Prerogative Powers of the Crown
Published Friday, December 13, 2019
This House of Lords Library Briefing provides an overview of prerogative powers in the UK. It includes a discussion of powers reserved to the monarch, and examples of how they have been used.
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- Prerogative powers are executive powers that can be exercised by the monarch or his or her representatives without the need for legislation.
- Prerogative powers derive from the historical power of the monarch, therefore new ones cannot be created. However, prerogative powers can be repealed by legislation.
- Most prerogative powers are either exercised by ministers or by the sovereign on the basis of constitutionally-binding advice given by ministers.
- Powers the monarch exercises not on the basis of constitutionally-binding advice are called reserve powers.
- In practice, reserve powers are often governed by constitutional convention. For example, there are strong conventions governing the appointment of a prime minister.
- Reserve powers can exist in some circumstances but not others. For example, the prorogation of Parliament is not usually a reserve power, but most constitutional experts agree that the monarch can refuse a prorogation if the government has lost or is about to lose the confidence of the House of Commons.
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