Monday briefing: How the Queen lobbied to keep wealth secret

Mon, 8 February 2021, 6:23 am

<img src="–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/; alt="<span>Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA
Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Top story: Archive reveals ‘substantial influence’ over laws

Morning, everyone. This is Martin Farrer bringing you the news you need to start the week.

The Queen lobbied the government to change proposed new legislation so that she could hide the true scale of her private wealth, according to documents unearthed by the Guardian in the National Archive. The papers, which the Guardian is publishing this week, suggest that the constitutional process of Queen’s consent, under which the monarch and her lawyers are given advance sight of bills coming into parliament, enabled her to keep shareholdings secret. The agreement made under the Heath government in the early 1970s meant that her financial interests, believed to run into hundreds of millions of pounds, were hidden in a state-backed shell corporation. Thomas Adams, a constitutional law expert at Oxford University, said the consent procedure appeared to have given the monarch “substantial influence” over draft laws that could affect her.

The documents raise questions about whether the monarch’s impartiality, a cornerstone of the constitution, still holds given the Queen’s use of a power that dates back to the 18th century. The investigation shows the Queen is still being consulted on draft laws that affect the crown and her private interests, including changes to agricultural subsidies and the Brexit bill.