Under special exemption, police are not allowed to search Queen’s private estates for looted artifacts

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Police are prohibited from searching the queen’s private estates for stolen or looted items, it turned out today.

Her Majesty was granted immunity from the Cultural Property (Armed Conflict) Act, which protects valuable cultural property.

According to The Guardian, citing documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act, the exemption is believed to have been made before the bill came into effect in 2017.

The law aims to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage, including monuments, archaeological sites and works of art, in future conflicts.

Her Majesty (pictured in 2019) was granted immunity from the Cultural Property Act (Armed Conflict)

Her Majesty (pictured in 2019) was granted immunity from the Cultural Property Act (Armed Conflict)

The exemption only applies to the Queen and her private estates - meaning the police are prohibited from searching Balmoral and Sandringham (photo)

The exemption only applies to the Queen and her private estates - meaning the police are prohibited from searching Balmoral and Sandringham (photo)

The exemption only applies to the Queen and her private estates – meaning the police are prohibited from searching Balmoral and Sandringham (photo)

Buckingham Palace and the government refuse to say why it was deemed necessary in 2017 to grant the Queen an exemption that prevents police from searching Balmoral on Royal Deeside (photo)

Buckingham Palace and the government refuse to say why it was deemed necessary in 2017 to grant the Queen an exemption that prevents police from searching Balmoral on Royal Deeside (photo)

Buckingham Palace and the government refuse to say why it was deemed necessary in 2017 to grant the Queen an exemption that prevents police from searching Balmoral on Royal Deeside (photo)

What is the Cultural Goods Act?

The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 received royal assent in February 2017.

Part 3 of the law prohibits the unauthorized use of the cultural emblem – the symbol created by the Convention – to identify cultural property that is being protected.

Part 4 gives the police the power to search and confiscate property where looted items can be held. It leads to another violation of the trade in such cultural heritage.

Part 5 grants immunity from seizure or confiscation of cultural objects entitled to special protection under Article 12 of the Convention because they are being transported to the United Kingdom, or via the UK to another destination, for detention during a period of armed conflict.

Part of the law also makes it a criminal offense to trade in cultural goods, ‘knowing or having reason to suspect that it has been unlawfully exported’.

The definition of ‘dealing’ includes acquisition by purchase, gift or loan.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman told MailOnline: “ The Royal Household may be consulted on Bills to ensure the technical accuracy and consistency of the application of the Bill to the Crown, a complex legal principle governed by the statue and common law.

“This process does not change the nature of such a bill.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) gave the monarch the special dispensation – according to the Guardian – following a letter to Buckingham Palace in 2016 from a private secretary who worked for then-culture secretary, John Whittingdale.

The documents were requested by the newspaper as part of its investigation into Queen’s consent.

The letter from Whittingdale’s secretary states that the exemption applies only to the Queen and her private estates – meaning that the police are not allowed to investigate Balmoral and Sandringham.

The police are still allowed to search for properties that are part of the crown domain.

Section 30 of the 2017 Act reads: “Nothing in this section affects Her Majesty in her personal capacity.”

A DCMS spokesperson said: ‘It is incorrect to suggest that there was a direct attempt to obscure the purpose of a clause. It is common for the legislation to provide an exception for Her Majesty the Queen in her personal capacity. ‘

The constitutional procedure known as Queen’s Consent requires the monarch to give approval when a new law affecting her powers or personal finances is put forward.

The royal household can be approached by government departments to discuss the technical correctness of an account, but not to amend it.

What is the Queen’s permission?

Queen’s Consent is a procedure whereby the government is obliged to ask the monarch for permission to debate laws that apply to her.

It happens during the drafting of a bill pending in parliament, and is promulgated in parliament, usually at second or third reading.

There are two main areas where it is used:

1. About matters that affect the royal authority (the powers of the state), such as being able to declare war, grant honors or issue passports;

2. When a law affects the crown’s assets, such as the royal palaces or hereditary income, including the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall, as well as personal property or personal “interests” of the crown.

Parliamentary lawyers would rule that a bill requires such permission, and a minister would write to the queen asking for permission from parliament to debate it.

A copy of the bill is sent to the Queen’s private law attorneys, who have 14 days to consider and advise her.

