the House of Commons in recent weeks, or the  abuse of Royal Prerogative by the Prime Minister.

The Supreme Court can be appealed to, but it cannot strike down a law passed by Parliament. And without a single, concise, comprehensive text for the UK constitution, its deliberations are too exposed to the political views of its members.

We appear to have nothing to stop what I regard as criminally minded MPs who corrupt the proper procedure of political debate for partisan, sectional interests.

We have a crisis now around the issue of Brexit because certain Remain minded MPs are prepared to act without any moral or constitutional constraint; they break particular moral or constitutional bounds which constrain them from imposing their will on events.

Dominic Grieve has been a key figure in this: he gave false assurances to his constituency association about his view of Brexit, then took unprecedented and unconstitutional steps to thwart the Brexit referendum result.

He was assisted in this by the partisan behaviour of the Speaker.  John Bercow has continued to allow motions at odds

  • with the Referendum result,

  • with the promise of the government to implement that result, and

  • the orderly and practical conduct of business to implement Brexit

This immoral mentality was given literal expression last week when the convicted criminal Fiona Onasanya went into parliament wearing an electronic bracelet.  Her vote gave a one vote majority to a measure of major significance for Brexit and the constitution. A  measure now being rushed through parliament with blatantly undignified – even unconstitutional – haste. A Remainers measure …

How can a person convicted of a criminal offence continue to sit in the legislature and participate in passing laws …

All this is compounded by a Prime Minister abusing her monopoly hold on Royal powers to thwart the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The latest example is her foolish letter of Friday 5th April asking the EU to delay Brexit until June 30thThey have only just answered that question at their last meeting, setting two dates dictated by the circumstances and law for European parliament elections.

Our constitution appears to be powerless against such overwhelming abuse. At the Page above titled ‘Revive Voter Trust’, I have proposed 4 essential and urgent measures to restore faith in our parliamentary democracy.

But there is a step which can be taken now without passing new laws or going to Court. It is a radical step; it is a bold and courageous step. It may well be a controversial step. But I firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of electors will approve and welcome the initiative for its practical and necessary wisdom.

I also believe that it will restore a necessary balance in our constitution which is suffering from the concentration of Executive power in the partisan political hands of a Prime Minister who has no regard for the practical political and moral limitations she should observe in a constitution such as ours.

I speak of the Royal Veto over Bills passed by parliament but which need the Royal signature to become law. A power akin to that of the Conseil Constitutionnel in France. A power which existed in our constitution long before it existed in France, but which fell into desuetude because of peculiar circumstances 3 centuries ago.

MPs, Lords and the Prime Minister have shown themselves careless to the point of negligence over Brexit. Careless to the point not just of negligence over Brexit itself, but to the point of abusing the inherent flexibility of our evolved constitution. Such abuse has inevitably led to a political [and potentially legal] crisis where nothing is resolvable consistent with Statute law already passed and with the overwhelming moral, political and constitutional necessity of actually leaving the EU on April 12th, and no later.

To  hold EU elections 3 years after a sovereign vote to quit the EU will go beyond even a constitutional crisis to a fundamental crisis of the credibility of our entire parliamentary democracy.

Elizabeth II has the ability in her hands to refuse to sign any Bill which continues this crisis. Indeed, in all the circumstances now obtaining, the queen must be morally obliged to refuse.

Elizabeth II has 67 years experience as our Monarch. She has known and ‘advised’ 13 Prime Ministers. She is the ultimate symbol of our national identity and heritage. She has a standing and experience above all that is currently perturbing our politics and nation.

Circumstances now demand an end to the disruption engendering crisis upon crisis in UK politics today.

Our institutions are out of balance.

THE QUEEN HAS A ROLE TO PLAY !

Ray Catlin