Embargo: 10:00 Thursday 27th July 2006
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659
THE ROYAL PREROGATIVE IS OUTDATED AND SHOULD NOT BE THE BASIS OF WAR MAKING IN THE 21ST CENTURY.
The House of Lords Constitution Committee has today called for an end to the Government's unfettered power to deploy British troops into conflict abroad.
The Committee contend that the Royal prerogative is outdated and should not be allowed to continue as the legitimate basis for war-making in a 21st century democracy. It recommends that the Government should in future seek Parliamentary approval before using military force abroad.
The Committee go on to recommend that in seeking Parliamentary approval the Government should indicate the objectives of deployment, its legal basis, its size and likely duration.
The Committee recognises that on occasion military action may be required before parliamentary approval can be sought. In these cases a Parliamentary vote on the deployment should be organised at the earliest possible opportunity.
Commenting on the report Lord Holme of Cheltenham, Chairman of the Committee, said:
"In this day and age, the use of the Royal prerogative to order military action abroad is an anachronism. It should not form the basis for legitimate war making in a parliamentary democracy in the 21st century.
"In the days when the Royal prerogative was, literally, at the Monarch's disposal, Parliament controlled the money so could keep military adventures in check. In the modern era, Government controls both the money and the troops.
"The vote on Iraq in 2003 created a new benchmark, which Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Jack Straw and others have recognised as setting a precedent. So there is cross-party consensus that it is time to give Parliament, representing the people, the final say on an issue as vital and serious as the despatch of British soldiers, sailors and airmen to hostile situations.
"What we are proposing is a modification of the prerogative, to ensure Parliament has the right to decide these life and death issues. We are not however proposing its replacement by a new law, mainly because the difficulties of drafting such a law are almost insuperable, but, rather, a new convention binding on Parliament and Government, arrived at by cross party agreement."
Notes to Editors
1. The report is published by The Stationery Office,
Waging War: Parliament's Role and Responsibility, House of Lords Constitution Committee, 15th Report of Session 2005/06, HL Paper 236-I, ISBN 010 485124 4, Price £13.50
2. The report will be available online shortly after publication at:
3. The Committee heard from a wide range of witnesses including: The Lord Chancellor, The Attorney-General, Kenneth Clarke MP, Clare Short MP, Tony Benn and many others including former senior officers from all three services..
4. The members of the Committee who conducted the inquiry were:
Lord Holme of Cheltenham (Chairman)
Baroness Hayman (until 4 July) Lord Windlesham
Earl of Sandwich
Lord Smith of Clifton
5. For copies of the report or to request an interview with Lord Holme please contact Owen Williams (Committee Press Officer on 020 7219 8658)