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House of Lords

Thursday, 14 February 2013.

11 am

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.

Crime: Domestic Violence


11.06 am

Asked By Baroness Gale

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the campaign One Billion Rising, which aims to draw attention to the level of domestic violence worldwide.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, preventing violence against women and girls is a top priority for the coalition Government. The Department for International Development has significantly scaled up its efforts to tackle this issue overseas. The department is also supporting the One Billion Rising campaign by working with partners on the ground to raise awareness of the campaign and highlight work to prevent violence against women and girls.

Baroness Gale: I thank the Minister for her reply but does she agree that the 1 billion women who are raped and beaten is a truly horrific figure? In the light of that, would the Minister agree to work with international agencies such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations, as well as the devolved Administrations in the United Kingdom, so that a comprehensive programme could be organised to eliminate the violence against women on a global scale?

Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness is absolutely right that the figures on this are appalling. Globally, one woman in three is beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime, which is utterly unacceptable. We are working with all international organisations, and nationally as well, to try to raise this issue. It is a focus, as the noble Baroness will know, of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March. My honourable friend Lynne Featherstone is leading the delegation from here; that commission is focusing on violence against women and girls. The Foreign Secretary is focusing on this as part of our leadership of the G8 this year and, of course, it forms part of the discussions on the MDGs as we take them forward. It is extremely important. It is about time that it is on the agenda and we seek to tackle it.

Lord Chidgey: One of the cruellest and most insidious forms of domestic violence is that among young girls, some as young as four, who are subjected to female genital mutilation, or FGM, as it is known. There are more than 100 million women in the world suffering from the effects of that, mostly in Africa, and as many as 3 million young girls a year are at risk from this form of mutilation. Can my noble friend the Minister say whether the Government, in their development

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programme, are helping NGOs such as AWEPA on the ground—in the villages and at the grass roots—to try to stop this rather revolting and dangerous form of mutilation?

Baroness Northover: My noble friend is right that this is a terrible practice, which we seek to counter both in the United Kingdom and overseas. We are funding civil society organisations which are working to end the practice in Ethiopia and Kenya, and my honourable friend Lynne Featherstone is developing a major new programme to address FGM. We know that work with communities, as my noble friend says, including affected women and girls is key to ending the practice. Organisations such as AWEPA, which engage parliamentarians, are crucial in bringing about the change that we all need to see.

Baroness Nye: My Lords, does the Minister agree that when one in two boys and one in three girls in the UK think that there are some circumstances when it is okay to hit a woman, or to force a woman to have sex, it is essential that sex and relationship education is made statutory in our schools? That must include free schools and academies.

Baroness Northover: It is clearly unacceptable when children in our society hold these points of view, and I know that it is prevalent. The noble Baroness will be pleased to hear that today we are putting increased effort into a teenage relationship abuse campaign, because it is extremely important that we get across to teenagers—girls as well as boys—that this is unacceptable and what actually constitutes abuse so that it does not then lead on into domestic violence. That campaign will need to be targeted in every possible place.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: Does the Minister accept that there is every reason to believe that only a fraction of very serious cases of domestic violence find their way to the courts, due very probably to the fear of reprisal, the consideration of the situation of children and so on? Does she accept that in a criminal situation where domestic violence is proven, there is every reason why sentencers at all levels should regard such conduct as being worthy of condign punishment?

Baroness Northover: The noble Lord speaks from a lot of experience. Of course, this is very complex. Relationships are very complex. Quite often, people are unwilling to come forward. If one were to apply the same kind of test to another group—say that it was an ethnic minority that suffered in that way—it would be crystal clear that something was unacceptable. I think there has been something of a sea change in the attitude of the judiciary and the police, but we need to see that go much further. We are seeking to support those changes.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: My Lords, were we not here in the Chamber now, I am sure that my noble friend and I would be joining many colleagues from the other place who, as we speak, are rising up in Parliament Square to support the campaign. I will resist the temptation to dance on the Benches. As the Prime Minister says:

“I want to see an end to violence against women and girls in all its forms”,

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and I am proud to add my voice to all those who stand up and oppose it. Does my noble friend agree that because of changes to the law, which include the criminalisation of forced marriage, widening the definition of domestic violence and making stalking illegal, it is far more likely that those who perpetrate those crimes will now be punished than in the past?

Baroness Northover: I agree with my noble friend. I also support the campaign that is occurring today, and DfID is supporting the campaign that will be seen in Cape Town today—which, in the light of the news this morning, is perhaps particularly relevant. My noble friend is right to highlight the way that we have taken this forward; there are, for example, two specific criminal offences of stalking that came into effect in March 2012, and the DPM announced in September the widening of the definition of domestic violence to include 16 to 17 year-olds and coercive behaviour. We are working very hard to bring greater protection for victims and to bring more offenders to justice. It is also important that we work with criminal justice professionals to ensure proper guidance and training so that we can support these changes in the legislation.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords—

Baroness Corston: My Lords—

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords—

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I will give way to my noble friend Lady Corston.

