MEMBERS of the House of Lords have raised concerns over changes
to succession laws that would allow heirs to the throne to marry
Members of the Lords' constitution committee told the Deputy
Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, that the legislation was being rushed
through without enough debate or consultation.
The Succession to the Crown Bill, which had its first reading in
the House of Commons last month, would remove the bar on a person
who married a Roman Catholic's "becoming or remaining a monarch",
and end the rule of primogeniture, so that brothers were not
favoured before sisters in line to the throne.
The Bill makes it clear that, al-though members of the royal
family may marry Roman Catholics, the monarch - who remains Supreme
Governor of the Church of England - may not be a Roman Catholic. If
his or her children were then raised as RCs, they could not succeed
to the throne.
The monarch would have to bear the succession issue in mind when
deciding whether to grant permission for heirs to marry. Under the
terms of the Bill, he or she would hold this power over the first
six in line to the throne.
Prince Charles is also reportedly concerned about the proposed
Lord Lang of Monkton warned Mr Clegg: "There is huge potential
tension. The relationship between the Church and the monarch is a
very long-lived one. It is important to ensure that the monarch is
not put in an invidious place in the context of which religion
heirs to the throne or those in line to the throne are
Lord Goldsmith, a former Attorney General, said that such
fast-tracking was "worrying". And Lord Crickhowell said that he was
"concerned" Parliament was not being given enough time to question
ministers about the changes.
Mr Clegg said: "What we are doing is simply removing a very
specific act of discrimination against Catholics, which was
instituted because of the historical circumstances at the time -
the threat of Louis XIV and all the rest of it. And [we are] doing
so in a very precise way without in any way altering - and we are
completely confident of this - the status of the Established Church
in England and, of course, the monarch as the head of that
He also suggested that more time might be given for
consideration of the Bill, given the strength of feeling in the
Lords on the issue.
In 2011, Lord Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, said that
there needed to be a "clear understanding" that a future heir
should be brought up "in an Anglican environment" (
News, 4 November 2011).