The Exemption of the Monarch

3. Questions to the Counsel General – in the Senedd at on 23 April 2024.

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Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru


6. What legal advice has the Counsel General provided to the Welsh Government regarding the exemption of the monarch from the Agriculture (Wales) Act 2023? OQ60958

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 3:40, 23 April 2024

Thank you very much for the question. The immunity of the monarch from prosecution is a long-established principle. In accordance with that principle and convention, during the consent process on the Agriculture (Wales) Bill, as it was at the time, assurance was provided that the convention would be taken into account when making regulations once the Bill was enacted.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 3:41, 23 April 2024

I find it very troubling that the King, it seems, can ignore our laws in Wales. Are we saying that if a piece of land belongs to the sovereign it doesn't need to be managed sustainably? Or are we conceding that, by virtue of the monarch's nature, he can only own land sustainably? Or is it neither, and simply the fact that our laws and customs come with a duty of homage? In September 1267, the Treaty of Montgomery between Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and King Henry III of England provided that the prince and his successors would be bound to give fealty, homage and service to the English King and his heirs. Are the terms of that treaty still haunting us today? Are our Senedd's powers forever subject to our being subjects of a king?

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour

Well, listen, thank you for that response. I have to say that the Treaty of Montgomery is not something I've read recently, although I am aware of it. Certainly, this issue is a constitutional issue. There are strong and varying views on this. Just as we seek to comply ourselves with conventions and seek compliance, for example, with the Sewel convention, so we have also complied with the other conventions that exist in respect of legislation, but there is clearly a debate that is taking place on this particular issue.

There is a constitutional anachronism that is there. But can I just say this in respect of the Bill? In response to the palace's request, the Welsh Government did give a written assurance on the point of this convention to the King's advisers, and we said this:

'we confirm that when making regulations under Part III of the Agriculture (Wales) Act 2023 the Welsh ministers will keep in mind the exclusion by convention of the Crown in respect of criminal enforcement and powers of entry.' 

The assurance was to take account of the convention when making regulations. It did not commit the Welsh Ministers to any specific course of action when making regulations and, of course, any regulations that are brought forward under that will come forward to this Senedd, and if there are concerns at that stage, those are matters for this Parliament.