Baroness Corston: My Lords, is the Minister aware that domestic violence is a major cause of women in this country ending up in prison? With which organisations in this country are the Government working to eradicate this drastic harm to all these lives?

Baroness Northover: I am well aware of the importance of domestic violence in bringing about women being in prison, and all the other challenges that women in prison face. We are very keen to carry forward the work that the noble Baroness did to try to ensure that we address the reasons why women end up in prison, which is often not in their interests or those of the family. We are working across the board with a number of different organisations. I myself have been at various meetings where these organisations have put their case, which is a very cogent one. We will continue to do that. Anything that the noble Baroness wishes to feed in to me, I would be very happy to receive.

Schools: Academies


11.15 am

Asked By Baroness Seccombe

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made with the academy school programme.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): My Lords, 2,673 academies are now open in England. Nearly 60% of state-funded secondary schools are now either open or in the process of becoming academies, and more than 1,000 primary schools are now open as academies. Three alternative provision academies are open, with 20 more planned, and 63 special academies are open, with 50 more planned. The department is working to ensure that as many good and outstanding state schools as possible have the opportunity to sponsor other schools.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, that is very exciting news. I understand that academies are producing increasingly high levels of attainment. Will the Minister say what plans the Government have to tackle underperformance in all our schools, including academies?

Lord Nash:My noble friend is absolutely right that these schools are increasing attainment. The Government are ruthlessly focused on tackling school underperformance, and it is one of my main responsibilities. The Government believe that every child, irrespective of background, deserves a high-quality education. We have built on the previous Government’s programme to establish a further 415 sponsored academies, including 200 of the worst-performing primary schools, and we are focusing on many more underperforming schools. Where we see underperformance and failure in any school, we will not hesitate to use all our powers.

Lord Bilston: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the coalition Government are currently planning to convert academies and to move them from the public sector to the private sector? If that is the case, will the Minister confirm—it is certainly our opinion—that that would be entirely the wrong policy?

Lord Nash: I can confirm that we are not moving these schools into the private sector.

Baroness Walmsley: Will the Minister say how many academy schools are fulfilling their duty to support other schools to improve? Is he satisfied with that number? I have an indication that not all academy schools are doing that.

Lord Nash: All good and outstanding schools that have chosen to convert to academies are expected to support other schools. More and more academies are taking this further and sponsoring other academies. Eighty-nine converter academies are now sponsoring other schools and providing support by sharing innovative ways of thinking and clear examples of what works, and we are working hard to encourage more to do so.

Lord Grocott: Will the Minister comment on reports that heads are being offered around £65,000 as an inducement to convert their schools into academies? If that is true, what is the estimated cost to public funds if the number of academies turns out to be as he anticipates: that is, the number of schools multiplied by £65,000? At a time when we are constantly being

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told that austerity is the order of the day, can he confirm that it is his opinion, as it is mine, that this is a complete waste of money?

Lord Nash: We are offering grants—all this is available on our website—to help sponsors to turn round failing and underperforming schools. In its November 2012 report, the National Audit Office rightly acknowledged the extraordinary success of the academy programme. We make no apology for spending money on a programme that is proven to drive up standards and make long-term improvements. We want as many schools as possible to take advantage of the significant benefits of academy status.

Lord Lexden: Can my noble friend tell the House how successful the Government have been in working with independent schools in expanding their marvellous academies programme?

Lord Nash: We have a number of proven successes. I was delighted to see that Eton College is going to sponsor an academy. There are many other independent schools, and we are keen to involve as many as possible.

Baroness Warnock: Can the Minister tell the House whether any research is going on to monitor the progress of children with special educational needs in academies and free schools?

Lord Nash: Like all schools, academies have a clear duty to use their best endeavours to meet the needs of children with SEN, and they can go further with their freedoms. Special academies are at the heart of our programme.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge the problem, which was recently identified in the Academies Commission report, that many academies are in effect setting their own rules for admissions, which are incredibly complex for parents to navigate and are in effect excluding many children from disadvantaged backgrounds from the academies programme?

Lord Nash: I do not acknowledge that. All admission authorities, be they local councils or self-governing schools, including academies, must comply with the new, fair admissions code. Anyone who has concerns, including the noble Baroness, about how state-funded schools are admitting pupils can formally object to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator. The law requires that academies and free schools make the majority of their places available to children from the area.

