Chapter 6 Guidance to answering the end-of-chapter questions

The Crown and Royal Prerogative

1. In no more than 100 words, how would you define the royal prerogative?

  • Think about the history of the Crown and the royal prerogative. Where did prerogative powers originate and who used them?
  • Who uses them now? 
  • Where are they found? For instance, are they listed in legislation?
  • Can new prerogative powers be created?
  • Look back to pp. 142–143 to review the nature of the royal prerogative.

2. What are the royal prerogative powers, who has the legal power to exercise them, and who, by constitutional convention, is given the power to make use of them?

  • Remember that prerogative powers are linked to the monarch’s status as head of state. What sorts of things do you expect the head of state to have done? If you can’t remember any examples, look at section 6.2.1 on p. 143 or the summary points on p. 147.
  • Does the monarch exercise any prerogative powers? If so, can you remember what the ‘personal’ prerogatives are? See Table 6.2 on p. 155 for a reminder.
  • Is it just the monarch who exercises prerogative powers? For example, is it the monarch who negotiates and enters into treaties with other countries, or decides to deploy military troops abroad? If not, by whom do these prerogative powers get exercised and by what authority (since they are not the monarch) do they exercise them?

3. To what extent is the royal prerogative similar to statutory powers given to the executive, and to what extent does it differ from them?

  • Is it easy for Parliament to exercise effective control of the executive’s exercise of prerogative power? Does Parliament question the monarch’s exercise of power?
  • Recall Parliament’s scrutinising function. Parliament may ask ministers to account for the exercise of statutory power. Is this also true for the exercise of prerogative power?
  • Remember that ‘judicial review’ is a way for the courts to ensure the executive are acting lawfully. Is the executive’s exercise of prerogative powers susceptible to judicial review in similar ways to the exercise of statutory power? Note that there has been a significant case on judicial review of prerogative powers since this textbook was printed: see R (Miller) v The Prime Minister; Cherry v Advocate General for Scotland [2019] UKSC 41.
  • To review the similarities and differences, look at pp. 165–171.

4. To what extent do you think that the royal prerogative should be reformed, in what way, and why?

  • Is the royal prerogative well defined?
  • Think about how we determine the extent of the royal prerogative. Is there an easily accessibly list of what the royal prerogative covers?
  • Can you recall what the Select Committee on Public Administration concluded in its ‘Taming the Prerogative’ report? See p. 172.
  • What do you understand would be the effect of codifying prerogative powers in statute?
  • Would placing prerogative powers on a statutory footing provide opportunities for concerned citizens to review the government’s exercise of power? Is it obvious that judges should or would want to become involved in scrutinising highly political decisions?
  • To refresh your understanding of the debates, turn to pp. 171–175.

5. To what extent does parliamentary sovereignty mean that concerns about the royal prerogative could be eradicated relatively easily? Provide examples and reasons for your answer.

  • Think back to your understanding of ‘parliamentary sovereignty’.
  • What can Parliament do if it is unhappy about how prerogative powers are being exercised?
  • What did the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 change?
  • What happens if Parliament passes legislation that covers the same ground as a prerogative power? Can you remember a case authority for your answer? See p. 150.