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
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.