The monarch’s approval, called Royal Assent, puts the final seal on an Act of Parliament. It has become a mere formality as the balance of power has gradually shifted to the House of Commons. The last time Royal Assent was refused was three centuries ago.
The idea for an Act, or law, begins in an exploratory Green Paper which is developed into a White Paper. A Minister then introduces it as a Bill in Parliament and this goes through the mill of 1st reading, 2nd reading, committee stage, report stage and 3rd reading, before it emerges with amendments to be similarly scrutinised in the other House. It may be passed backwards and forwards like this in what is called ‘ping pong’ fashion. If it succeeds in gaining majority votes in both Houses, the monarch is expected to sign it off in due course.
The approval is announced in Parliament with the Anglo-Norman words: “La Reyne le veult” for a Queen, or “Le Roy le veult” for a King. The published Act begins with “Be it enacted by the [King’s/Queen’s] most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons…” signifying everyone’s participation.
(Image of Queen Victoria in 1854, the last time a monarch gave Royal Assent in person at Parliament: Jim Surkamp at Flickr.com / CC BY-NC 2.0)