NHS: Healthcare UK


11.21 am

Asked by Baroness Gardner of Parkes

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will ensure that the National Health Service benefits from the establishment of Healthcare UK to market the NHS brand abroad.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, Healthcare UK will focus on high-value opportunities internationally for both industry and the NHS. Where NHS expertise is used, those NHS organisations will benefit financially, with the income being reinvested into patient care for patients here in the UK. Furthermore, any activity undertaken by Healthcare UK will be overseen by a board, which will be jointly administered by the Department of Health, UKTI and the NHS Commissioning Board.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Can the Minister tell me whether, with the establishment of Healthcare UK, there is a danger that some areas of this country might be advantaged at the expense of other areas of this country?

Earl Howe: My Lords, we are determined that that should not happen. We recognise that the whole of the UK healthcare sector, both private and public, has a great deal to offer internationally. This does not just apply to a few elite organisations. We want to support any NHS organisation that wants to work internationally by helping it to build its capacity and capability to do so. We also want to help industry. In doing that, I stress that we view it as of paramount importance that any work undertaken in no way harms or compromises the quality of patient care here in the UK.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the NHS clearly has much to offer other countries. Does the Minister find it puzzling, as I do, that, in one sense, we are promoting the NHS all over the world yet, when people from other countries want to come and study here, particularly in health and medical sciences, they find that the visa restrictions are obstructive? When will the Government review their whole policy on visas?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord raises a pertinent issue in the context of medical trainees. We are addressing it. In particular, we are looking at a request from Saudi Arabia to send postgraduate medical trainees to this country. We believe that we have found a way through that, and will continue to work on that issue for the benefit of other countries as well.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, when the NHS began in 1948, most major hospitals had private wards and private consulting rooms. The great advantage of this was that they generated income which supported the care of NHS patients. The other advantage was that the consultants who were entitled to undertake private practice were geographically whole time. When the late Lady Castle was the Secretary of State, the Labour Government removed the private beds from NHS hospitals, resulting in a massive development of private wards outside the NHS. Are the Government now embarking on a programme to improve the facilities for private care in the NHS, thus generating more income for the support of NHS patients?

Earl Howe: I am sure the noble Lord will know that a number of our flagship hospitals already have private facilities which treat domestic and international private patients, including Great Ormond Street and the Royal

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Marsden. All such treatment of course takes place outside NHS provision. However, it is important to emphasise that Healthcare UK is about much more than private patients. In fact, that will not be its primary focus. It is about sharing this country’s expertise, technology and knowledge to support healthcare systems and infrastructure with international partners. Healthcare UK will provide support if there are NHS organisations wanting to bring patients in from overseas but that will not be its principal focus.

Baroness Jolly: My Lords, the NHS brand is the envy of the world and we welcome this enterprise. Will my noble friend tell me how many clinicians he expects might be involved and in what particular roles and disciplines?

Earl Howe: It is a little too early to say because the business plan for Healthcare UK has yet to be drawn up. We have appointed a managing director in the shape of Howard Lyons who I think will do an excellent job. It remains to be seen what requirements are needed. We are looking at certain target markets at the moment—in particular, the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Libya, China and India. But it depends on the requests that we get from those countries as to what skills set might be needed.

Lord Harrison: Given that the National Health Service has much to learn from other health services and best practice elsewhere in Europe and the wider world, what methods will the Government adopt to promote that interchange? Will the noble Lord give an example of such an exchange which has benefited medical practice in this country?

Earl Howe: The noble Lord makes an extremely important point. This is not only a one-way street in terms of exporting British expertise. I know one very good example in which some of our trauma clinicians have been seconded to hospitals in South Africa where there is tremendous expertise on gunshot wounds, for example. That has been of direct benefit to clinicians in this country.

Baroness Hollins: There are some very rare conditions, such as Hunter syndrome, in which the United Kingdom is a world leader in developing treatments. These treatments are very expensive to deliver for the very small number of people who have the condition. Would they be more affordable for UK citizens if the treatments were offered to a wider population base, such as across Europe? Will Healthcare UK have this kind of initiative in mind?

Earl Howe: My Lords, potentially that is an area at which Healthcare UK could look. Certainly, some of our conversations with our partners in the Middle East have indicated that they are very interested in taking advantage of our world-class facilities in highly specialised areas.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, given that EU funds for investment and research will be increased between 2014 and 2020, and given the reluctance of British companies to participate in drawing down on

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that research money, will the Minister ensure that in the health service field we get involved, we partner with others and we use it to our best advantage?

Earl Howe: Yes, my Lords. Again, Healthcare UK will be in a position to foster collaborative research partnerships all over the world.

Media: Press Regulation


11.29 am

Asked By Lord Fowler

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to establish by royal charter a body to assure effective regulation of the press.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, as I said at this Dispatch Box yesterday, we need to see tougher press regulation. That is why my right honourable friend the Culture Secretary published a draft royal charter, setting out how tougher regulation might operate. It provides an independent panel to assess whether or not the press regulator meets demanding recognition criteria. This is a matter for continuing discussion between the three main political parties.

