1.58 pm

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, may I say how much I welcome this Bill on behalf of these Benches and on my own behalf? Our present law, whereby an elder daughter is displaced as heir to the Throne by the birth of her younger brother is an affront to women throughout this nation and the Commonwealth. Of itself, it damages the identification between the monarchy and the people, particularly women, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, movingly pointed out. I am delighted that we are to change it. It is also a great tribute to the Commonwealth as an institution that we are legislating for this change in a co-ordinated way in all 16 of Her Majesty’s realms.

Perhaps I may address for a moment the important constitutional point made by the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, who has explained why he believes that this Bill is a breach of Her Majesty’s coronation oath and therefore, for us, a breach of our oaths of allegiance. As I understand his argument, he believes that because the Declaration of Rights in 1688 obliges the monarch to reject Roman Catholicism, it follows that she would be in breach of her oath by assenting to this Bill. In my view, the noble Lord’s argument gives insufficient weight to the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament and to the general rule that Parliament cannot bind its successors. The Declaration of Rights, made on the arrival of Prince William and Princess Mary in the kingdom, did not of itself have the force of law, as has been pointed out. It was enacted as an Act of Parliament as the Bill of Rights in 1689 and has been an important part of our constitutional settlement ever since. It is true that it was expressed as intended to remain the law of this realm for ever. However, the doctrine that Parliament cannot bind its successors was already well established by the late 17th century. In fact, the Bill of Rights has already been amended on a number of occasions. In the context of this Bill, the most notable amendment was made by the Act of Settlement 1700, just a decade or so after the Bill of Rights—

Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, I had anticipated the argument concerning the alteration of the Declaration of Rights, but I think that the only occasion on which it has ever actually been amended was in 1825 when it was found that there were insufficient jurors available to fulfil the obligation to run the courts. On that occasion the threshold for serving on a jury was reduced to include £10 rental holders. Nothing else has been done.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, I am afraid that I disagree with the noble Lord because the Act of Settlement expressly changed the line of succession by introducing the Electress of Hanover, who was a

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granddaughter of James I and the mother of George I, into the succession just 10 years or so after the Bill of Rights was passed. A further amendment to the Bill of Rights was unwittingly mentioned by the noble Lord in the form of the Accession Declaration Act 1910 which brought in the very declaration he has read out to noble Lords. It changed the coronation oath which had been prescribed by the Bill of Rights. The present declaration, which he read out, reflects the present position: the sovereign promises to uphold only the enactments that procure the Protestant succession to the Throne. There is nothing inconsistent in this Bill with that declaration, and I have absolutely no doubt that this Parliament is as entitled to enact this Bill now as was the Parliament convened in 1689 to enact the Bill of Rights.

Perhaps I may mention the arrangements made for succession in the other royal houses of Europe. The position is as follows. Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands all adhere to equal primogeniture, with no male preference. Indeed, in Sweden the heiress apparent is a woman, Crown Princess Victoria, who will become Queen of Sweden in due course. She was born in 1977 as the eldest child of King Carl Gustav. Her younger brother Carl was born in 1979, and Princess Victoria only became heiress apparent again in 1980 as the result of a similar change in the law to that which we are enacting now. I suggest that this demonstrates that it is plainly preferable to make such a change as this in advance, if we can.

Only Monaco and Spain have male-preference primogeniture as we do at present, although in Monaco the next in line is actually a woman, Prince Albert’s elder sister, because Prince Albert has, as yet, no legitimate children. Spain also plans to change its rules of succession in the same way as we are now. This will entail a constitutional amendment which needs to be passed by both Spanish Houses of Parliament with a two-thirds majority in each House, and then it would be put to a referendum. This has not happened yet, perhaps owing to the requirement in Spain that when a major constitutional change is passed, Parliament must be dissolved and new elections called. However, the proposed change in the law enjoys widespread public support in Spain, notwithstanding the difficulty caused by the fact that Juan Carlos’s two eldest children are women, and it is their younger brother who is currently his heir.

Without getting too technical, Liechtenstein has an old system of succession called agnatic primogeniture which completely excludes women from the order of succession. This was specifically criticised by a United Nations committee looking at gender equality in 2007. Luxembourg used the same system until June 2011, when equal primogeniture was introduced. As here, this change made no difference to the immediate order of succession, so Luxembourg is a good example of a country which has reformed its rules even more significantly than we are doing now. All this goes to show that the present succession arrangements for our monarchy and our Commonwealth are well behind the times.

I also welcome the end of the ban on the monarch and his or her heirs to the Throne marrying Roman Catholics. One can see that the monarch’s position as

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Supreme Governor of the Church of England suggests, even if it does not dictate, certainly for the time being, that he or she must be a Protestant. However, there can be no justification for any religious discrimination going beyond that requirement, and the Bill rightly gives effect to that principle. Clearly, marriage to a Catholic would present a monarch or an heir to the Throne with a stark choice, a difficulty even, in respect of the children. However, my view is that the approach of my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton sacrifices the principles of tolerance and understanding that are enshrined in this Bill on the rather hard altar of certainty and stability, as he put it. For myself, I prefer the approach of the noble Lords, Lord Luce and Lord Janvrin, which I believe may in time lead to an accommodation being reached on this issue. I have to say that the intervention of my noble friend Lady Falkner on my noble friend Lord Lexden raised an interesting point. She pointed out that there is no bar to the monarch being married to a Muslim and that there are similar rules for Muslims on the upbringing of the children of such a marriage as there are for marriages between Protestants and Catholics. Exactly the same issues would arise with such a marriage as would arise with a marriage to a Catholic. That simply highlights the anomalies of the present rules, the fact that they are rooted in history, and the need for these changes to help our country to continue to evolve in a tolerant and non-discriminatory way.

Before I finish, perhaps I may also say what a pleasure it is for those of us who value the continuation of this United Kingdom to see such a distinguished Scottish law officer as my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate steering this important constitutional measure through your Lordships’ House.

2.07 pm

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, even as the 18th speaker in this distinguished and very interesting debate, I have an observation to make about each of the questions at issue. The first is what happens when an heir to the Throne marries a Catholic. I believe that that is the most difficult question because, as the last speaker pointed out, it will cause difficulties. However, I would suggest to noble Lords that they are not impossible to overcome. Perhaps we should approach the issue in the spirit of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Luce, who pointed out that it would be desirable for discussions between the Church of England and the Church of Rome to be held now on what might be done in those circumstances.

