Buckingham Palace has insisted the Queen has never tried to block legislation, after newly unearthed memos suggested her personal lawyer lobbied the government to change a draft law that would have disclosed details of her private share dealings.
Documents from the National Archives revealed a series of meetings between her lawyer, Matthew Farrer, and senior civil servants in 1973 after Edward Heath’s government proposed legislation that would have made company shareholdings more transparent.
A report in The Guardian claims the Queen was made aware of the draft law through the enactment of Queen’s Consent, when the monarch is informed of legislation that could affect the private interests of the Crown.
Documents suggest that in Nov 1973, after becoming aware of a bill that would potentially expose the “embarrassing” extent of her share holdings, the Queen dispatched Mr Farrer to press the government to make changes.
The government inserted a clause into the draft legislation granting the power to exempt companies used by “heads of state” from transparency measures. But further correspondence suggested unhappiness at that compromise because it would still make it obvious what investments the Queen held.
In Dec 1973, Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Trade Secretary, wrote to a fellow minister proposing a clause in the Bill to allow the government to exempt certain companies from declaring the identities of shareholders. His memo said: “My department have discussed this solution with legal advisers to the Queen.
“While they cannot … commit themselves to using the suggested new facility, they accept it is a perfectly reasonable solution to the problem … and they could not ask us to do more.”
Last night, Buckingham Palace said any assertion the Queen had the power to block legislation was “incorrect”. A spokesman said: “Queen’s Consent is a parliamentary process, with the role of sovereign purely formal. Consent is always granted by the monarch where requested by Government.
“Any assertion that the sovereign has blocked legislation is simply incorrect.
“Whether Queen’s Consent is required is decided by Parliament, independently from the Royal Household, in matters that would affect Crown interests. If Consent is required, draft legislation is, by convention, put to the sovereign to grant solely on advice of ministers and as a matter of public record.”