This House of Lords Library briefing provides background information in advance of the second reading of the Armed Forces Deployment (Royal Prerogative) Bill [HL] in the House of Lords on 8 July 2016.
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The Armed Forces Deployment (Royal Prerogative) Bill is a private member’s bill introduced by Baroness Falkner of Margravine (Liberal Democrat). The Bill received its first reading in the House of Lords on 24 May 2016 and is scheduled to have its second reading on 8 July 2016.
The Bill would require the Prime Minister to seek approval from the House of Commons before taking a ‘conflict decision’ authorising the use of force by UK forces, if the use of force would take place outside the United Kingdom and would be regulated by the law of armed conflict. The Prime Minister would have to seek such approval by laying a report before the House of Commons setting out the terms of the proposed approval. The House of Commons could seek the opinion of the House of Lords, but it would be for the House of Commons to resolve whether or not to approve the proposed conflict decision. The Prime Minister would not be required to seek approval for a conflict decision if:
- There was not sufficient time (the ‘emergency condition’).
- Public disclosure of information about the conflict decision could prejudice the effectiveness of military activities and/or the security or safety of members of UK forces or other forces or people assisting them (the ‘security condition’).
- The conflict decision covered only: members of special forces and/or members of UK forces for the purposes of assisting special forces’ activities.
The power to deploy armed forces is a prerogative power exercised on the Sovereign’s behalf by Ministers. In 2011, the Coalition Government announced its intention to “enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action”. However, in April 2016, Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence announced that the Government had decided not to legislate on this matter, to avoid constraining the operational flexibility of the armed forces. He noted that the Government had demonstrated its commitment to the convention by holding debates on military action and respecting the will of Parliament on each occasion.