Succession to the Crown Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 22nd April 2013.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 3:30 pm, 22nd April 2013

My Lords, this was not a letter, it was a form of words that was agreed between Monsignor Stock and the Cabinet Office that I have placed on the record. There was a letter to me from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford that enclosed a copy of a letter that indicated what I have just said. I do not believe that it is in my gift to say that it will be placed in the Library, but I reassure my noble friend that I have just used the words that were in that letter. I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford for his contribution to our debates, both today and on Report, and for what he did following Report in engaging further with Monsignor Stock and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. Indeed, on Report the right reverend Prelate, in a speech that I believe was very helpful to the House, concluded that the teaching of the Catholic Church on this matter,

"bears out the Government's assurance that the Roman Catholic rules are not a block to the smooth functioning of the proposed succession rules". -[Hansard, 13/3/13; col. 282.]

As I have stated both in Committee and on Report, we have a very clear signal that the overriding concern in Catholic pastoral guidance to couples in mixed marriages is the unity and indissolubility of the marriage. We have an equally clear signal from the Church of England, included in their briefing note to Members, that:

"The present prohibition ... is not necessary to support the requirement that the Sovereign join in communion with the Church of England".

Again, I recognise the concern with which my noble friend moved his amendment. I reiterate that the requirement that the sovereign be a Protestant remains as solidly placed in law as ever. In this context, I invite him to withdraw his amendment.