Lord Fowler: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there are manifold defects in the royal charter process, in that it hands over power to Ministers and will require 10 pages of legislation to implement? Could I ask him an even more fundamental question? According to the published guidance of the Privy Council,

“the grant of new Charters is comparatively rare. New grants of Royal Charters are these days reserved for eminent professional bodies or charities which have a solid record of achievement”.

Is it not curious that at this time of all, when we have had phone hacking and the worst press scandals for 50 years, we should be contemplating this step? If we are going to recognise anybody just now, might it not be the victims of press intrusion?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, the very first thing, as I said yesterday, is that we need to ensure—and we all seek to ensure—that what happened never happens again. On the point that my noble friend makes about the charter, I have looked into the number of charters, and there are hundreds of them covering a wide range of varieties. They are a vehicle for setting up a legal body. I say to my noble friend that we are seeking to achieve an upgrading and enhancing of the professional standards of the press. We have excellent men and women working in the press, and we have a few people who have let that profession down very badly indeed.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, when the Minister was at the Dispatch Box, he stressed the importance of victims—and he did so again in the Statement that we had from the Commons yesterday. Could he tell us whether the victims—the Dowlers, the

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McCanns—believe that the charter is going to serve their needs, and whether they support that, instead of the underpinning recommended by Lord Justice Leveson?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I am confident that the points made by Hacked Off and other groups will form part of the ongoing talks. I should explain that the royal charter is a draft document published to aid the continuing cross-party discussions. The Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary have held a number of meetings with Hacked Off. I assure your Lordships that those views continue to be heard and are taken into account. I am, of course, aware of what the ladies and gentlemen and Hacked Off have said about the royal charter, but it is an honest endeavour.

Baroness Hollins: Does the Minister agree that the only prospect of a royal charter establishing a recognition panel independent enough to gain public trust, and the trust of victims of press abuse, will be if all three parties work together to stand up to the powerful press lobby, whose influence is so evident in the Conservative Party’s proposals? What prospect is there of the cross-party talks actually achieving that?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I am positive that the politicians who are working on this are going into the matter with good will. As I have said before, this is a draft document. I would not pretend that it was a final version, as I said yesterday, and I very much hope that the politicians who are attending these talks today and in the coming days will bear in mind what noble Lords, and others outside this Chamber, have said.

Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, under the terms of the BBC charter, executives of the BBC can neither nominate nor veto members of the governing board of the BBC? Is he further aware that this principle also applies in the commercial sector in relation to Ofcom? Indeed, it was well recognised in the Leveson report that there had to be that separation of powers—that proper independence—and it became one of Leveson’s principal recommendations. So why has the Conservative Party flouted that recommendation in the document that it published yesterday?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, this draft royal charter is a vehicle for setting up an oversight body with robust recognition criteria. There are many examples of royal charters. Indeed, the BBC was set up for a different purpose.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord can help me. What role does Parliament have in considering the details of the royal charter? Does it have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament? Are we entitled to try to amend the terms of the charter? What is the next stage?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, under the process for the royal charter there would have to be the continuing talks that I mentioned. A new recognition

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body would then be set up, as recommended by Lord Justice Leveson. Certain criteria would have to be met, and a number of processes have to take place. The whole point about a royal charter, of course, is that it is set up and not voted on by Parliament.

Lord Stoneham of Droxford: My Lords, most of the attention following Leveson has been on press regulation issues. When and how are the Government going to address the issue of dominant media ownership and the need for greater plurality in the future?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, an effective media ownership regime must strike the right balance between securing plurality and allowing growth. The Government will carefully consider Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals for addressing concerns over organic growth. Online activity should also be considered in any assessment of plurality.



11.36 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): My Lords, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is providing the House with regular reports on the adulteration of processed beef products with horsemeat.

As the House will appreciate, it is not possible to give a running commentary on active investigations. Therefore, for operational reasons, we were unable to inform the House of the Food Standards Agency’s plan to enter the two meat premises in west Wales and west Yorkshire. As part of its audit of all horse abattoirs in the UK and the ongoing investigation into the adulteration of meat products, the FSA gathered intelligence which led to the FSA and police entering the two meat premises and seizing horsemeat. The FSA also seized all paperwork from the two companies and is investigating customer lists. The FSA suspended activities at both plants immediately. The FSA will continue to work closely with the police and, if there is evidence of criminal activity, I will expect the full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved.

I met retailers and suppliers yesterday and they confirmed that they are on course to provide meaningful results from product testing by tomorrow. The Secretary of State has made a Written Ministerial Statement on the outcome of his successful discussions in Europe yesterday. The co-ordinated control plan proposed by the Commission is a welcome step to address a pan-European problem. The FSA’s most recent tests on the presence of bute in horses slaughtered in the UK checked 206 horse carcasses. Eight have come back positive, three may have entered the food chain in France, and the remaining five have not gone into the food chain.

