Succession to the Crown Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 22nd April 2013.

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Photo of Lord Eden of Winton Lord Eden of Winton Conservative 3:45 pm, 22nd April 2013

My Lords, this is a bit of a minefield, so I tread with care and trepidation. I will make a very brief intervention, primarily to say to my noble friend how much I recognise the concerns he has expressed and the care with which he has followed these matters through. I know that he is extremely anxious, not only on his own behalf but on our collective behalf, that the legislation now going through the House is correct in so far as it seeks to affect the role and rights of the sovereign and sovereign succession and that it in no way undermines the position of any Member of your Lordships' House, let alone that of any citizen outside the House.

I believe that the main answer to the questions that my noble friend raises rests in the sovereignty of Parliament. It is, as I perceive it, the right of Parliament to make alterations to legislation, even including the Bill of Rights. As I interpret it, the primary purpose of the Bill of Rights was to protect the interests and the rights of the people. The rights of the people are currently preserved in the powers and obligations of the Houses of Parliament and of the Government of the day. It is for us to make such amendments as we feel are necessary or desirable. In this particular case, a narrow amendment is being suggested which in a way underlines what was required of the sovereign at the time of the Bill of Rights; namely, that the heir to the Throne shall be a Protestant. There is nothing more to it than that. It therefore seems to me that we are exercising a traditional and constitutional right of Parliament to make amendments and alternations as we think proper. We are not in any way going against the obligations or commitments of the Crown. In carrying these matters forward, we shall be preserving the constitutional requirement in this country that the future monarch shall be a Protestant and a practising communicant member of the Church of England.

I do not think that the worries and anxieties my noble friend has expressed so profoundly are justified and, as he himself said, my noble friend the Minister has given a great deal of care and attention to these issues and has written a letter of some considerable length to him that certainly satisfied me in the arguments put forward.