The second question relates to the number of people who have to ask permission to marry if they are close to the succession. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, thought it intolerable that anyone should have to ask permission as to whom they should marry, but the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, in a far-reaching and important speech, thought that 12 would be a good limit. I am also of that point of view. However, perhaps we could arrange a compromise whereby the number of people to consult relates to the number of descendants of the reigning monarch. Thus, if, for example, as is now the case, the monarch has eight grandchildren, there should be eight persons who should ask permission to marry X or Y. Given that there have been many occasions in

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the past when monarchs have had many children—Queen Victoria had nine; it is difficult to remember quite how many King George III had but it was certainly more than that—I feel that it would be desirable to consider a figure larger than six.

My third point concerns the gender of the heir to the Throne. Of course, this is an appropriate change and it takes into account all the attitudes that enlightened people have these days. However, I think it is fair to say that, had we done this in the past, we would have lost a certain number of important monarchs. I do not suggest at all that we have had bad female monarchs, but we have had monarchs who would not have succeeded in the circumstances that are now being suggested. For example, King Edward VII was the second child of Queen Victoria. Both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert would very much have preferred their eldest daughter, Vicky, to be the heir to the Throne, and that is one reason why they treated Bertie so badly in the early days. It is fair to speculate what would have happened if King Edward VII had not been King. I can certainly suggest that the entente cordiale, which he so greatly and beneficially influenced, would not have come about had it been up to Vicky to arrange it. Of course, she would not have married a German emperor if she had been the heiress but, still, it is most doubtful whether she would have gone over to Paris and had the benign and creative relationships which King Edward VII had.

Going back in history, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, pointed out, King Henry VIII was not the eldest son. In fact, he was the third child. He had an older sister, Margaret, who became Queen of Scotland. She married the King of Scotland, who died at the Battle of Flodden—a battle whose memory we shall no doubt be commemorating at an appropriate point in the next few months. Although I hesitate to suggest someone so far back in history, King Alfred was the younger brother of Ethelswith, a lady who would have taken the position he had if we had had in 860 the rules that are now being advocated. I suppose that that must be dismissed as a joke. Nevertheless, we are changing something that has been in existence for many generations, and it is as well to bear that in mind.

Finally, we owe it to the noble Lord, Lord Marks, to recognise his contribution to our discussion, in which he pointed out what has been the case in other European countries. I think I am right in saying that he was completely correct about Spain, but there is one other element that should be mentioned as we discuss the relationship between what we are planning and the hereditary peerage. A gender change in the hereditary peerage in Spain has now been accepted, so that a duke has to accept that his daughter rather than his son will succeed him if she happens to be the elder.

It has been a pleasure to take part in this debate, and I have listened to many admirable speeches.

2.15 pm

Lord Northbrook: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. Living near Winchester, I have learnt a new fact about King Alfred, and maybe more will be learnt when they dig where they think he is buried, somewhere on the outskirts of Winchester, following the success of the Richard III operation.

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As other noble Lords have said, the Bill makes three key changes to the law governing who can be next in line to the Throne. I approve of the legislation in principle and declare an interest as an hereditary Peer with three daughters who believes that future equality legislation should extend to daughters being able to inherit a title that otherwise might die out. However, the Government in their wisdom have decided that this Bill should be rushed through Parliament as though it were anti-terrorist legislation.

In 2009, the House of Lords Constitution Committee reported on fast-track legislation, identifying potential difficulties raised by this approach and recommending that better information be provided by the Government to explain and justify the fast-tracking of legislation. The Constitution Committee also reported on the Succession to the Crown Bill in January 2013.

In brief, I shall highlight the most important issues that the committee identified for the Government to explain their position. First, why is fast-tracking necessary? The Government argue in the Bill’s Explanatory Notes that at the 2011 Perth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting they undertook for this to be the first realm of which Her Majesty was head of state to introduce legislation once agreement had been reached between all of them. Given the effort involved in the other states putting themselves in a position to give formal consent:

“In the Government’s view it is now incumbent … to act quickly to introduce legislation which accords with what has been agreed”.

In addition, the Government stated that, following the announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant, they believe,

“there is a general consensus that the law should be changed as soon as possible”.

Why the haste when the legislation is not to commence immediately? Not only do many of the Commonwealth Governments have to pass the law through their own parliaments, but I do not think that anyone has mentioned so far that in quite a few countries, such as Australia and Caribbean countries, referenda will also be necessary to approve the legislation. The Government’s case for fast-tracking is also weakened as Clauses 1 to 3 have elements of retrospectivity.

Secondly, the Constitution Committee asks what efforts have been made to ensure that the amount of time made available for parliamentary scrutiny has been maximised. The answer here seems to be none. The Government argue that they could not foresee the exact time when all the realms would be able to move ahead. This has come relatively late in the Session and so the time available is limited. However, there has been much debate about the issues, which are well known. The Explanatory Notes say:

“The Government believes that a broad consensus has been reached on the content of the Bill”.

The overall conclusion of the Constitution Committee’s 2013 report is as follows:

“In our view, the use of fast-track legislation, while it may be necessary for reasons of emergency and overriding public interest, will rarely, if ever, be appropriate … for reasons of, in the Deputy Prime Minister’s words, ‘pragmatic business management’”.

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The fact that legislation is short or that the Executive do not envisage it being controversial are not in themselves reasons to set aside the usual parliamentary scrutiny of a Bill. In parliamentary scrutiny issues can emerge that had previously been overlooked or hidden.

The proceedings in the other place were ridiculously rushed. The Minister has said that there has been more than sufficient time to discuss the amendments chosen. There were only four amendments: two in Committee and two on Report. Second Reading and Committee took only five and three-quarter hours on one day; Report and Third Reading took two hours and 10 minutes on the second day. This is no way to discuss important legislation.

A major issue that emerged in the other place concerned the religious beliefs of an heir to a monarch whose wife was a Catholic. Jacob Rees-Mogg put the matter well. As the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, and others have said, Canon 1125 of the Roman Catholic Church states specifically that the bishop, who can give a dispensation for a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic, is not to do so unless,

“the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church”,

One possible scenario in this case would be to seek papal dispensation in respect of a child’s upbringing. Is this reliance on a positive response from the Vatican a satisfactory way to guarantee the royal succession? I agree with Mr Rees-Mogg that in these circumstances—this may answer the question put earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Deben—the legislation should be amended so that a regent should be appointed under the Regency Act 1937 to take on the role of Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

A further question raised in the other place is the relationship between Clauses 2 and 3. The Deputy Prime Minister warned against,

“mixing two things here. The restriction of who must seek the permission of the monarch to marry to six individuals is separate from the issue of whether the heir to the throne can marry a Catholic just as he or she can marry someone of other faiths”.