The FSA is working with French authorities in an attempt to recall the meat from the food chain. I understand that the results of bute testing in the withdrawn Findus products have come back negative. The CMO and the CEO of the FSA will be making a statement on both of these matters later this morning.

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11.38 am

Lord Grantchester: My Lords, I declare my interest as a dairy farmer with experience of the food chain. In today’s industrial food chains, the situation that broke three weeks ago was never going to be the actions of one rogue supplier. Three weeks ago, my honourable friend the shadow environment Secretary of State, Mary Creagh, called on the Secretary of State to ensure that all horsemeat intended for human consumption is tested for substances harmful to human health such as bute. Why did the noble Lord’s department not order full testing and stipulate that horsemeat should be released only when it is clear from bute? Given that the evidence of what has gone on is destroyed when products are withdrawn from the shelves, will the FSA now take overall control of all product testing?

11.39 am

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, at the Secretary of State’s suggestion, there was an official meeting with European Agriculture Ministers in Brussels yesterday to make sure that there is co-ordinated action across Europe on the horsemeat issue. Food businesses need to do whatever is necessary to provide assurance to consumers that their products are what they say they are, and we are expecting to see meaningful results from the industry testing by the end of the week. There is no evidence to suggest that there is a food safety risk.

In answer to the noble Lord’s specific question, the FSA issued a four-point plan on 16 January, the day after the Irish released their information. On 7 February, the issue for the UK changed when Findus’s test results showed that there were wrongly labelled products on the UK market. The Secretary of State immediately summoned the retailers to a meeting on 9 February. He is now in The Hague, co-ordinating European efforts to address what is clearly a Europe-wide issue.

As regards bute, the Chief Medical Officer has said:

“Horse meat containing phenylbutazone presents a very low risk to human health. Phenylbutazone, known as bute, is a commonly used medicine in horses. It is also prescribed to some patients who are suffering from a severe form of arthritis. At the levels of bute that have been found, a person would have to eat 500 to 600 burgers a day that are 100% horse meat to get close to consuming a human’s daily dose. And it passes through the system fairly quickly, so it is unlikely to build up in our bodies”.

11.41 am

Lord Higgins: Does my noble friend agree that in the context of this crisis labelling is crucially important? Is it not equally important that the labelling should show the country of origin? Is that not clearly the case with regard to this appalling trade in horsemeat across the European Union where live horses for slaughter may travel hundreds of miles from Poland to Italy to be killed there and labelled as Italian horsemeat?

Lord De Mauley: My noble friend makes a very important point. Labelling is absolutely crucial here. What is in the tin must be declared properly on the label on the tin. I take his point about country of origin, and I will take that back, if I may.

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Lord Curry of Kirkharle: My Lords, this is a deeply concerning crisis and potentially could impact on consumer confidence in the products that we produce here in the United Kingdom. I was involved in the 1990s in dealing with the deep concerns about food safety and the various crises that occurred at that time. We set up internal systems of traceability through insurance schemes. This is now known as the red tractor scheme. This crisis has led to a much deeper level of testing being required through DNA. That throws up a real issue around the thresholds to which we are prepared to accept tolerance of DNA testing. If we insist on zero tolerance, then butchers’ shops would have real difficulty in complying. Are the Minister and the department considering levels of tolerance for DNA testing?

Lord De Mauley: That is an important question. The answer is yes. The FSA has advised that 1% is a level of evidence at which it can take action. This is a temporary level as we undertake urgent scientific work to set the most appropriate threshold. This is the level at which the FSA can be confident that the results are reliable for enforcement purposes.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, what discussions has the department had with the devolved Administrations, and what has been their outcome?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, there are ongoing, intense discussions with the devolved Administrations, particularly Northern Ireland. It is too early to say what the outcome will be, but the noble Lord can rest assured that we will be in close touch, not only with the devolved Administrations but, of course, with our colleagues all across the EU, as I indicated earlier.

Baroness Parminter: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the Statement outlining the steps that the Government are taking to deal with criminality. There is also the issue of consumer confidence. My noble friend said that he met retailers yesterday to discuss this and there have been other meetings with them. However, it is very disappointing that we have heard nothing publicly from retailers or their organisations to address the big issues of consumer confidence. Will my noble friend remind retailers when they next come to talk to Ministers of the need to do something publicly to promote confidence in high-quality, British, locally sourced meat?

Lord De Mauley: My noble friend makes an extremely important point. We are in constant discussion with retailers. I suspect that they may be somewhat on the back foot at the moment. That might be why they have not done as she wishes. It is important that they are not overconfident. Clearly, there has been some pretty rum business going on. My noble friend is absolutely right that confidence is extremely important and that we must do what we can to bring that confidence back to the market. We will do that by taking the steps we are taking.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I know that the Minister understands the importance of involving the European Union, the devolved Administrations and the FSA.

