How the King’s Speech might have been … if consultation mattered more!

Posted on 9th November, 2023


This is Blog No 48



Most Governments' legislative programmes sound pretty obscure when read in the speech from the throne. The monarch tries hard to avoid any flicker of reaction to the words on the page – or rather, the goatskin parchment. Those in attendance pretend that the content is interesting. TV viewers wonder what Keir said to Rishi, and everyone says how well we do the pageantry!

Long ago, power – the genuine variety, not the constitutional fiction – remained firmly with the Crown and flowed down, by grace, favour and frequent corruption to the rest of us. To his credit, King Charles shows every sign of recognising that in a modern world, authority rises up from the grass-roots. We may not call it ‘people power’ but in essence, Rishi Sunak stays in office only for as long as people still support him.


And everyone has learnt that ‘carrying people with you’ is important for key policies and for good administration. Few Governments have persuaded Parliament to pass legislation if MPs think that if push comes to shove, their constituents won’t support them. And such is the mistrust of Ministerial group-think, that plenty in both Houses – but especially in the Lords – now frequently demand to know “What did people say when you consulted on this matter.”


Like others, this King’s Speech announces a real mixture. There are proposed Bills that have gone full circle on the policy-making merry-go-round and been consulted upon ad nauseum. On the other hand, there are those which have been dreamt up so recently that no-one has a clue what they will be and have been subject to no consultation whatsoever.  And all shades in between …


So, imagine how – for full transparency – and with a little poetic licence -  some of the items in King Charles’s speech this week MIGHT have been;

My Ministers will introduce a Tobacco and Vapes Bill, and they are very proud of their eight week consultation launched in October and to which they would like all my loyal subjects to respond.


My Ministers are determined to end the practice of educating students and giving them poor quality degrees. It hasn’t consulted anyone much but is sure it is the right thing to do.


My Ministers hope to introduce a Media Bill, having had a bad experience when it consulted my realm on the privatisation of Channel Four.


My Government will introduce an Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill and give a green light to more oil fields. As you can imagine, it has not consulted me!


My Ministers also intend to legislate for a legal framework for self-driving vehicles, having consulted on the subject over a year ago. We have tried hard at the Palace without success to navigate the website in search of a Government response but trust that navigation systems on automated vehicles will work better

The Government proposes to introduce new competition rules for digital markets, including the practice of ‘drip pricing.’ At the Palace we are grateful to Fascinating Aida for having explained to us what this means, as we have no experience of ’Cheap Flights’ and flying Ryanair for 50p.


Finally, my Ministers will promote a Football Governance Bill which will prevent Clubs from selling or relocating their stadiums unless they have consulted their supporters. It will also prescribe a minimum standard of ‘fan engagement’ – much as I propose for the future of the monarchy.

WARNING - Strong language is heard in this song - but not as bad as in the COVID Inquiry!

I admit the last part was my personal attempt to emulate the historical accuracy of the successful TV series THE CROWN. However, with a couple of other exceptions, in respect of consultation, most of the statements above are perfectly true and accurate. A real mixture, as is probably inevitable.


This is not arguing for uniformity of approach. Circumstances differ and the usefulness of pre-legislative consultation can also vary. There are also other ways to undertake good policy-making. But we need better transparency, and a realisation that Parliament takes better decisions when, in the consideration of the details, there is a better body of evidence about the likely costs, benefits and impacts of proposed legislation. Consultation goes some way towards addressing this issue.


In recent decades, as Judges have frequently confirmed as they pick up the pieces from ill-considered legislation, Parliament has done a poor job of passing laws.


Would it not have been good – and fun – had King Charles’ speech heralded a more consultation-conscious approach to our legislative programme.

Maybe it should be in the Consultation GuRU style?


Or would I have been sent to the Tower?


Rhion H Jones LL.B


See Rhion's Speeches etc 


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