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1(a) Powers of the Sovereign

Under the (unwritten) constitution of the United Kingdom, all actions of government are undertaken in the name of the Crown. According to Joseph Chitty:

“The rights of sovereignty, or supreme power, are of a legislative and executive nature, and must, under any form of government, be vested exclusively in a body or bodies, distinct from the people at large” [1820, p.2].

The Queen is therefore part of the legislature which consists of the Crown and the Houses of Lords and Commons. Further, while it was established by the Case of Proclamations (1611), the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Case of Prohibitions (1607) that the monarch has no power to make laws or act in a judicial capacity, the entire administration of justice is conducted in the name of the Queen. In addition, much of government is conducted by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative including the power to declare was and enter into treaties with foreign states. The Queen alone has the power to dissolve Parliament, appoint ministers and assent to bills.

Therefore it may be concluded that although frequently dismissed as a titular head of state, the Queen continues to exercise considerable power within what is in all other respects a truly parliamentary democracy.

1(b) Concern at the Constitutional Position of the Monarch

This dichotomy between the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives in Parliament and the residual power vested in the Queen who ascend the throne solely on the basis of hereditary entitlement inevitably gives rise to concern as to the potential for misuse of sovereign power.

Typically, Queen Victoria retained the view that she had the ability to dissolve Parliament against the customary advice of her ministers. In the Letters of Queen Victoria, 3rd series, Vol II, pp.297-99, Lord Salisbury warned of the potentially disastrous consequences of such a step with the dismissed party then having to “go to the country” as opponents of the Crown. In reality, constitutional convention dictates that such a step would never be undertaken. It is as unthinkable as the Queen refusing Royal Assent to an Act of Parliament. Similarly, the House of Lords made it clear in Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister of State for Civil Service (1985) – the case in which the prerogative power to withdraw trade union rights from employees at GCHQ was challenged (albeit unsuccessfully) that the courts retained the right to review the exercise of prerogative power.

Thus it may be concluded that while constitutional concerns must exist in theory as to the manner in which the Queen might exercise her power, the reality is that she regards herself as being prevented by convention from so doing.

2) The European Communities Act 1972

Section 2(1) of the European Communities Act 1972 provides:

“All such rights, powers, liabilities, obliga