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1997 Onwards - Sir John Major’s Contributions on BBC Radio 4’s Royal Activist - 29/06/2014

Below is the transcript of the contributions made by The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH on BBC Radio 4 “Royal Activist” on Sunday, 29 June, 2014.



[ELINOR GOODMAN NARRATING - Under Britain's unwritten constitution there's a delicate balancing act between the Head of State and the elected Government. At the heart of it is the weekly private audience.]

SIR JOHN MAJOR

It's simply the Queen and the Prime Minister, they sit entirely alone, nobody else is present, nobody takes notes and it's a conversation much as you'd have with two adults with a common interest in something.

[ELINOR GOODMAN NARRATING - This secret conversation between the Queen and her premiers is where a Monarch might influence the Government. Sir John Major was the ninth Prime Minister of the Queen's reign]

ELINOR GOODMAN

Can you remember actually being influenced by the Queen and can you remember changing things as a result of your discussions with her?

SIR JOHN MAJOR

I think that every Prime Minister can think that and can think of occasions when they happened. I have no intention of indicating what they are, but the answer is yes of course. It would be very foolish indeed not to be influenced.

ELINOR GOODMAN

Influence in so much as withdrawing a Bill, changing a clause in it or changing the tone of a argument, what kind of detail would it go into?

SIR JOHN MAJOR

I can't recall an occasion where a Bill was withdrawn. I can recall occasions where the Queen, in discussion, put a gloss upon something which made one think and reflect upon whether it was being done in the right fashion at the right time or perhaps reflect upon what the impact of it would be.

.......

[ELINOR GOODMAN NARRATING - Sir John Major does't think he should have to bite his tongue on every issue]

SIR JOHN MAJOR

Prince Charles is his own man, he has his own views, his own thoughts, his own interests and his own style. He is often, if you look back on the last twenty years, ahead of events and not behind them. I think that will be a strength and not a weakness.

Do we really want a Monarchy that takes an interest in the lifestyle of people in this country, or do we not? If we do, then we can't expect the Monarch to be a cipher and not express their views, in private, to the Prime Minister of the day so that he, or she, is aware of them.

.......

[ELINOR GOODMAN NARRATING - But Sir John Major defends the Prince's contacts with Ministers]

SIR JOHN MAJOR

I think it is encouraging that the Prince of Wales is entirely free, from his unique perspective, to write to Ministers or the Prime Minister in a way that is invariably intended to be helpful. I think to cut that off, or to make sure that those letters are much more bland than they otherwise might be, would be a loss.

.......

SIR JOHN MAJOR

The Queen has a special bond with the Commonwealth, but Prince Charles has quite a bond. He knows the Commonwealth very well, he’s travelled to many parts of it on many occasions. I have no doubt, from what I know of Commonwealth leaders over the years, that Prince Charles will become Head of the Commonwealth in precisely the same way the Queen has.