Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Succession to the Crown Bill 3
The Government’s Succession to the Crown Bill will receive its second Reading and complete its remaining stages in the House of Commons today (Tuesday 22 January 2013).
The Church of England has issued this briefing for MPs welcoming or agreeing to all the clauses in the bill, and to the way in which it is being fast-tracked.
Law & Religion UK has published a second article by Dr Bob Morris of the UCL Constitution Unit: Succession to the Crown Bill: possible untoward effects?
Amongst other things the article considers the fears expressed by some people that the clause in the bill allowing heirs to marry Catholics without disqualification would somehow open up the Crown to Roman Catholics. But Morris writes
The Bill does not disturb the requirements that no Catholic may succeed, that the heir must be in communion with the Church of England, must make a declaration on accession that swears fidelity to the Protestant faith, and must swear at coronation to uphold the Church of England. It is therefore the case that heirs who become Catholics are still barred from the throne.
I have previously covered this bill here and here.
Posted by Peter Owen on
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 at 1:40pm GMT
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Church of England
Prince Charles is right to be concerned, as should the C of E which is sleepwalking at the moment.
Although it seems perfectly reasonable for any future heir to marry his or her loved (presumably at the moment of the opposite sex) one; it is the Roman insistence that offspring be brought up as Roman Catholics that will eventually bring the English crown back under the Latin Patriarch.
Think of Charles II or James II.
Is anyone else following the utter car crash of a debate in the Commons at the moment? It makes last November's synod look like a model of thought through legislation.
Whilst the overall aims of the legislation are laudable, it's plain that intellectually this has been given about 20 seconds consideration "it's really simple, let's do it." It's not even an internally cohesive act - we learn from the debate, not the briefing document, that the Duchy of Lancaster is to be divorced from the Crown *as an unintended consequence* so will still go to the first born son regardless of if the eldest daughter becomes Queen, with all sorts of revenue implications to the exchequer.
I make no doubt they can pass other legislation to deal with this - it's just that they've only just noticed that implication today, as no one had realised the DoL wasn't covered by the Act. Constitutional lawyers all over the place WARNED this was an unholy knot to try and unpick, and wouldn't be as simple as painted, looks like they were right - an Act designed to right an undoubted issue of inequality could end up gumming up the legislative process for months - either that or they try and wing it, and unintended consequences continue to blow up in the government's face periodically for years...
And what happens, if, as seems much more likely than a future monarch being RC, they turn out to be agnostic or atheist ... like most of their subjects? Or are people only concerned to find out, in the words of the old joke, if they are Protestant atheists or Catholic atheists?
With (i) the requirement of the Roman Catholic church that the offspring of mixed RC/Protestant marriages be brought up as RCs and the possible implications that has, both for the succession and the position of the Sovereign as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and (ii) the need, highlighted in an earlier post on this thread, to make special provision for the Duchy of Lancaster, this Bill has all the hallmarks of the debacle that followed the Labour government's ill-considered proposal in 2003 to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor.
The principles set out in the Bill may be admirable, and consonant with views generally in society today about the role of the monarchy, but the fast-tracking of this legislation cannot be justified.
All of which leads to two questions to which I think we deserve an answer: (i) Who, in the Church of England, has decided, effectively on behalf of all members of the C of E that "the use of the fast-tracking procedures is acceptable" (see the C of E briefing on the C of E website referred to above), and (ii) have those who authorised the briefing considered the implications for the succession and the Supreme Governorship of the C of E of the RC church's requirement about the upbringing of the children of a 'mixed' marriage? If so, what advice have they tendered to the Government in their consultations with either the present or previous Government?
There is something of which it may be worth reminding the (overwhelmingly British) contributors to this board. The specific bill currently before the British House of Commons is, of course a British bill. However, it implements an agreement made among (I think) 15 independent nations, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all of whom had to agree to it before it was presented at Westminster. Any amendments at Westminster, of any type, will cause the whole bill to fail -- not at Westminster itself -- because any change to the succession requires the assent of all countries of which the British monarch is head. You amend it, you need to go round and get the assent of all the countries involved, none of whom have an established church, and who therefore couldn't care less about the opinion of the Church of England or whether the monarch is CofE, Protestant, RC or even a Christian.
