House of Lords Library

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 However, prerogative powers can be repealed by legislation.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.


Lords Library notes LLN-2019-0156

Author: Emily Haves

Topics: Constitution, Crown

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House of Lords Library

The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.