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I warmly congratulate the FSA on it robust response, but does the Minister agree that the time may well come, when the crisis has been taken past its immediate difficulties, for us to have a review involving the FSA, our European partners and the devolved Administrations to ensure that we have the most effective way of dealing with the international complexity of the food chain?

Lord De Mauley: The noble Lord is absolutely right that what we have to do at the end of this is learn the important lessons. I entirely agree with him on that.

Lord Geddes: Is my noble friend aware of this problem arising elsewhere in the world—in other words, outside the European Union?

Lord De Mauley: That is an interesting question. I am sure that countries in the rest of the world have their own problems. I am not aware of this specific problem arising elsewhere.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, will the Minister give a proper answer to my noble friend Lady Crawley, who after the previous Statement asked whether the cuts in resources for trading standards and the equivalent Meat Hygiene Service had had any effect on the effectiveness of enforcement? Secondly, in his assurances on health, will he assure me that the issue of people who are allergic to live horses has been covered in the possibilities of people being allergic to dead horsemeat? Thirdly, is his Secretary of State—a rabid anti-European—now convinced that European food chain issues can be resolved only by agreement at European level?

Lord De Mauley: That is quite a mouthful, my Lords. On the first point, the FSA oversees a rigorous, risk-based system of checking by local authorities. More than 92,000 tests were carried out in 2011-12. The FSA has assured Ministers that the recent machinery of government changes have not impacted on its surveillance and testing. On the health issue of people being allergic to live horses, I am not aware that this translates into the dead horsemeat arena. I am reliably informed that there are no risks to health unless the meat is contaminated with bute. We covered that issue in connection with the previous Statement. I am amazed at the noble Lord’s suggestion about my right honourable friend’s attitude to Europe. He is in Europe today, discussing the matter with his European colleagues in a very collegiate fashion. The noble Lord can rest assured.

Lord Deben: May I remind my noble friend that we in this Chamber are in Europe? May I also underline the previous comment that this is the moment for the Secretary of State to remind the country that if we want to protect our food chain, we have to do it from within the European Union, playing our proper part in it?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that we are in Europe. My right honourable friend is of course in The Hague. Perhaps I should

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have said, “continental Europe”. He is not only co-operating but leading the way in helping Europe to tackle this problem.

Deputy Chairmen of Committees

Membership Motion

11.49 am

Moved By The Chairman of Committees

That Lord Bates be appointed to the panel of members to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees for this Session.

Motion agreed.

Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Order of Consideration Motion

11.49 am

Moved By Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 6, Schedule 2, Clauses 7 to 9, Schedule 3, Clauses 10 to 14, Schedule 4, Clauses 15 to 32.

Motion agreed.

Scotland Act 2012 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2013

Motion to Approve

11.49 am

Moved By Lord Wallace of Tankerness

That the draft order laid before the House on 10 January be approved.

Relevant document: 16th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 7 February.

Motion agreed.

Succession to the Crown Bill

Second Reading

11.50 am

Moved By Lord Wallace of Tankerness

That the Bill be read a second time.

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Succession to the Crown Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

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This is a relatively short Bill but I do not think that any of us are under any illusions as to how profound it is. Indeed, is a rare occasion to bring a Bill of such historical import to this Chamber, and I am sure we look forward to a full, learned and illuminating debate.

This is a Bill with a clear purpose; to bring gender equality to the rules of succession and to remove explicit pieces of religious discrimination from our statute book. In so doing, we will make the rules governing succession fit for the 21st century, and reaffirm and strengthen the place of the monarchy within our venerable constitutional settlement—a monarchy that has shown a remarkable ability to adapt over the centuries.

The Bill does three things. First, it ends the system of male preference primogeniture in the line of succession. Secondly, it removes the bar on a person who marries a Roman Catholic from succeeding to the Throne—a legal barrier that applies to Catholics and only Catholics and no other faith. Thirdly, it replaces the Royal Marriages Act 1772—an Act that requires any descendent of King George II to seek the reigning monarch's consent before marrying, without which their marriage is void. This clause has attracted some debate. It may help the House if I set out briefly why we have added this clause to the other principal planks of the Bill.

With King George II’s descendants now numbering in their hundreds, this law is clearly unworkable and so it is replaced with a provision that the monarch need only consent to the marriages of the first six individuals in the line of succession, without which they would lose their place. In this way, we retain the tradition of monarchical consent but, in limiting it to the people who could feasibly assume the Throne, it will be applied in a much more reasonable way.

These changes will be effected not just in the United Kingdom, but in each and every realm of the Commonwealth for which Her Majesty is head of state. This was the agreement made by the realm heads of government in Perth, Australia in 2011. That announcement let to a long consultation among the realms to agree a UK Bill that provides the framework for these important changes across the far corners of the Commonwealth.

