The royal prerogative is a source of constitutional law; it is derived from common law powers that have been handed down from the monarchy to the executive. The significance of the prerogative in constitutional law is that it provides the executive with considerable power to act without following ‘normal’ parliamentary procedures. As Dicey explained, the prerogative is ‘every act which the executive government can lawfully do without the authority of an Act of parliament’.
In constitutional terms, it is therefore important to explore the means by which the UK constitution secures the accountability for the exercise of prerogative powers by the executives.
Historically the prerogative was exercised by the monarchy, the majority of powers are now used by ministers, and very few remained the personal preserve of the sovereign. The extent to which the judiciary and the legislature are able to regulate the exercise of prerogative powers by the executive has increased. However, there are still some who are concerned by the lack of control that can be exerted by the other constitutional bodies.
The challenges to the power of the Monarch was by the reign of James I (1603-25) the monarch was faced with an increasing effective Parliament, culminating in the temporary abolition of the monarchy in (1625). Consequently, the monarchy’s powers were eroded by both revolution and by legal challenges, which included the case of Proclamations (1611) , the monarchy could not change the law by proclamation. The law of the land, which required that the law be made by Parliament, limited the prerogative. In the case of Prohibitions Del Roy (1607) the Monarch had no right to act as a judge, and in the case of the Ship Money Case (1637), although the court declared it to be within the Monarch’s power to determine a state of emergency, requiring tax raising, the Ship Money Act 1637 was passed, making it illegal for the monarch to raise taxation. The bill of rights of (1688) can be seen as the historical origin of the supremacy of parliament and since that point, many of the prerogative powers have been abolished or superseded by the state. Prerogative powers, then can be described as the residual powers of the state that are not governed by the legislation and do not require authorisation by parliament.
These include important matters of governance; the disposition of the armed forces; regulation of the armed forces: the grant of honours; diplomatic relations and making of treaties; the appointment of the minister and the dissolution of parliament.
The queen retains the personal power to grant certain honours, to assent the Bills passed by parliament, to appoint the prime minister, and to dissolve parliament.The powers that fall within its scope are often of crucial importance to government, and it is perhaps peculiar that the limitations and controls upon the prerogative have not yet been formalised.
Modern use of prerogative powers may be defined as the legal...