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Great Britain’s Monarchy and the Commonwealth

Monarchy What powers does the Queen have?

The Crown, which represents both the Sovereign (the person on whom the Crown is constitutionally conferred) and the Government, is the symbol of supreme executive power. The Crown is vested in the Queen, but in general its functions are exercised by Ministers responsible to Parliament and thus Britain is governed by Her Majesty's Government in the name of the Queen. However, the Queen's involvement is still required in many important acts of government.

The Queen summons, prorogues (discontinues until the next session without dissolving) and dissolves Parliament. She normally opens the new session of Parliament with a speech from the throne which is written for her by the Government and outlines her Government's programme. Before a Bill becomes law the Queen must give it her Royal Assent, which is announced to both Houses of Parliament.

The Queen can, on ministerial advice, pardon or show mercy to those convicted of crimes. In law the Queen as a private person can do no wrong: she is immune from civil or criminal proceedings and cannot be sued in courts of law. This immunity is not shared by other members of the royal family.

The Queen has the power to confer peerages, knighthoods and other honours. She normally does this on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, although a few honours are conferred by the Sovereign personally. The Queen makes appointments to many important state offices, on the advice of the Prime Minister or the relevant Cabinet Minister.

Foreign diplomatic representatives in London are accredited to the Queen and she has the power to conclude treaties, to declare war and to make peace, to recognise foreign states and governments and to annex and cede territory.

The Queen presides over meetings of the Privy Council. At these, among other things, Orders in Council made under the Royal Prerogative or under statute are approved. The Royal Prerogative mainly comprises executive government - powers controlled by constitutional conventions (rules which are not part of the law, but which are regarded as indispensable to the machinery of government). In nearly all cases acts involving the Royal Prerogative are performed by Ministers who are responsible to Parliament and can be questioned about policies. Parliament has the power to abolish or restrict a prerogative right. In addition to being informed and consulted about all aspects of national life, the Queen is free to put forward her own views, in private, for the consideration of her Ministers.

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