However, the Constitution Committee says:

“conceivably the Monarch could be expected to decide whether or not a person high in the line of succession should be allowed to marry a Roman Catholic”.

The 2013 report of the Constitution Committee highlights another area. It says:

“There is a lack of explanation in the explanatory notes for retaining a requirement of consent to certain royal marriages. On whether clause 3 is compatible with Convention rights (the right to marry), it is simply stated that ‘in the Government’s view there is a public interest in having special provisions’; that the clause has ‘a legitimate aim’ and is ‘proportionate’”.

Another issue highlighted by the Constitution Committee, which has been mentioned by other speakers, arises with the Duchy of Cornwall,

“which provides the source of revenue for the heir apparent to the throne. When the Duke of Cornwall succeeds to the throne, the Duchy automatically transfers to the new heir. At present, however, the Duchy can only be held by a male. If it is to continue to be held by the heir apparent to the throne, the Letters Patent for the Duchy will need to be altered”.

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Finally in this area, the Constitution Committee focuses on the effect on hereditary peerages. When this Bill goes through, the European Court may take a view on female succession to peerages. I would support female inheritance but only if there were no male heirs at all.

I was going to bring up various points made by Mr Graham McBain, a lawyer well known and respected by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, but the noble Lord has already covered most of my ground. I ask the Minister to answer the queries put by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about the problem of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 and possible faults in Clause 3 regarding the number of six persons, and to emphasise that even before the Act of 1772 the sovereign had a right under common law to prevent other members of the Royal Family, such as the Queen Mother, remarrying. Thus this Bill should abolish the right in common law.

One of Mr McBain’s concerns that was not mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is the esoteric topic of the Treason Act 1351, referred to in the schedule. I will spare your Lordships the unpleasant details of what is being amended. Suffice it to say that Mr McBain does not believe this part of the Act is still valid, and it should be scrapped altogether.

The Bill leaves unresolved a number of consequential matters which it should have clarified. First, if Prince William and his wife have a girl, thanks to the Bill she can become Queen. However, she cannot of right become of Duchess of Cornwall because the charter of 1377 governing the duchy provides only for a male. What is the situation about her becoming Princess of Wales? Secondly, the Bill seeks to remove anti-Catholic legislation preventing the sovereign having a Catholic wife. This is all well and good. It is obvious, as Mr McBain says, that legislation preventing Catholics and Jewish people from holding other state positions on account of their religion should be abolished. The Government have forgotten about the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829—for instance, not allowing the Lord Chancellor to be a Catholic—and the Jews Relief Act 1858. These Acts will have to be repealed at some stage as they prevent Catholics and Jews holding other offices. This could be a subject for the Law Commission to consider.

In conclusion, I support the Bill overall but ask the Minister to consider seriously the various issues I have raised.

2.25 pm

Lord Elton: My Lords, I enter the forum with some trepidation. These are very complex and sensitive matters. Until about halfway through I thought that I would probably scratch. After that, I thought it was too late. I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a few moments.

I start off in a dilemma because I am not aware of any Bill that I have encountered in which the Government have consulted so extensively and for so long around the world and, no doubt, between the two palaces—Lambeth Palace and Buckingham Palace—but they have not actually consulted Parliament at any great length. Of course, the constitution of this kingdom rests on two foundation stones: the Crown and Parliament.

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One had to listen with sympathy to my noble friend Lord Lang when he complained, in a powerful and important speech, about the haste with which this is being done here.

I am searching for reasons. I think the reason adduced so far has been the impending happy event for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This Bill already has retrospectivity in it in the amendment to the Royal Marriages Act 1772. That principle can be used in this case so there is no hurry for that.

Then the question is: would the danger of an amendment here delay the Bill, making the rest of the Commonwealth unsettled and impatient? But the Bill has already been amended, at Second Reading in the other place. It is a small amendment but quite an important one, which proposes that,

“after ‘descendants’ insert ‘from the marriage’”—

otherwise the principles of illegitimacy would have to be addressed. I do not know if that is being agreed around the Commonwealth but if it is, there is clearly not tempestuous haste needed.

I am sure that will all be explained, and the purpose of a Second Reading is not really to unpick the detail but to address the general principles. The first principle, on which I agree with my noble friend Lord Lang, is that certainty is better than flexibility when it comes to matters of this sort. Secondly, one’s mind is focused, as was the mind of the noble Lord, Lord James, by the bringing to the table of the royal prerogative at the start of this process.

We are at the heart of history here, and many of your Lordships have looked back through history and seen various conflicting things. I see a constitution that has emerged from the power of the Crown being fought over by families and then by dynasties; then the struggle between the wish to be totally sovereign and the wish of the papacy to influence if not guide what happened here, and finally being domesticated after the Civil War in the settlement of 1688. The Crown then became the central focus of the national identity, but it was within the restraints of Parliament.

We have been on that subject for a very long time in this House, because the power of the Crown, which was severely limited by the invention of Parliament, is now being put back into it—but the Crown has changed: the Crown is not an individual; it is not a family; it resides in the Government, all except the very top. The Government do not consist of a thin band of ambitious politicians; they are a vast machine of civil servants, many with a good sense of history, many of them very pragmatic and many of whom regard Parliament as an unnecessary constraint—I have encountered some of them and been told this in terms. We are therefore the trustees of something which is already at risk.

We now look at the functions of a Queen, the person of the Crown, as opposed to the institution of the Crown. That is important in that it is spiritual. There is a withering of the spiritual in contemporary western society, not only in Christian spirituality but in other faiths. A secular society does not have the moral stability of one which has faith at its heart. The combination of the Crown being both the head of state and the head of the established church has an

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enormous and important symbolism and gives the monarch access to the church and vice versa. That is part of our national identity.

The other great change has been in the demographic composition—I would probably more correctly say the ethnic composition—of the country to which we all belong. That change has been dramatic in my lifetime. Not everybody adapts so quickly and completely as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to the culture and ethos of this country. What attracts is not just the permanence, the longevity and the historical continuity to which he referred but also the person of the sovereign. It is a happy coincidence that this issue has arisen during the reign of the present Queen, who I think is closer to the heart and the understanding of the country than almost any monarch in historic memory, and for that we owe her a great debt.

