Lascelles Principles

Lascelles Principles

The Lascelles Principles are a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom describing the circumstances under which a monarch may refuse a request from a Prime Minister for the dissolution of Parliament. The Lascelles principles are that the monarch could refuse a dissolution if "the existing Parliament was still vital, viable, and capable of doing its job" or if the monarch "could rely on finding another prime minister who could govern for a reasonable period with a working majority in the House of Commons."

The Lascelles Principles are notable in that their formal statement was not incorporated in any governmental document, but rather was in the form of a letter to the editor of "The Times" by Sir Alan Lascelles, writing under the pseudonym "Senex", published on 2 May 1950:

To the Editor of The Times

Sir,—It is surely indisputable (and common sense) that a Prime Minister may ask—not demand—that his Sovereign will grant him a dissolution of Parliament; and that the Sovereign, if he so chooses, may refuse to grant this request. The problem of such a choice is entirely personal to the Sovereign, though he is, of course, free to seek informal advice from anybody whom he thinks fit to consult.

In so far as this matter can be publicly discussed, it can be properly assumed that no wise Sovereign—that is, one who has at heart the true interest of the country, the constitution, and the Monarchy—would deny a dissolution to his Prime Minister unless he were satisfied that: (1) the existing Parliament was still vital, viable, and capable of doing its job; (2) a General Election would be detrimental to the national economy; (3) he could rely on finding another Prime Minister who could carry on his Government, for a reasonable period, with a working majority in the House of Commons. When Sir Patrick Duncan refused a dissolution to his Prime Minister in South Africa in 1939, all these conditions were satisfied: when Lord Byng did the same in Canada in 1926, they appeared to be, but in the event the third proved illusory.

I am, &c.,


April 29.

— [ "Dissolution of Parliament: Factors in Crown's Choice"] , "The Times", 2 May 1950, page 5

These principles have never been applied in the United Kingdom, since no monarch has refused a dissolution since then.

Professor Peter Hennessy has stated that the second of the three conditions has since been "dropped from the canon", being no longer included in internal Cabinet Office guidance ["The Economist", 24 December 1994, page 32 (cited in " [ British Government and the Constitution: Text and Materials] ", Colin Turpin and Adam Tomkins, 2007, page 364, ISBN 978-0-521-69029-4) ] .

ee also

*King-Byng Affair


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