Agreeing a Bill with such a global reach has indeed been a diplomatic feat and one which colleagues in New Zealand have led with vigour and dedication. It has also been some time in the making: it took more than a year of detailed discussions before we received the final written consent from each realm. At the beginning of this month, we saw the Canadian Succession to the Throne Bill have its Third Reading in the Canadian House of Commons, and that Bill is now being considered by the Senate. This demonstrates the careful choreography and consideration that has been required.

In many ways, this Bill is akin to an international treaty and it is incumbent on us to give this legislation detailed consideration of what I hope is a Bill with a clear purpose. This is not just to assure ourselves that the law is sound, but also to consider that these changes will be brought into effect in lands beyond our borders, lands that are tied together by a common history and monarch through the Commonwealth.

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Some, such as Canada, will pass their own legislation to achieve these goals, while others, such as Belize and Papua New Guinea, have been clear that legislation is not required in their jurisdictions and the laws can apply directly. With this in mind, I make it clear that it would, in my opinion, be unwise to use this Bill as a vehicle for UK-specific changes that would be of little or no relevance to the realms.

For this reason, the Bill does not, for example, touch on the complex and often emotive issue of hereditary peerages. Moreover, there are some key differences between the law on hereditary peerages and the rules governing succession to the Crown. First, the Crown does not become extinct if there are only female heirs. Secondly, the succession of the elder daughter or her descendants is automatic in the rules governing succession to the Crown, as indeed we saw when Her Majesty succeeded her late father, King George VI. Changes to the law on succession to the Crown can be effected without any change to the legitimate expectations of those in the line of succession. Changes to the rules governing succession to hereditary titles would be far more complicated to implement fairly. For this reason, we do not believe that changes to the rules governing succession to the Crown should serve the purpose of addressing what is the quite separate issue of hereditary titles.

I want to pause on the issue of hereditary titles to assure the House that the removal of the male bias in the rules governing the succession to the Crown will not result in any other royal titles becoming detached from the Crown. We must also bear in mind that any significant change to the substance of the Bill would require further consultation with the realms before it could be agreed. But that should not, and indeed it must not, prevent us having a full debate and giving this important constitutional change the scrutiny it deserves and requires. I fully concur with noble Lords on the Constitution Committee of this House who in their report on this issue noted the need to provide the opportunity for full debate in Parliament. With this in mind, I was glad to note that Members in another place had more than sufficient time to consider the amendments that were selected for debate. A number of issues were raised by Members in another place, including by Mr Rees-Mogg, who instigated a most enthralling debate on the position of the established church and the potential for a Roman Catholic to succeed to the Throne.

I want to reiterate in this House the Government’s full support for the established church in England, with the Sovereign as its supreme governor. We consider the relationship between the church and the state in England to be an important part of our constitutional framework, which has evolved over the centuries, and we have no intention of changing the position. It is also worth pausing briefly to consider what the Church of England has said on this matter, which has been set out in a briefing issued to noble Lords by the church. It states that,

“the present prohibition on anyone remaining in the line of succession or succeeding to the Crown as a result of marrying a Roman Catholic is not necessary to support the requirement that the Sovereign join in communion with the Church of England”.

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Indeed, this Bill does nothing to change the requirement that the Sovereign be in communion with the Church of England and maintain the established Protestant religion in the United Kingdom. In a speech in this place during the debate on the Queen’s speech on 14 May 2012, the then right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn said:

“The references in the humble Address to reform of the rules of royal succession are sensible and timely. I know I speak for all on these Benches when I say that we wish the Government well in their present consultations with the other Commonwealth realms. We look forward to and hope that it will then be possible for the necessary Bill to pass quickly through both Houses of Parliament”.—[Official Report, 14/5/12; col. 168.]

The Archbishop of Westminster has said that:

“I welcome the decision of Her Majesty’s Government to give heirs to the Throne the freedom to marry a Catholic”,


“I fully recognise the importance of the position of the Established Church in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today”.

I am sure that this issue will be something that noble Lords will wish to discuss further in the course of our deliberations.

A further issue that was raised in another place was whether the children of a mixed marriage would be required by canon law to be brought up as Roman Catholics. I should like to be clear that Roman Catholic teaching requires the Catholic partner in a mixed marriage to do their best to have the children raised as Catholics, but if there is a “just and reasonable cause”, and it is certainly my view that the protection of the place of the Established Church would qualify as a reasonable cause, then the local bishop can grant permission for the marriage. I want to make it clear that this decision is made at the level of the local bishop, not the Vatican.