The nature of the monarchy is to evolve, to bend and to change to the needs and necessities of the time and the social pressures on government and on the Crown. It keeps the sympathy of the people by looking after, tuning into and being in sympathy with basic fundamental and moral understandings of the people. One thing is fairness. The introduction of this equality will be widely understood as an element of fairness which is needed in the structure of a country which seeks to be both profoundly democratic and a monarchy.

For those reasons, I bury my doubts and difficulties—quite a lot of them have been dug up during this debate. Some of them will be answered by my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace. As I can see that he is writing something about me, I shall extend my words for a moment or two by saying that the rest of the difficulties will come out in the wash in Committee. I hope that the Committee stage will be as long as is necessary to address the question. That at least is required as a gesture towards those of us who feel that the timetable at the moment is far too fast. I have bored your Lordships too long. I hope that I have reassured noble Lords a little; I have certainly reassured myself quite a lot.

2.34 pm

Lord Deben: My Lords, I intervene in the gap merely to remind the House that we learn to live with anomaly—indeed, we might say that we are an anomaly. The difficulty comes when we seek to right that anomaly, and that is the problem with which we are faced. We can live with things because they work, until we decide to put them right so that they are right. The problem here is that we are not quite putting them right.

Last night, in the cellars of this House, more than 200 of Her Majesty’s loyal servants—Members of both Houses and servants of these Houses—gathered for the Ash Wednesday mass. We were not checked by the police to see whether we had taken bombs or any kinds of dangerous things down—the days to which the right reverend Prelate referred have gone—but we are as much citizens of this country as anyone else. If we are going to right the inequalities, we should recognise that. I shall vote later on, against many of my co-religionists, in favour of righting an anomaly which

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I think exists as far as gay marriage is concerned. It is an insult to every loyal Catholic that we still talk about the history, when, on both sides—let us say with equality—people behaved in an entirely unchristian way.

There is a simple way forward, which is to recognise that the head of state does not need to be Supreme Governor of the Church of England in the same terms. That was true in the past, because King James II was a Catholic and head of the Church of England. The dreadful William of Orange was technically a Calvinist and lot of other things as well, and he was the head of the Church of England. George I, who could hardly have understood the liturgy of the Church of England, was a Lutheran and was head of the Church of England. Indeed, we have those problems here today. The Church of England does not technically recognise the orders of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, yet it has allowed its head to communicate in a church whose very ceremonies it holds to be invalid. If that cannot be the basis of sorting this problem out, I really do not understand it. What worries me is that we are not saying that this is the moment to see the monarchy again as the symbol of unity and as the symbol of equality. This is the moment to say that Catholics have as much right as any other members of this great country. I am ashamed of the fact that the Government have failed to do that.

The Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England as far as the law of Christ allows. Can the Church of England really believe that the law of Christ allows it to say that there is inherent at the heart of our great country this fundamental statement, which is that, after 400 years, we can welcome His Holiness the Pope to the Houses of Parliament but we cannot allow those who in all faith—and I am a convert after all—have recognised the nature of the Catholic Church and have joined it?

I finish simply with this. I do not agree with my great old friend Lord Luce. This is not a matter of negotiation between the churches. Are we really going to say that an individual is going to be told that he must put either his faith or his heritage at risk? Talk about Paris is worth a mass! I am ashamed of a Government who cannot see that this matter should have been resolved in this Bill, instead of which we have half a Bill and it is not one that I am prepared to support.

2.39 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, I thank all speakers for contributing to this wide-ranging debate, in which we have heard many useful and important points. Although not all have been within the scope of the Bill, many of them ought to be addressed. Having said that, I fully understand why the Government may not wish to address them today, or even in the short term. At least on the evidence of today’s debate, and particularly on the evidence of the words said just before I started to speak, these points will not go away.

The Bill is a piecemeal assemblage. Given the nature of the uncodified UK constitution, it is probably inevitable that, when we have the opportunity to tinker with the constitution, that is indeed what we do.

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However, as several noble Lords and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, said, in our work in this House we need a sense of the principles and what the underlying proposals would lead to in the long term. On a number of occasions, we have come up against points where pragmatism seems to have trumped principle.

A number of noble Lords have raised the issue of why this Bill has been fast-tracked. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, who made reference to the Constitution Committee’s 2009 report—its most recent one—which suggests that,

“the use of fast-track legislation, while it may be necessary for reasons of emergency and overriding public interest, will rarely, if ever, be appropriate for significant constitutional matters”.

The Minister said, when he introduced the Bill, that this was a profound measure. I think he goes along with the fact that this is an important, significant constitutional matter. I do not want to make too much of this issue, as we are going through all the stages in your Lordships’ House, but we should take from this the fact that using the expedited procedure for constitutional measures is, in principle, regrettable. It is to be hoped that the Government do not make a habit of resorting to the device.

Several noble Lords drew attention to the mechanics that underlie this Bill. I should put on record the fact that I had some involvement with those mechanics when I was working in Downing Street a few years ago. As we understand it, the whole point of consulting the other 15 states who have the Queen as head of state was to ensure that common action was agreed, which was necessary to avoid a situation in which different people emerge as monarchs in different states because there had been no uniform change to the succession rules. We also understand that the UK had to go first to blaze the trail, although some states will not have to legislate at all because their constitutions automatically accept whoever is the legitimate successor in the UK. Can the Minister, therefore, tell us how far we have got with simultaneous ratification in the other realms? I would like to follow up the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, that the Minister should say what would happen to the Government’s plans if several states—or even one of them—that have to legislate, fail to do so successfully?

I appreciate that the agreed retrospection to 28 October 2011 removes the most urgent time pressures but it would be unfortunate if changes that we agree upon here are effectively negatived by what happens in other realms. I understand, for example, that the proposed method of proceeding in Canada may be inconsistent with what one—clearly favoured—reading of its constitution considers to be the right course. Perhaps the Minister could advise us of whether there is any recent information on that point.

