Robert Booth

October 31, 2011

From the London Olympics and gambling to children’s rights and shipwrecks, the list of draft bills scrutinised by the Prince of Wales and his officials reads like the busiest Whitehall portfolio imaginable.

The 62-year-old prince isn’t a minister, an MP or even a lord; in constitutional terms, he is a subject of the crown like any other. But it has emerged that he has a far more formal role in shaping our laws than many people – legislators and civil servants included – ever knew.

Prince Charles is routinely asked to give his consent to pieces of new legislation in what is effectively a power of veto. Since 2005, ministers from six departments have sought his approval for a dozen bills.

With 650 MPs and 826 lords already raking through the fine print of legislation on behalf of British citizens, the puzzle is: why does the prince have this power and how is he using it?

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