I have observed from afar, as a faithful Anglican, at the English debates over the Consecration of Women and the position of gays, including the state's recognition of same sex marriage. And this is a third debate of the same type. In such cases, the British, and more usually the English rather than the Welsh/Scots/Irish, need to look outside the little box they live in and see how other faithful Anglicans and Christians have already come to grips with problems the Brits seem to think are new and unique to them. Other people occasionally have already done some of the work and have useful experience or knowledge. But the CofE and the English too often seem determined never to take advantage of what other people know, and would rather stew in ignorance of wider implications (as in the case of this Bill) or of what has actually happened when something new has been tried (such as civil recognition of SSM, or the consecration of women as bishops).
@David Lamming - the reason is that we expect that in July a child will be born, who is in direct line to the throne. There is a desire to ensure that this child's right to the throne will not be qualified by whether the child is a male or a female. Legislation does not work retrospectively and one imagines it will be another thirty years before the country gets the chance to put gender inequality in this matter right. Though the whole system is, of course, rather odd in this day and age. It will therefore be sixty years from now (probably) before the matter of how to bring up the children of this child comes into question, which does give ample time to tweak the legislation ...
Of course, all the Laws of Westminster cannot prevent the Monarch from being or becoming a Roman Catholic. It is an individual's fundamental right to choose their own religion - and this can be tested in the European Courts.
At present, a Muslim can become Monarch and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. It would be interesting if that happened.
This is an outsider's point of view, but it seems that while the goals of the bill are laudable, it's being pushed through with undue haste. Even if the Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a girl this summer, the proposed law will make a difference only if at some future date she gives birth to a son. There's plenty of time to work out the "kinks" (like who ultimately becomes Duke of Lancaster if the Cambridge's first born is a girl and second born is a boy).
Ironically enough, the debate yesterday (according to UK time) took place on the 102nd anniversary of Queen Victoria's death, which is the last time that a first-born daughter was passed over in favor of her younger brother.
Incidentally, I'm not normally one to promote the views of "Archbishop Cranmer", but he raises the interesting point that the Act of Settlement 1701, which this amends, was superceded by the Act of Union 1707, which this doesn't amend, but which has the same provision - so potentially we've just wasted 2 days of Parliamentary time amending the wrong act....
If he's right, then we really are being governed by idiots.
Surely, as long as the British Monarch retains Suoreme Governorship over the Church of England, there can never be other than an Anglican Monarch. That's the only issue at stake here. Everything else could be just plain prejudice.
If the Church were to become dis-established, that would be quite a different matter.
The right of the first child born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to succeed to the Crown, whether a boy or a girl, is secured by section 1 of the Bill, which provides that "the gender of a person born after 28 October 2011 does not give that person, or that person’s descendants, precedence over any other person (whenever born)."
Hence, there is no need to rush the Bill through Parliament. Given the number of days that Parliament does not sit, and the lengthy recesses it now takes, time could be allocated for a more considered debate that would address the consequential issues, some of which flagged up in the debate yesterday by Jacob Rees-Mogg and others.
Over 17 Catholics were by-passed to get to the Electress Sophia of Hanover. So I suppose their descendents will be still discriminated against or its farewell to the Mountbatten-Windsors.
The act will still have to contain retrospective discrimination.
The whole legislative process is a complete farce.
May I also remind Ron that Elizabeth the second is Queen of New Zealand, in her own right.
Found John holding's comment of January 22 very insightful, living as I do in a commomwealth country that has given its approval to the succession proposal. One wonders, though, aBout the "problem" of a Roman Catholic ending up on the throne, if it were looked at through the other end of the glass. Would the Vatican allow a practicing Roman Catholic to actually be " supreme governor" of body whose orders it considers null and void?
Didn't your NonJurors ask for permission from the deposed James II before they made new bishops? The Popes didn't seem to mind a Catholic nominating Protestant clergy then; why would they mind now?
What a weird thing religion is! No wonder there are more atheists all the time!