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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I have an interest to declare; I support, under the aegis of Her Majesty the Queen, retention of the Commonwealth united by common allegiance to the Crown. I also support the retention of the established Church. Whatever may be the intendment, and I say this with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, it simply is not possible to ring-fence the consequence of enactment of this Bill touching the succession to the throne as affecting the Commonwealth or the established Church as proposed by Clause 6(2). It just is not possible.

The preamble to the Statute of Westminster 1931 requires the assent of all Parliaments of all dominions to an alteration of the law touching accession to the throne. Albeit that according to our indigenous rules of statutory construction the preamble has no legal efficacy, we are involved with a serious matter of comity. Has there been—apparently not—any due consultation on the substance of this Bill as explained just now by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, with those who advise the monarch, with the dominion realms, or with the established Church, all of whose interests are involved? Is this nothing but pre-emption? As regards the interests of the established Church, I defer to the right reverend Prelate who is due to speak, and I shall say no more.

No Motion has been tabled as to commitment in the event of this Bill being read a second time. Is it the intention to withdraw the Motion? Is this, so to speak, but a trailer for a government Bill? If not, what is it? Is it a vehicle for discussion? If so, in the course of debate today, it shall be discussed. That surely does not mean that it should be read a second time. The question of commitment no longer lies within the remit of the Procedure Committee; it is a matter for the whole House to decide on the Motion, and no such Motion has been tabled. Is it appropriate that this Bill be given a Second Reading, albeit that it is the convention that Private Members' Bills opposed in debate are given a Second Reading and in due course pass your Lordships' House. This convention has not been
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adhered to in exceptional circumstances, and the intrinsic value of a convention, as distinct from mandatory, codified rules, is flexibility. The opinion of the House on this is flexible; this is a matter for discussion on 26 January, but assuredly not today.

Inevitably, if this Bill were to pass this House, and if it were taken up in another place, it would fail on a single objection. I think that I heard the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, concede this: is not succession to the Crown a matter that more properly lies within the exclusive remit of a Government Bill? The Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, was withdrawn on 27 February 1998. My noble friend Lord Forsyth of Drumlean had his Motion for a Humble Address on his Bill rejected by your Lordships' House on 3 December 1999. Such consent, albeit obtained by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, is no longer required according to extant rules.

If the object is to serve today as a vehicle for debate, surely the Bill shall by the end of today, without a Second Reading, have served that purpose.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, we could spend fascinating days exploring the potential implications of those provisions that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has included in his Bill, but also speculating why he has not included other closely related and logically connected provisions that have been energetically canvassed in recent years by the Fabian commission, as he mentioned, among others.

I shall concentrate on Clause 2, headed "Roman Catholic consorts". Looking in passing at Clause 1, however, I am puzzled by the import of subsection (2). I wonder—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, wonders too, given his quotations from 1998 and the late Lord Williams—about the wisdom and indeed the fairness of separating succession to the Crown from succession to most if not all peerages and other hereditary titles, with their rights, privileges and dignities.

I should declare that, under another hat, I am co-chair with a Roman Catholic bishop of a body called the English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee, which is made up of members—lay and ordained—of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and of the Church of England and the Church in Wales. The committee is tasked with furthering and monitoring the developing and—thank God—ever-closer relationships between our Churches, although it has not discussed the issues before the House, during my short membership at any rate.

I read with a lot of interest the noble Lord's article in the Guardian of 9 December, and valued the opportunity to listen to his speech introducing the Bill. In the article, he wrote that the provision in Section 2 of the Act of Settlement, which he seeks to repeal in Clause 2(4) of the Bill, and the equivalents to it, to which the Bill's Clause 2(2), (6) and (8) seek to attend, were,

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That is rather tougher language than he has graced us with today.

The noble Lord went on to say in the article, and has effectively said again today, that,

I imagine that it is for that reason that he does not seek to repeal the Act of Settlement as a whole, and with it its close relatives, which also refuse the Crown to Roman Catholics, but I noted his inclusion of "in itself" in the article. I wonder whether his confidence that,

is not affected even by his Bill is well founded. I should have wished him to distinguish between the historical roots of the provisions—when placed on the statute book, they were understood to be, to quote the Act of Settlement,

so they therefore seem not sufficiently described simply by the language of religious bigotry—and their contemporary significance.

I want also to remind your Lordships—it seems fundamental—that a Church is established to serve, sustain and encourage the establishment of the Christian faith as the ultimate point of reference for government. Behind even this apparently quite unambitious Bill therefore lies this significant question: what kind of state have we, and what kind of state do we want? What kind of public life do we have, with what ultimate accountability for those who carry the honourable responsibilities of government? Were it to prove the case by some chance that the end product of the Bill—if it were somehow to become law—was the separation of the Crown from not only the Church of England but its anchorage in the Christian faith of this land, however expressed, we should be embarking on a unique experiment for these islands of a state whose basis was explicitly secular. The evidence of the 19th and 20th centuries—indeed, of this century so far, and not far from here—is that such a state would be markedly less tolerant and inclusive than our present arrangements.

It seems important to be clear—I say this without any critique or animosity at all—about three things when looking at Clause 2. First, it is the doctrinal convictions—which I respect and the reasons for which I appreciate and hope that I understand—of the Roman Catholic Church, not those of the Church of England, and the teaching and regulations based on them, which still preclude a Roman Catholic from,

Again, that is a quotation from the Act of Settlement.

Secondly, it remains the case that although much less explicit pressure is today brought on parents, one of whom is a Roman Catholic, to bring up their children as Roman Catholic Christians, clearly expressed expectations remain—which again I understand and respect, and can see myself sharing.
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Thirdly, if the Bill became law and made it in time for a Roman Catholic consort, in a generation we could therefore have a Roman Catholic heir to the throne who could not join in communion with the Church of England. Although I pray earnestly for that reconciliation of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches which for me is the only proper solution to the admitted embarrassments and misunderstandings which the Bill seeks to resolve, I doubt very much whether it is wise for your Lordships' House or the other place either to bank on the timing of that reconciliation or to seek to bring pressure to bear on its achievement.

Finally, there is the intriguing set of legal conundrums to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, pointed, and the very curious and unsustainable tailpiece to the Bill—its final line, which is:

There is the need, approached in part in the Statute of Westminster Act 1931, to maintain a uniform succession to the throne by ensuring that precisely the same rules govern that succession in each of the independent monarchies of which Her Majesty is Queen. My understanding is that any change in those rules would have to be precisely replicated in the law of each of—by my count—the 16 other Commonwealth countries affected.

Those are some of the reasons why I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, that it is really not at all wise to give the noble Lord's Bill a Second Reading.

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