One of my Twitter followers recently pointed me in the direction of this set of documents relating to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme 1975. While the documents comprise several different types of instrument, all of them were formally approved by the Queen.
When we think of the Sovereign’s role as Head of State, we often think of high-profile matters such as the State Opening of Parliament, the appointment of a Prime Minister, or the granting of Royal Assent to legislation. But Her Majesty’s involvement in the process of government runs far deeper. These pension-related documents deal with a number of highly technical matters–they’re not just ceremonial fluff, yet they still had to be sent to the Queen for approval. It’s a nice example of how, instead of explicitly taking power away from the Monarch, the British instead established a convention that royal powers should only be exercised on the advice of responsible ministers.
Some other random observations:
- The MoD apparently has special stationery for use when submitting documents to Her Majesty. Given the British government’s horror at the prospect of revealing “communications with Her Majesty,” it’s a bit odd that these pieces have been freely published!
- Pensions for the Army, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Navy are governed by different types of instrument. For Army pensions, it’s a Royal Warrant, for Royal Navy pensions it’s an Order in Council, while for Royal Air Force pensions, it’s an ‘Order by Her Majesty.’
- The MoD’s formatting of Royal Warrants is a bit…eccentric. They have an odd habit of putting “Elizabeth R” (or sometimes just “Elizabeth”) at the top of the warrant. While this is often done when a warrant is published later, it makes little sense on the original version that is signed by the Queen! Also, Defense Secretaries tend to countersign in the wrong place. A minister’s countersignature is supposed to go below “By Her Majesty’s Command,” but Defense Secretaries like to sign above the dating formula for some unfathomable reason.