Palace banned ethnic minorities from office roles until late 1960s

Palace banned ethnic minorities from office roles until late 1960s

06/02/2021

Queen’s aides banned ‘coloured immigrants or foreigners’ from serving in office roles in royal household until late 1960s, documents from National Archives reveal

  • Queen’s courtiers banned ‘coloured immigrants or foreigners’ from clerical roles 
  • Revelations were detailed in papers discovered at Britain’s National Archives 
  • Palace said pre-1990s it did not keep records on employees’ racial backgrounds

The Queen’s courtiers banned ‘coloured immigrants or foreigners’ from working in office roles in Buckingham Palace until at least the late 1960s, newly discovered bombshell documents reveal. 

The papers, uncovered in the National Archives by the Guardian, also show how the royal household negotiated controversial clauses that exempt the Queen from laws that prevent race and sex discrimination. 

Written memos summarise conversations between Home Office civil servant TG Weiler and Palace officials including Lord Tryon, the keeper of the privy purse, who was responsible for managing the Queen’s private finances. 

The documents state that it was not the ‘practice’ for ethnic minorities to be appointed to clerical roles but that ‘coloured applicants’ were ‘freely considered’ for domestic posts. 

But a Buckingham Palace spokesperson insisted the ‘second hand accounts of conversations from over 50 years ago’ were no reflection of modern day practices. 

The Queen’s courtiers negotiated clauses that exempt Palace workers from race and sex discrimination laws in the 1960s, with documents unearthed from the National Archives showing ‘coloured immigrants or foreigners’ were banned from working in Palace office roles

The papers also shed light on how courtiers negotiated controversial clauses that exempt Palace officials from laws that prevent race and sex discrimination 

This means women and ethnic minorities working in the royal household were not protected by law if they felt they were racially or sexually discriminated against. 

Any complaints would have been referred to the home secretary instead of the courts. It is understood that these controversial clauses remain in place to this day. 

The revelations were made during a Guardian investigation into Queen’s Consent, a procedure which requires the government to seek permission from the monarch to debate laws that affect her.

Queen’s Consent has been used on Bills ranging from social security issues to the Article 50 law allowing Britain to leave EU.  

The uncovered papers show a discussion between a TG Weiler, and Lord Tryon.

According to summarised notes from the discussions in February 1968, the Queen’s aides said the staff fell into three different categories; senior posts, clerical and office posts and ‘ordinary domestic posts’.

The documents state that it was not the ‘practice’ for people from ethnic minorities to be appointed to the office roles.  

The Palace exemption from the laws means women and ethnic minorities working in the royal household were not protected by law if they feel they have been discriminated against because of their race or gender

The archive notes read: ‘(a) senior posts, which were not filled by advertising or by any overt system of appointment and which would presumably be accepted as outside the scope of the bill; (b) clerical and other office posts, to which it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners; and (c) ordinary domestic posts for which coloured applicants were freely considered, but which would in any event be covered by the proposed general exemption for domestic employment.’

The notes were recorded ahead of the introduction of a series of racial and sexual equality laws that were designed to eliminate discrimination. 

The National Archive documents suggest the royal household may have used Queen’s Consent on the bill.

It is unclear when the ‘practice’ of banning ethnic minorities from these specific roles ended.  Buckingham Palace said that it did not keep records on the racial backgrounds of employees before the 1990s. 

Palace officials also highlighted that there were a number of employees from ethnic minorities employed during that decade. 

In a statement published in the Guardian, Buckingham Palace also did not dispute that the Queen had been exempted from the racial and sexual equality laws.      

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Claims based on a second hand account of conversations from over 50 years ago should not be used to draw or infer conclusions about modern day events or operations.

‘The principles of Crown Application and Crown Consent are long established and widely known. The Royal Household and the Sovereign comply with the provisions of the Equality Act, in principle and in practice. 

‘This is reflected in the diversity, inclusion and dignity at work policies, procedures and practices within the Royal Household.

‘Any complaints that might be raised under the Act follow a formal process that provides a means of hearing and remedying any complaint.’

What is Queen’s Consent? 

Queen’s Consent is a procedure by which the government is required to ask the monarch for permission to debate laws that affect her.

It happens during the drafting of a bill that is in the process of going through parliament, and is declared in parliament usually at the second or third reading stage. 

There are two main areas where it is used: 

1. On matters that  affect the Royal prerogative (the powers of state), such as the ability to declare war, granting of honours or issuing passports;

2. When a law affects the assets of the crown, such as the royal palaces or hereditary revenues, including the Duchy of Lancaster or Duchy of Cornwall, as well as personal property or personal ‘interests’ of the Crown.

Parliamentary lawyers would decide that a bill requires such consent, and a government minister would write to the Queen to request permission for parliament to debate it.

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

If the Queen grants her consent, parliament can debate the legislation and the process is formally signified in Hansard, the record of parliamentary debates.

But if the Queen withheld consent, then the bill cannot proceed and parliament is in effect banned from debating it. But in practice this is unlikely to ever happen.

A spokesman for the Queen said of the Consent procedure: ‘Queen’s consent is a parliamentary process, with the role of sovereign purely formal.

‘Consent is always granted by the monarch where requested by government. Any assertion that the sovereign has blocked legislation is simply incorrect.’

Consent is also different to Royal Assent, which is given after a bill passed through both Houses of Parliament and must be made into law. Assent is needed for all legislation.

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

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