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Royal Succession Bill moves on unopposed

25 January 2013


On the run: Prince Harry, who currently stands third in line to the throne, races to scramble his Apache helicopter in Afghanistan, on 3 November. He spoke this week of his experiences on active service

On the run: Prince Harry, who currently stands third in line to the throne, races to scramble his Apache helicopter in Afghanist...

THE Succession to the Crown Bill, which removes premogeniture and allows members of the Royal Family to marry Roman Catholics, passed its second reading and committee stages during a single sitting of the House of Commons on Tuesday, despite complaints from MPs that the legislation was being rushed through ( News, 18th January).

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, denied that removing the bar on a member of the royal family's marrying a Roman Catholic could lead to the disestablishment of the C of E. The prohibition was not necessary to "support the requirement that the Sovereign join in communion with the Church of England", he said.

"Its proposed removal is a welcome symbolic and practical measure consistent with respect for the principle of religious liberty. It reflects the sea-change in ecumenical relations over recent decades."

But the Conservative MP for North-East Somerset, Jacob Rees-Mogg, described the Bill as "an attack on the teaching of the [Roman] Catholic Church" on the upbringing of children.

"The consequence of what is being proposed", he said, "is to leave in the deeply hostile anti-Catholic language contained in the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights. Such language would not conceivably be used by any member of this House."

The Bill made faith and religion "completely and totally disposable", the DUP member for North Antrim, Ian Paisley Jnr, said. The nation was being asked to believe that, "if a future heir to the throne is raised in a faith different from that of Anglican, when it comes to the choice of retaining something that they believe in their heart, or having the prize of the throne, they could dispose of their faith."

A number of amendments were tabled: to allow children adopted or conceived through artificial insemination by members of the royal family in a civil partnership to succeed to the throne; and providing for a regent to be appointed C of E Supreme Governor in the event of a monarch who was a Roman Catholic - but these were not moved during the debate, and lapsed.

MPs will have a further opportunity to debate the Bill when it receives its third reading on Monday, before it is sent to the House of Lords.

Once passed, the Bill will not take effect until agreed by 16 other countries where the Queen is head of state.

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