On primogeniture, the change to gender-neutral primogeniture for royal succession is welcome and, despite the safety net of retrospection to 28 November 2011, there is a clear case for settling the matter before the delivery of the Duchess of Cambridge’s child later this year. However, although the change to gender neutrality demonstrates our monarchy’s protean ability to move with the times, a primogeniture rule is a pretty

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rum way of selecting people for any job, let alone head of state. Of course, it is not an unqualified rule, as we prioritise adherence to a particular religion more highly than personal merit, which is a trade-off that was certainly important to us in the past, but has surely lost its rationale in the present. Having said that, our present monarch has conducted herself impeccably, and has set what we must hope is an entrenched example that will be emulated by her successors. Of course, it is highly relevant that the modern monarchy has no executive functions, even if it retains many public roles.

On whether there is a possible read-across from royal primogeniture to a peerage succession, the Government’s argument is that Crown and peerage primogeniture are distinct. We agree that, as things stand, Crown succession must and can never fail but there is no public interest to be served by putting peerages in the same position. To my mind, regardless of questions of legitimate expectations and private law arrangements being invaded by unforeseeable changes in the succession rules, anxieties about peerage succession can serve only to raise the question of why hereditary peerages should continue at all, let alone in this House.

That is not in any sense to demean the arguments put forward today. Nor does it deal with the argument for change in the peerage succession rules, admirably put forward by a number of noble Lords but also by a number of wives, sisters and daughters who have corresponded with a number of your Lordships. They argue, and I agree with them, that the lack of a Y chromosome can and does see some women denied their natural inheritance. That should be addressed.

On the issue of religious tests, I am sure that the whole House welcomes the proposal to permit the sovereign to marry a catholic, which at least gets rid of one of the most visible bars to full Roman Catholic participation in our society. However, because abolishing this disqualification leaves untouched the remaining Catholic disqualifications, the question that naturally follows is: why should any remain? After all, it will still be the case that the monarch cannot be a Catholic and will also have to be “in communion with” the Church of England. As we have heard, this latter rule means that, even if all the explicit bans on Catholics succeeding were repealed, an implicit ban would remain, and it is not much of a consolation that the ban includes everyone else not “in communion”, that is non-Trinitarian Christians, all non-Christian believers and all non-believers.

I note that the Church of England issued a statement on 21 January about this Bill, which included the following about the marriage bar:

“Its proposed removal is a welcome symbolic and practical measure consistent with respect for the principle of religious liberty”.

It should be noted that it says “religious liberty”, not “religious equality”. Liberty and equality are not the same.

The customary defence to preserving the explicit and implicit Catholic bans is that repeal would be incompatible with the monarch remaining Supreme Governor of the Church of England, a title which derives from Section 8 of the Supremacy Act 1558. In practice, all senior diocesan and cathedral appointments

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are now made by the Church of England in a situation where the recommendations of its committees are waved through by the Prime Minister on their way to the sovereign. All measures require prior parliamentary approval and all canons the prior approval of Ministers. The actual content of the supremacy is therefore largely formal and the church is, in practice, autonomous.

We do not have an established church in Wales, Northern Ireland or in Scotland. I draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley to the Church of Scotland Act 1921, which confirmed that the kirk has independence in spiritual matters. We ought to bear in mind that here we are talking about an English issue and not a UK one.

Several noble Lords raised the issue of whether it was time to abolish the supremacy. At the very least I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that we should debate this otherwise it will suddenly come and get us when we are not expecting it.

It is my understanding that there are two possible ways of proceeding. We could do a wholesale statutory repeal or we could do a minimal change to the law combined with changes of practice. The first would require the repeal of all the relevant statutes. But there are precedents for that as we repealed, in an appropriate time and an appropriate way, the legislation disestablishing the Church in Ireland in 1869 and in Wales in 1914. How far and how deeply statutory reform would need to reach would depend on what, if any, roles the church wished to retain in England and Parliament was content to continue. This route would be technically laborious but not impossible and perhaps best undertaken by the church itself in stages, proposing the means by way of synodical measure.

The second method would be to proceed by minimal repeal; that is by repealing the prohibitions against Catholics and the requirements for the monarch to be in communion with the church, and amending the accession declaration oath. This would remove the compulsory religious qualifying link between the sovereign and the church and yet permit, as a matter of practice, the remaining formal functions to be regarded as the involvement of a friendly but non-confessional royal patronage towards one of the most ancient of national institutions. As the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has just said, free to adopt any belief system they wished, sovereigns could remain Anglicans if they individually desired but the compulsory link would be abolished and the way cleared for them to choose freely like everyone else. At the same time, all belief systems would thus become equal under the sovereign and, while there would be recognition of Anglicanism’s historic presence, that church would no longer have an entrenched constitutional role in England.

The present sovereign has herself voiced reinterpretive language about the modern role of the Church of England. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester cited extensively what the sovereign said at one of the first Jubilee celebrations at Lambeth Palace on 15 February 2012. The key passage, which I should like to repeat, is:

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“The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country”.

That certainly opens the way for further work, if the current Government are so minded. It is important to recognise that what one would be doing here is securing religious equality as well as religious freedom in this country.

The third part of the Bill deals with royal approval for marriage. It is a bit of a surprise to find that this subject occupies more of the Bill than the other provisions put together. Many noble Lords have expressed concern about the fact that that tidying-up exercise raises the question of whether royal consent should be required for anyone’s marriage in the first place. Although the 1772 Act machinery would have been an important element in, for example, Princess Margaret’s decision not to marry Group Captain Townsend, the objection that he was a divorced man would now perhaps not feature as an insuperable objection.

Presumably, other targets of unsuitability are thought to have force. If so, what exactly are they? Would the line be drawn at marriage to one’s personal trainer, as happened in Sweden, or to an unmarried mother, as happened in Norway, where official consent was forthcoming in both countries? Repeal of the clumsy—some would say vindictive and heavy-handed—1772 Act is clearly an advance, above all in the way in which the new system will not invalidate marriages where prior royal consent is not obtained. On the other hand, it would be helpful to know exactly in what circumstances the Government envisage that that consent would be withheld. Can the noble and learned Lord confirm that consent will be withheld only following and on the advice of Ministers; or where there is a well founded personal objection to an intended spouse by reason of their past conduct or present associations being likely to bring the institution of the monarchy into disrepute; and that those reasons would be given?

As the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, asked, will that all be subject to judicial review? If the Minister cannot so confirm today, will the Government set out before the Bill’s remaining stages when they envisage royal consent may legitimately be refused?

As I said, this has been an interesting, illuminating and highly educational debate. As was said earlier, this important debate has the capacity to interact very substantially with the culture of this country. Unlike most of the business with which we routinely deal, it is in some senses a one-off. It has impacts which are unlikely to be seen in full effect for about 100 years, as the succession moves on.

