Succession to the Crown Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:12 pm on 22nd April 2013.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 3:12 pm, 22nd April 2013

My Lords, this is the third time that I have raised this subject on the Floor of the House and I hope that my noble and learned friend will feel that this amendment is more modest and more acceptable than the two previous ones. The background is that the monarch in our country is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Whether we use a modern or-as I personally prefer-a traditional liturgy on Sundays, and whenever we pray for the monarch, we pray for the Queen as the Supreme Governor. Because of the importance of this, and of establishment in our country, many of us feel that this Bill, to which we do not take exception in its main provisions, ought to have in it a recognition of this basic fact.

This modest amendment seeks to make explicit what is already implicit. When he replied to my amendment on Report, my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness-with whom I have had a number of discussions on this matter, for which I am extremely grateful-made quite plain that the monarch could not be a Roman Catholic, even though this Bill allows for successors to the Crown to marry Roman Catholics. This amendment does not in any sense cut across that and does not make any reference at all to the gender issue, which has been accepted throughout the House and in another place. What it very modestly seeks to do is to insert the following few words before Clause 2:

"Notwithstanding the continuing statutory requirement that no Roman Catholic can succeed to the throne".

Then, of course, the clause continues, as in the Bill, stating that,

"a person is not disqualified from succeeding to the Crown or from possessing it as a result of marrying a person of the Roman Catholic faith".

Therefore, there is absolutely no alteration to what is in the Bill. The amendment merely seeks to tackle what the right reverent Prelate the Bishop of Guildford said in his speech on Report about ambiguity. He gave an encouraging account of ecumenical relations and we were extremely grateful to him for that. Towards the conclusion of his speech, he also recognised that there was a continuing degree of ambiguity and expressed the hope that that could be tackled, either in the Bill, in an exchange of letters or in some other form.

This modest amendment before your Lordships' House this afternoon seeks to take up the challenge of clearing up the ambiguity issued by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. It also seeks to meet the points raised by other colleagues in different parts of the House, that we have within the Bill something that recognises the facts as they are. Effectively, all it seeks to do is to translate into legislative form many of the sentiments voiced by my noble and learned friend the Minister in his wind-up to the previous debate. For instance, he said:

"The important point is that the sovereign be a Protestant ... That is the position. The Act of Settlement also requires the sovereign to be in communion with the Church of England".-[Hansard, 13/3/13; col. 286.]

That is it. As I said earlier, this Bill makes explicit what is implicit, and I do not think that it is such a change as to necessitate consultations with the other realms over which Her Majesty reigns. It is a recognition of the sovereign's particular and important role within the established church and it is in that spirit that I move this amendment and hope that the Minister will be able to accept it. I beg to move.