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
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
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.