I conclude by stressing what my noble friend Lady Hayter said at the beginning of the debate, which is that we on this side support the limited but important aims of the Bill and will do what we can to ensure its smooth passage through your Lordships’ House.

2.52 pm

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I begin by thanking all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. It has lived up to expectations by being wide-ranging and of considerable interest. A great deal of learning has been brought to the debate, particularly

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the very interesting historical exchanges between my noble friends Lord James and Lord Marks. This debate has been well informed because of the contributions from all sides of the House. I particularly welcome the fact that the Bill has been generally welcomed on all sides of the House—by the official Opposition, by those from my own party on the Liberal Democrat Benches, by Conservative colleagues and indeed, by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester, who indicated the welcome that the Church of England has brought to it.

My noble friend Lord Elton noted that I was writing down his name, because he possibly summed up the view of many contributors to this debate when he said that he believed that the changes proposed are sensible but that he has doubts and difficulties. It is important that those doubts and some of the potential difficulties, the concerns expressed about possible unforeseen and unintended consequences, have been aired in our debate. I am sure that they will be aired as the Bill proceeds through your Lordships’ House.

At the outset, I address the issue that the Bill has been fast-tracked. I accept that the Explanatory Memorandum states that, but in fact the Government in the other place paid regard to what was said by your Lordships’ Constitution Committee. My noble friend Lord Northbrook took exception to that when he talked about the amount of time available and the number of amendments. Of course, in the other place, not all amendments are debated; it is the Speaker’s selection. The point is that more time was made available than the time taken up by the amendments. It is not really the fault of the Government that no more amendments were tabled. There was sufficient time to debate the amendments that were selected in the other place.

With regard to proceedings in your Lordships’ House, I confirm that, as on any Bill, it has been agreed through the usual channels. The normal time limits will be observed, and I believe that there will be ample time in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading for proper scrutiny and consideration to be given to the Bill.

This might also be an appropriate moment to mention, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, the fact that provision on male-biased primogeniture is taking effect from the date of the announcement at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in October 2011 means that there is no rush with regard to any impending birth.

My noble friend Lord Northbrook asked whether a referendum was necessary in any of the other realms. Of course, it is for the realms themselves to decide how to give effect to the changes, but it is not our belief or understanding that any realm needs or intends to undertake a referendum. We have been assured as part of the negotiation that we have a full commitment to ratification by the respective realms of which Her Majesty is head of state.

My noble friend Lord Trefgarne asked about the commencement clause. Those provisions are framed as they are to ensure that they are brought into force by means of orders made by the Lord President. The Government expect to bring the rest of the Bill, including

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Clause 5, into force at the same time as the other realms bring into force any changes to their legislation or other changes necessary for them to implement the Perth agreement. There is, as will be noted, a power to specify the time of day of commencement. Assuming that the other realms make the same provision, that will enable the changes to succession to be brought into force at the same time, but at different local times, in all 16 Commonwealth realms. Clause 5(3) allows for flexibility in commencement should unforeseen circumstances arise.

As has been said, the first clause relates to the removal of the male preference in primogeniture, and will allow the firstborn child, be it a son or a daughter, to succeed to the Throne. My noble friend Lord Elton referred to fairness in 2013. The noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, also referred to a sense of fairness and made the important point that if we were not to do this, there could at some future stage be a situation where a younger brother would succeed ahead of an older sister and that in itself could cause difficulty for the Crown, because it would be seen to be not in touch. By doing this, we help to give stability to the Crown.

An issue initially raised by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne but also referred to by my noble friend Lord Lexden and others, was the implication for royal titles. I shall do my best to go through them. We do not believe that the removal of male bias in rules governing succession to the Crown will result in any other royal titles becoming detached from the Crown. The Duchy of Lancaster is held by the sovereign. We are confident that the Duchy must remain with whomsoever is the monarch. Clearly, the monarch at the moment being a Queen has not created any difficulty in the Duchy of Lancaster being held by the monarch. The attachment of the Duchy to the Crown is now established fact.

With regard to the Dukedom of Cornwall, at present, the title can pass only to the son and heir of the monarch. Thus, when Her Majesty was the heir presumptive, as Princess Elizabeth, she did not hold the title of Duke of Cornwall. Therefore, we believe that where there is a female heir, the title could not pass to a younger brother and would not detach from the royal line. I assure the House that, in any event, a female heir apparent will not find herself at a financial disadvantage because, as the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, pointed out, the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 ensures that financial provision equivalent to the income from the Duchy is made for the heir apparent. The title would not therefore be automatically inherited by a daughter; the Duchy would go into abeyance, as indeed happened when Her Majesty was Princess Elizabeth and was heir presumptive. Provision is made under the Sovereign Grant Act for the financial consequences that flow from that.

My noble friend Lord Northbrook asked about the position of the style of Princess of Wales. On this issue, I would simply say that the granting of certain royal titles, including that of the Prince of Wales, is a matter for the sovereign. Furthermore, it is a matter not directly related to the rules of succession. It would be a matter not for the scope of this Bill but for the sovereign personally.

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Lord Berkeley: Very briefly, I understand what the Minister is saying about the Duchy of Cornwall but if there was a female heir to the Throne and she was therefore not the Duchess of Cornwall, who would go round and play landlord in Cornwall in their absence? Would it be nobody, so to speak?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I think I am right in saying that there is a council of the Duchy. Indeed, that position arose when the present Queen was heir presumptive but was not the Duchess of Cornwall. There is therefore ample precedent for the way in which the affairs of the Duchy can be arranged or dealt with in these circumstances.

3 pm

Lord Trefgarne: Perhaps I should pick up the point that my noble and learned friend made about the princedom of Wales. Would it be in order for the sovereign to make their eldest daughter, the heir apparent, the Princess of Wales?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: That would be a matter for the sovereign, just as the present Prince of Wales did not automatically become so on the accession of the Queen. I think he was created Prince of Wales in 1958 and that his investiture was some 11 years later. It would be a matter for Her Majesty and I do not think we should be presuming or prejudging this—and in future it would not necessarily be Her Majesty. This is obviously not going to happen at the moment, so it would be a matter not for our present Queen but for our future sovereign to determine.

