5.1.3 The Royal Prerogative Lecture - Example Questions
This section of the Chapter provides an example problem question and outline answer which will help you in your exam revision and give you the opportunity to apply the legal principles you have learnt in this chapter to practical situations. Example answers are provided below, but it is useful to work through each of the questions yourself and then compare them to the model answers contained in the Chapter. If you encounter difficulties, refer back to the information provided earlier in the Chapter on the Royal Prerogative including the key cases sections.
Problem Question: A general election is held in Britain in 2020 in which no political party reaches a majority of the support of the electorate. Theresa May is still the Prime Minister and she refuses to resign from her post, neither the Conservatives or the Labour party (nor none of the other political parties) commands an overall majority. Widespread debate is carried out about the form that the next government should take. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who command the third largest number of votes state that they will only join a coalition government if the new governments will legislate upon the UK withdrawing its ratification of all international human rights agreements. The Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties state that they will agree to a coalition government if an independent state of Scotland-Wales is established by 2025. The Conservative party MP's support Teresa May in her refusal to resign and argue that the Conservative party should lead a government without a majority.
The advisor to King Charles III seeks your legal advice on the constitutional issues that arise from this hung Parliament situation. You are to discuss the legal and political rules which inform the King's decision making powers in such a situation, specifically in relation to the issues of the appointment of a new Prime Minister and the formation of the next government.
- Outline of Suggested Answer
- Like most problem questions, the question raises a number of points of legal advice and is aimed specifically at the Crown, that is represented by Charles III who is now King after the death of his Mother. You should begin the introductory section with an outline of the key issues and any particular legal provisions that you will rely upon in your answer. You should identify who you are providing the legal advice to.
- This question is based upon the royal prerogative powers of the King, and the personal powers that have been discussed in the chapter, one of these being the appointment of the Prime Minister, also of relevance is the Monarch's power of the summing and dissolution of Parliament. You may mention the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, which requires the government to carry out a full five-year term.
- A discussion of constitutional conventions and their political limits on the Royal Prerogative powers should be carried out/ This includes the convention that the government must have the confidence of the majority of the House of Commons. If the Prime Minister's political party no longer has a majority in the House of Commons, she and other members of the government should resign before the meeting of the New Parliament.
- It is also a constitutional convention that in the event of a hung parliament the incumbent Prime Minister is offered the first chance to continue in office and form an administration. In the scenario Teresa May may be defeated by a no-confidence motion at the meeting of the new Parliament.
- The next section of your answer should establish what the Royal Prerogative is, you might mention briefly that it originated from a time when the Monarch's power was absolute and state the definitions provided by Blackstone and Dicey, including a discussion of the term 'residual powers'.
- The next section should offer an explanation of constitutional conventions; you may wish to look back to previous chapters in this guide to recap the details of such conventions. Remember, these are not legal rules but should be considered as political limitations upon the powers of the Royal Prerogative in this instance.
- Discuss the fact that in practice although the prerogative power is in the hands of the Monarch that is it common practice that the Prime Minister would advice the King. However, in this instance the King will need to exercise their prerogative powers to reach a resolution to the problem that Teresa May is refusing to resign as Prime Minister. You may refer to the situation in 2010 when the Queen requested the presence of the leader of Conservative party, since they commanded the largest number of seat at the time.
- You may refer the Kings advisor to the Cabinet Manual, which was published in 2011 as a result of the Hung Parliament in 2010, which includes a protocol for the Prime Minister to stand down in such circumstances. King Charles III should be aware that he is not obliged to take the Prime Ministers advice in such circumstances and may seek advice elsewhere.
- The practical exigencies of the situation would be that the King should establish discussions between the parties, taking into account that UKIP has requested the withdrawal from all the international human rights treaties and that the Scottish and Welsh National parties want an independent state to be established of Scotland-Wales.
- In conclusion you should summarise the advice to the King, suggesting that it is important that he not be involved in the political process of attempting to find a resolution to the political issues of establishing a coalition government, or one in which the House of Commons has confidence. The King should allow the political parties to negotiate and attempt to propose a resolution to the question. If the current Prime Minister is unable to form a political alliance and establish a coalition government, the Monarch should then meet all of the party leaders in turn and a minority government may be established.
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