MPs vote to keep ban on a Roman Catholic monarch

01 February 2013

LAMBETH PALACE/CHURCH COMMISSIONERS

Rematched: a portrait of Henry VIII (below) by an unknown artist (c.1520) is now on show at the National Portrait Gallery, alongside an anonymous painting (above) from Lambeth Palace, recently identified as a likeness of Catherine of Aragon

Rematched: a portrait of Henry VIII (below) by an unknown artist (c.1520) is now on show at the National Portrait Gallery, alongsid...

AN ATTEMPT to remove the ban that prevents Roman Catholics from succeeding to the throne has been rejected by MPs.

During a debate in the Commons on Monday, Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative, North East Somerset) moved a new clause to the Succession to the Crown Bill ( News, 25 January). The Bill would have removed the disqualification on any person "not joining in communion with the Church of England", and would supersede the anti-Roman Catholic provisions in the Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement.

Under the clause, a regent would have been appointed to act as Supreme Governor whenever a monarch was not in communion with the Church of England.

Mr Rees-Mogg said that his amendment was needed because current legislation banned people who had ever been in communion with the RC Church from succeeding to the throne; and that this could have consequences for royal children born to a family where one of the parents was in communion with Rome.

He told MPs: "If at any moment in their whole life they were in communion with Rome, they are excluded from the throne; deemed to be dead. That cannot be the intention of the clause that allows a [Roman] Catholic to marry an heir to the throne. That will simply create confusion, and we will not know who the monarch is going to be."

Coalition and Labour front benches opposed the amendment.

For the Government, the Cabinet Parliamentary Secretary, Chloe Smith, the MP for Norwich North, said that it was "absolutely committed" to the C of E as the Established Church, with the sovereign as its Supreme Governor.

"We consider that the relationship between Church and State in England is an important part of the constitutional framework. It has evolved over centuries, and the Government has no intention of legislating to disestablish the Church of England.

"The Government's view is that allowing a person of the Roman Catholic faith to accede to the throne would clearly be incompatible with the requirement for the sovereign to be in communion with the Church of England."

Wayne David, the Labour MP for Caerphilly and Shadow Justice Minister, told MPs that work on the Bill had begun under the previous Government, and its contents had been agreed by the Commonwealth heads of government. "If the whole issue were to be reopened in the way that has been suggested, we would have to go back to square one, and begin the long, convoluted process again."

Mr Rees-Mogg's amendment was defeated, 38 MPs voting in favour and 371 against. The unamended Bill received an unopposed Third Reading, and now passes to the House of Lords.

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