With regard to the royal titles in Scotland, a number of contributors, not least my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, pointed out that the peerage rules in Scotland are somewhat more generous to women, in some cases anyway. It is certainly our view that in the event of an elder sister becoming heir apparent, the Scottish titles currently held by the Prince of Wales—namely, the Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, the Duke of Rothesay, the Earl of Carrick, Lord of the Isles and Baron of Renfrew—can pass automatically to a female heir apparent. These titles have always hung together and the removal of male bias in the line of succession could therefore not result in the detachment of these titles from the Crown. We have consulted the Court of the Lord Lyon, who is the official heraldry officer for Scotland, on this matter.

My noble friend also asked about the Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke of Edinburgh has a normal remainder to the heirs male of his body, but at the time of the marriage of the Earl of Wessex, it was announced that the Earl would eventually receive the title of Duke of Edinburgh. It is my understanding that there would probably have to be a creation of that; it would not automatically be inherited from his father. I say to my noble friend Lord Carlile that I will investigate further and write to him on the earldom of Merioneth.

This issue also gives rise to the question of hereditary peerages and a number of noble Lords contributed on this, some expressing concern and some hoping that this might indeed open the door to a change in the law. That just underlines the fact that it is not appropriate

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for this Bill. It goes much beyond the scope of it, although I do not for a moment minimise the importance of the issue. It would certainly not just be the Constitution Committee criticising us if we were suddenly to introduce in this Bill measures that were going to change the order of succession to peerages. My noble friend Lord Lucas reminded us, interestingly, that he inherited from his grandmother and mother but, as he pointed out, hereditary titles can very often go with financial interests and estates. These would not be issues to enter into lightly. As I indicated, they go beyond the scope of this Bill. I also remind your Lordships that even without this Bill, the rules of succession to the Crown already differ in most cases from the rules of succession to the peerage.

Clause 2 possibly generated the most concern and interest, not least because of what the implications would be if there is a marriage between an Anglican and a Roman Catholic. At the outset, let me say that it is important that we remove this element of discrimination, as a number of noble Lords who contributed to the debate made clear. This has been welcomed by both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. I was particularly struck by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, on the importance of the heir to the Throne being able to have a wider choice as to who may be their spouse. There was a sense of that around your Lordships’ House when he mentioned it. Given the particular challenges that go with the monarchy, I think that the noble Lord referred to the importance of lifetime love and support. That was a very poignant but relevant contribution to our debate.

As I indicated in my opening remarks, it is not the case that the children of all mixed Protestant and Catholic marriages must be brought up in the Catholic faith. Catholic teaching is clear and perhaps more practical than has sometimes been suggested. The guidance is set out in Matrimonia Mixta, an apostolic letter from Pope Paul VI in 1970, and Pontificium Consilium ad Christianorum Unitatem Fovendam: Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, published in 1993. The guidance requires the Catholic partner in a mixed marriage to do their best to have the children raised as Catholics but if, as I indicated earlier, there is a just and reasonable cause which would qualify, such as the protection of the place of the Established Church, under those circumstances the local bishop can grant permission for the marriage. That moves us onto another issue, which I will come on to.

I also indicated that the Archbishop of Westminster has welcomed the decision of the Government to give heirs to the Throne the freedom to marry a Catholic. Indeed, in doing so, he recognised the importance of the position of the Established Church in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today. The noble Lords, Lord Luce and Lord Janvrin, echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, asked whether it would be appropriate to have further discussions with the Roman Catholic Church. It is clear that there have already been discussions prior to this Bill but I will certainly try to ensure that officials meet representatives of the Catholic Church—indeed, I would be willing to meet them myself. I could not honestly predict the outcome but that suggestion seemed to command

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some support around the House. I would be willing to see whether that might produce anything that we could report back to the House at a future stage of our proceedings.

My noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton referred to my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister regarding taking the matter to the Vatican. At Second Reading in the House of Commons, my right honourable friend said:

“I want to be clear that there is absolutely no prospect of our entering into discussions with the Vatican in order to bring this Bill into effect”.—[Official Report, Commons, 22/1/13; col. 215.]

The establishment of the Church of England has been a recurring matter that was raised in our debate. My noble friend Lord Maclennan and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said that it was an appropriate occasion to give that issue an airing. My noble friend Lord Deben indicated, with considerable passion, how he thinks that trying to address one anomaly while leaving another open is not acceptable. My noble friend Lord Astor raised this issue. I will come back to the Church of Scotland in a moment but my noble friend Lord Trefgarne got it right.

I got the impression that my noble friend Lord Lang was concerned that some of the provisions here might lead to disestablishment, whereas other contributors to the debate—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, did so from the Front Bench—were saying that perhaps this should be an incentive to get on and have that debate. Again, this issue goes beyond the Bill. We believe that nothing in the Bill detracts in any way from the sovereign swearing an oath to maintain the Protestant religion. The proposed changes are limited to removing a discriminatory bar on marrying a Roman Catholic. That would not allow a Roman Catholic to accede to the Throne but I suspect that, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, indicated, this debate is not going to go away. However, I do not believe that this Bill is the appropriate place to deal with it.

The issue is that the Act of Settlement and the Accession Declaration Act, which was quoted by my noble friend Lord James, both make clear that the sovereign must be a Protestant, which of course George I was. The position in the Church of Scotland is that it is not an established church as such; the Queen is not the supreme governor of the Church of Scotland. The relationship between church and state is symbolised by the presence of the monarch or her Lord High Commissioner in attendance at the general assembly; indeed, my noble friend Lord Maclennan’s father was Lord High Commissioner, as several Members of your Lordships’ House have been. Although they are invited to address the assembly, they cannot intervene in its business.

As indicated, the oath of accession includes a promise to maintain and preserve the Protestant religion and Presbyterian Government, but the Kirk has not been established by the state—I declare an interest as an elder of the Church of Scotland—and neither the Scottish Parliament nor the Westminster Parliament is involved in Kirk appointments. To that extent, it does not operate as a state church in the way that the Church of England does. I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, who pointed out that in matters of doctrine, government, discipline and worship, the

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Church of Scotland is free from state interference, operating under a constitution largely contained in articles declaratory that were recognised by Parliament in 1921. So there is quite a significant difference there, but I suspect that this is an issue to which we will return.

