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Opinion

Royal exemption from Welsh laws is an affront to Wales’ democracy

11 Jul 2024 5 minute read
King Charles III during the State Opening of Parliament – Image: Leon Neal

Ahead of King Charles’ visit to the Senedd, YesCymru Director, Elfed William looks at the British Monarch’s influence on Welsh laws 

In any self-respecting democratic nation, equality before the law is sacrosanct.

“All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”.

Those are the words of Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

This fundamental principle is rather undermined if any one person can exempt themselves from the laws of the land that everyone else is required to follow.

Though the UK voted for the adoption of this document, the country’s adherence to its basic principles is, at best, rather mixed.

In the United Kingdom, some are more equal than others, and the British monarch is the most equal of all.

King Charles is the most powerful as well as the most influential lobbyist in the British Isles.

He is able to leverage his substantial institutional muscle and his hold over the political establishment to ensure that laws that apply to everyone else do not apply to him.

This in large part is due to an archaic and feudalistic custom that requires UK parliaments, including the Senedd, to obtain Monarch’s consent for draft bills.

Immunity

Under this custom no proceedings, be they criminal or civil, can be brought against the monarch as head of state.

Just think about this for a moment and follow it through to its logical conclusion. It means that the Monarch is effectively above the law.

King Charles has personal immunity from swathes of British law, that range from animal welfare to workers’ rights.

Whilst YesCymru does not take a view on whether Wales should have a monarchy or not. That is a matter for the people of an independent Wales to decide.

But we are clear that our Senedd should have the power to ensure that the laws it passes apply equally to all of Wales’ citizens.

Documents recently unearthed by the Guardian have shown that this is not currently the case. They revealed that pressure was put on the Welsh Government by palace officials to ensure that King Charles could not be prosecuted for rural crimes under a new law.

This pressure wasn’t just applied. It was highly effective too. Although Mick Antoniw, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General (its chief legal adviser) made it clear that he was “not happy” about the King getting the special exemption from prosecution, he nevertheless agreed to it.

An internal Welsh Government memo on 1 June of last year noted that its lawyers “had been contacted by Buckingham Palace officials who have sought an assurance that Welsh ministers will take into account conventions regarding prosecuting the crown when making regulations under this bill”.

The very next day Welsh Government officials noted that the Counsel General “recognises the ongoing convention and therefore” agreed to it.

He may not have liked it but he most certainly did lump it.

The fact that he did not want to go along with it but did so anyway is an indication of the very real power that King Charles wields. It is not theoretical as some like to argue.

Exempt

The exemptions the Monarch was able to obtain in relation to last year’s Agriculture (Wales) Act, are not insignificant.

King Charles is exempt from regulations relating to the marketing of agricultural products. He is exempt from regulations that relate to the disposal of carcasses.

He is also exempt from regulations that relate to the disclosure of information to the Welsh state. Astonishingly, under that part of the act, the police cannot gain automatic entry to the King’s private property portfolio.

These are regulations that all other farmers in Wales are expected to follow, and they can expect to face consequences if they do not.

Ordinary citizens cannot get officials to reach out to the government on their behalf to ensure that the laws it passes are not applied to them.

These exemptions are an affront.

They are an affront to the principles of equality and fairness. They are an affront to Welsh democracy and to the Senedd in which it is embodied.

Most importantly they are an affront to the people of Wales who give the institution its legitimacy and who are bound by its laws. It is a matter of the system being fair to all our citizens. A system that further entrenches unfair advantage cannot do that.

If Welsh democracy is going to truly flourish it needs to firmly entrench equality before the law, and in so doing break free from the enduring shackles of its feudal past.


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
3 days ago

Totally agree, royal exemptions are an affront to equality and democracy.

If King Charles had any regard for the people of Wales he would return the Crown Estates to us as a starter.

Chris
Chris
3 days ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

While I don’t disagree, King Charles doesn’t get a say in how/where the Crown Estates money is allocated. We should lobby the governments in Cardiff and Westminster to achieve this.

karl
karl
2 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Do you realy believe that. He has been interfereing in politics for decades. We have seen hushed scandals surrounding his ambition to control the law as a p[rince of England. King spaniel of England can just stay out

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
3 days ago

We have had this problem since 1282. Plaid Cymru has had since 1925 to solve it, but hasn’t. We solve it in 2 steps. After holding an All-Wales Convention to draft our own Welsh Bill of Rights and Constitution, we apply for and get Dominion Status. So many former British Colonies did this, including Ireland of all people. This gives 80-90% Indy. As a Dominion we keep the Monarch for 3 reasons: many Welsh support it, it is a trivial issue compared with running our own economy and taxes. Plus we get the Monarchy to support Dominion Status and not… Read more »

Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
3 days ago

Australia is a Commonwealth which is a republic in effect. Similar to Holland they function more or less as a federal republic with a hereditary head of state.

Riki
Riki
3 days ago

1536 actually! Wales wasn’t connected to England until 1536. How about we all pay a bit more attention to the events between 1282 and 1485!

Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
3 days ago

It seems it also applies to some extent to Mr Gething. This is the same problem that the Americans are wrestling with about Donald Trump and the alleged crimes he is said to have committed while in office. Does the rule apply to the office or the man or the man in office or even subsequent? Cromwell believed the king to be responsible personally and tried and executed him. There are two parts to this. First the creeping tendency of government in the UK to resume the idea of crown immunity which was removed after the catastrophe at Stanley Royds.… Read more »

Riki
Riki
3 days ago

“British monarchy” how about we stop calling them that! They are Germanic Greeks who were born into the house that are now custodians of the monarchies of England and Scotland. Er go, hardly Britons are they?!

Simon
Simon
2 days ago
Reply to  Riki

Isn’t this mix of family origins true of most peoples heritage? The background of an individual is not relevant to this conversation, that sort of comment only opens doors for flinging pernicious empty words. The debate is best summed up by the words of Tom Paine: “An hereditary monarch is as absurd a position as an hereditary doctor or mathematician”.

Riki
Riki
1 day ago
Reply to  Simon

Well it matters more than your average person as they are putting on a show and claiming to represent four countries. One of which whose monarchs were hunted down one by one until they could install their own Prince on a far older throne!!! To call themselves British is a front to the history of this island. There legality only extends to England and Scotland as they are the only two legally unified. And the last time I checked neither were founded by the Britons. It’s like having only one monarchy in Europe left and then calling them European by… Read more »

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
2 days ago

…and become an independent republic. The only sustainable option for Cymru.

Lynda Kinds
Lynda Kinds
1 day ago

Get a life. Stop taking money from the English and stand on your own two feet, then get back to me.
.
#OurKingCharles ♔
#OurQueenCamilla ♕
#OurRoyalFamily 💕
#LongLiveTheKing 
.

John Ellis
John Ellis
1 day ago
Reply to  Lynda Kinds

Seems that folk of your view have finally forgiven him for spurning Diana?! Even to tyhe point of embracing her replacement …

Riki
Riki
1 day ago
Reply to  Lynda Kinds

We aren’t able to “stand on our own two feet” as England takes all of Wales’ gold and Scotlands oil. Both of which would be much richer outside the UK! This can’t happen until people of both nations wake up and free themselves from their inferiority complex. Welsh Gold and Scottish oil are keeping England afloat!

Gareth
Gareth
1 day ago
Reply to  Lynda Kinds

You forgot to include the one who paid £12 million compensation in an out of court settlement in a sexual assault case, on your list, are you proud of him? After all he is one of the gang.

Last edited 1 day ago by Gareth

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