If the queen gives her consent, parliament can debate the legislation and the process is formally referred to in Hansard, the report of parliamentary debates.

But if the Queen refuses her consent, the bill cannot go through and parliament is effectively prohibited from debating it. But in practice this is unlikely to ever happen.

A spokesperson for the queen said of the assent procedure: ‘The assent of the queen is a parliamentary process, with the role of sovereign being purely formal.

‘Permission is always granted by the monarch if the government requests it. Any claim that the sovereign has blocked legislation is simply false. ‘

Consent also differs from Royal Assent, which is given after a bill is passed by both Houses of Parliament and must be passed into law. All legislation requires consent.

The last time it was withheld was by Queen Anne for the Scottish Militia Bill 1708, who did not do it on the advice of ministers for fear that the proposed militia would be ‘unfaithful’.

Queen’s Consent has been used on bills ranging from Social Security issues to the Article 50 law allowing Britain to leave the EU.

Some of the extensive legislation also affected her powers, wealth and personal property, such as her estates at Balmoral and Sandringham.

In a list compiled by The GuardianAt least 1,062 bills are subject to the Queen’s approval.

The data goes back to the London County Council Bill in 1952 at the beginning of her administration, and the data shows that the procedure has been used much more extensively than previously thought.

In addition to important legislation on things like Brexit and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, Queen’s permission has been used for unclear rules about parking fees and rates for caravans and boats.

Under the procedure, the ministers are intended to inform the Queen privately of clauses in draft legislation that may affect hers and seek permission to debate them.

It follows another controversy involving Queen’s Consent, in which the Queen’s lawyers apparently lobbied ministers to change a bill so that her private assets could be kept secret.

The incident, which took place under the premiership of Edward Heath, dealt with concerns that the Companies Bill of 1973 would allow directors to require front companies holding their shares to reveal the identity of the real owners of the shares.

Documents suggest that the Queen’s legal team got their eye on the bill beforehand under the constitutional procedure known as the Queen’s Consent.

It is alleged that there were concerns about the possibility that, as a result, possible ‘potentially embarrassing’ investments in Her Majesty’s shares would come to light.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the Queen challenged the bill, and after deep reflection from the Bank of England, an amendment came to the bill that allegedly would protect heads of state and foreign government interests from having to divulge their stock holdings.

The bill collapsed because Heath’s government lost all of its planned legislation when it held elections in February 1974, but it did make it through to the Labor Statute Book in 1976.

Among those involved in the amendment of the bill, reportedly in an effort to protect the Queen, was Geoffrey Howe, then Secretary of Trade and Industry and later Chancellor and Secretary of State under Margaret Thatcher.

Howe, who died in 2015, approved a solution developed by the Bank of England and officials, which was sold to the public as a means of protecting the identities of foreign heads of state and governments investing in Britain.

He later wrote that he “discussed this solution with the Queen’s legal advisers,” who in turn said “they couldn’t ask us to do more.”

It follows another controversy involving Queen's Consent, in which the monarch's lawyers apparently lobbied ministers to change a draft corporate law so that her private assets could be kept secret during Edward Heath's premiership (photo with Queen)

It follows another controversy involving Queen's Consent, in which the monarch's lawyers apparently lobbied ministers to change a draft corporate law so that her private assets could be kept secret during Edward Heath's premiership (photo with Queen)

It follows another controversy involving Queen’s Consent, in which the monarch’s lawyers apparently lobbied ministers to change a draft corporate law so that her private assets could be kept secret during Edward Heath’s premiership (photo with Queen)

A spokesman for the Queen said: “The Queen’s consent is a parliamentary process, in which the role of sovereign is purely formal. Permission is always granted by the monarch when requested by the government. Any claim that the Sovereign has blocked the legislation is simply false.

Whether the Queen’s consent is required is decided by Parliament, independently of the Royal Household, in matters affecting the interests of the Crown, including the personal property and personal interests of the Prince.

“If Consent is required, draft legislation shall, by convention, be submitted to the Sovereign to grant only upon the advice of Ministers and in public records.”

The cabinet said, ‘The Queen’s consent is a long-standing convention and a requirement of the parliamentary process. Consent is routinely sought by the government and, of course, approved by the monarch. ‘