Lord Deben: Before my noble and learned friend sits down, is there not a terribly simple way out? That is, to say that there is no bar to any Catholic becoming King or Queen but, in the event of a new sovereign being unable to be in communion with the Church of England, a Regent would be appointed as supreme governor of the Church of England. That would help us should there be some other religion to which a sovereign might wish to belong. It would also get out of the way of this being a stitch-up between churches instead of being a proper decision by the individual concerned.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, my noble friend makes an important contribution to that debate. I hope that he will recognise that it would not be appropriate to open up that whole issue, not least given the conflicting views that we have heard in the course of your Lordships’ deliberations today, for the purposes of this piece of legislation. However, I have no doubt that, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, indicated—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, had a Private Member’s Bill on this subject at one point—this issue is not dealt with, nor do the Government believe that it should be. We believe in the maintenance of the established Church of England. It is an issue, though, and when that debate takes place my noble friend’s contribution will be an important one for people to consider.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I thank my noble and learned friend for giving way. When he says that it is not an issue for this debate, surely the very reason why the prohibition on the heir to the Throne marrying a Catholic being removed is to end that discrimination. My noble friend Lord Deben’s suggestion of a regency would work with the way in which the Bill is presently constructed—that is, the heir to the Throne may be a Catholic but cannot be one. For those of us who do not wish to see the Church of England being anything other than the Established Church, this would be a way of removing the discrimination against Catholics. I have to say that we are not repealing the vile and offensive language, from our modern-day view, which is contained in the 18th-century statute and which causes great offence to Catholics throughout the United Kingdom. Would it not be sensible to consider my noble friend’s suggestion?

3.15 pm

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I believe that this would go beyond the scope of the Bill. Something as profound as that could not be imported into the Bill without much further scrutiny and consideration. It is also important to remember that the provisions in the Bill removing an element of religious discrimination have been welcomed not just by the Church of England but by the Roman Catholic Church. I do not think that that is a stitch-up; it is a

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welcome recognition by both churches that this is an important change in our law. To go much wider than that, in fact, would require consideration that is not appropriate. We would be subjected to justified criticism if this were all rushed through as an amendment to the Bill in Committee, quite apart from all the implications for the other realms that have been so carefully consulted on over a long time.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: Before my noble and learned friend leaves this matter, while recognising that the Bill may not be the right place to do what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has suggested, could he at least indicate that the Government might put in train discussions about this with other realms in the Commonwealth and consider whether this would be an appropriate direction in which to move?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I am sorry to disappoint my noble friend, but the Government do not have plans to do that, although it is quite clear from the contributions to this debate that it is an issue. However, it is not the policy of the Government to go down that road; therefore, I regret not to be able to give a more accommodating answer to my noble friend.

With regard to the Royal Marriages Act 1772, my noble friend Lord Lang thinks six is too limited, but my noble friend Lord Carlile thinks six is too wide. I explained that if one looks at the 240 years of history since the Act was passed, Queen Victoria was the furthest away from the Throne at the time of her birth, at fifth. Therefore, six is a realistic number. I say to my noble friend Lord Carlile and other contributors that, unlike the consequence of the Royal Marriages Act, which is that the marriage is void, the consequence of marrying without consent under this Bill would be that one would drop out of the line of succession, so some of the convention issues that my noble friend mentioned are properly addressed.

My noble friend Lord Lang was concerned that the Bill might put the sovereign under some pressure about whether someone was an appropriate person to marry. That could be the case today. There is probably unlikely to be any pressure if the person is 710th or whatever in line to the Throne, but even today, the first six still require the sovereign’s consent to marry.

My noble friend Lord Trefgarne asked about judicial review. We do not believe that this could be reviewed. Although the decision would be taken on the advice of Ministers, it would be taken by the sovereign, and her decisions cannot be challenged in the courts.

My noble friends Lord Carlile and Lord Northbrook asked us to clarify the common law position with regard to the monarch’s consent. It is arguable that the common law no longer applies since it could be said that by legislating in 1772, Parliament has superseded the common law. The defects of the 1772 Act have frequently been pointed out, and the Government consider that there is a clear case for repealing and replacing it. A dowager queen is not in the line of succession, so the importance of royal consent is not as great as it is in the case of someone in the immediate line of succession. We do not see dealing with any possible surviving common law rules on consent as essential.

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My noble friend made points about the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 that were picked up by my noble friend Lord Northbrook. It was argued that the Bill would allow a regent to be a Catholic. The effect of the Bill is not to make it possible for the regent to be a Catholic. Section 3 of the Regency Act provides that the regent is the person next in line of succession, if not disqualified, which a Catholic would be. A further disqualification is brought in under this Bill if a person in the first six in line of succession to the Throne marries without consent. That is the purpose of that clause.

My noble friend Lord Astor asked about the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Historians will argue about whether the dukedom of Normandy is still live, but there is no doubt that within the Channel Islands the Queen is heralded and treated as the Duke of Normandy. Nothing in the Bill would change that. The Channel Islands have been consulted on this. The Bill will apply by necessary implication to the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories, which have been fully informed and consulted on this matter.

Lord Lexden: Will my noble and learned friend say a word about the Lordship of Man, which I raised?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: The position with the Lordship of Man is exactly the same. No change is anticipated. The Queen would continue to be the Lord of Man when she is in the Isle of Man. The removal of male bias has no implication for the title of Lord of Man.

In her opening remarks, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, said how much we look forward to the birth later this year of the child of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She got the assent of the House when she said that she hoped that there would be no press harassment or intrusion. The change that we are putting forward will mean that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter, then a son, the daughter will precede the son in the line of succession. As we look forward to the birth, we can also celebrate that whether a boy or a girl, the child will have equal claim to the Throne. I think it is the mood of the House to wish the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge every happiness as they face up to the challenge of parenthood, and I commend this Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, can I persuade my noble and learned friend not to press this Motion at this moment? I am not remotely trying to obstruct the progress of this measure, but I rather think that the Bill would be better considered in a Select Committee. If my noble and learned friend would be willing to put off pressing this Motion until, say, Monday, that would give us an opportunity to consider the possibility.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, we were given notice that my noble friend might raise this matter. We are going to make time available for proper

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consideration in Committee of the Bill and amendments that will be tabled to it. It has already, as was indicated, gone through the other place with more time allocated to it than proved necessary. As has been said by numerous contributors to the debate, there has been considerable dialogue, negotiation and discussion with the other realms. It has been carefully considered. I hope for and fully expect proper scrutiny when we

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move into Committee. I will certainly seek to ensure that the time is made available for that to happen.

I recognise the spirit in which my noble friend speaks. We can give the Bill sufficient scrutiny in a normal Committee.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at 3.24 pm.