There was also discussion in another place as to why the Royal Marriages Act was replaced with a provision requiring monarchical consent to the marriage of the first six in line to the Throne. I should make it clear that the power of monarchical consent to marriage should be limited to avoid undue restrictions and penalties on people who are not in the immediate line of succession. However, there remains a public interest that consent be given for the marriage of someone who may well become our head of state. Consent of the monarch to the marriage of the first six in line to the Throne provides, in the Government’s view, a modernisation of the rule. Since the Royal Marriages Act was passed, the Crown has never passed to anyone more than five steps removed from the reigning sovereign at the time of their birth, the furthest removed being Queen Victoria. Given that, the Government believe that the consent for the first six in line provides sufficient proximity to the Throne.

The Bill protects the spiritual and temporal position of our monarchy while also removing two long-standing pieces of discrimination currently entrenched in law against women and Roman Catholics. Removing discrimination should never be described as an “unnecessary tinkering”, as some have described it. The Bill provides for equality between the sexes in the line of succession. Looking back to our great female monarchs, not least to our own sovereign, Her Majesty

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Queen Elizabeth II, and the great service that they have all provided for our country, I hope that these are changes that we can all support. I commend the Bill to the House.


Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Minister for opening the debate in that way. He says that he looks forward to a learned debate. I fear that I will not be able to start at that level, but I hope that others will raise the level thereafter.

I congratulate the Government on their successful negotiations with the other Commonwealth countries, and I warmly welcome the Bill both on behalf of the Official Opposition and, if I may, on my own behalf. Labour’s 2010 manifesto stated that the Labour Party believes,

“that there is a case for reform of the laws concerning marriage to Roman Catholics and the primacy of male members of the Royal family”.

That was in 2010 but my own commitment to this goes back almost 60 years when I was first incensed, at quite a young age, at learning of the rule that younger brothers took precedence over older sisters. Perhaps I should be grateful because I think that my feminism started from those days. However, it means that for me it is a particular honour and privilege to play even the tiniest part, along with your Lordships, in rectifying this centuries-long discrimination.

We have, of course, been expecting at least the first two clauses of this Bill since the Prime Minister’s announcement at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth—mentioned by the Minister—in October 2011, along with the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s subsequent welcome of it in December of that year, as well as Her Majesty’s own words here in your Lordships’ House on 9 May last year, when she said:

“My Government will continue to work with the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms to take forward reform of the rules governing succession to the Crown”.—[Official Report, 9/5/12; col. 1.]

It is perhaps particularly apt that we should be discussing this on Valentine’s Day—a day of love and happiness—and in the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen’s reign, celebrating her 60 years of brilliant leadership. There is perhaps no finer record of female suitability for the Crown than her own. I think that this Bill is a better tribute to her record than a piece of frozen land in Antarctica.

The measure has been a long time coming, although of course if the summer babe is a boy, it may be another 30 years until that son produces a daughter and before this part of the Bill has any effect, so its long gestation may yet have some way to run. I hope, though, that I might be forgiven for keeping my fingers crossed that we may have a girl this year.

It is always fun to think about what might have been had the first born always been the heir. Today is the 400th wedding anniversary of the marriage of James I’s eldest child, Elizabeth Stuart, to the Elector Palatine Frederick. How different history might have been, had she been permitted to ascend to the throne.

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The second clause, allowing an heir to the Throne to marry a Catholic, is also long overdue, and it is another issue that has troubled me for about half a century. It is a welcome move towards equality. It does not remove the bar on a Catholic becoming King or Queen but, again, I venture to suggest that this may not be an issue for some 50 years hence, and I, for one, will not be around in your Lordships’ House to speak to any amendment to the Bill at that stage.

The third clause removes an anachronism of which, despite supposedly being an historian, I confess that I was unaware until the Bill came our way. I will blame my supervisor, the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy—who is not in his place—for that lacuna in my historical education. It is true that I had always noticed the words, “The Queen has given her consent” on the announcement of the engagements of her grandchildren, nieces and nephews, but I had not quite realised the significance of those half-dozen words. Of course, this clause is likely to be the first of the three to have a real effect, so it is likely to be the one that we first see enacted.

I believe we all wish the young couple a happy event this summer and we hope that it will not be troubled by press harassment and intrusion. We wish this Bill well as it passes through your Lordships’ House.

12.05 pm

Lord Lang of Monkton: My Lords, I enter this important debate with some trepidation. I cannot help wishing that the Deputy Prime Minister was able to say the same thing. A letter received by the Constitution Committee from the secretary to the Catholic Bishop of Nottingham criticised the,

“nonchalance with which the Deputy Prime Minister seems to be treating a Bill that goes to the very heart of our constitutional settlement”.

I agree. Legislating on the succession to the Crown is like performing open-heart surgery on our constitution: it needs great care.

As a member of the Constitution Committee, I share the view expressed in our report that a Bill of this kind should not have been fast-tracked. I am glad that the Government have to some extent relented, but I feel that the preparation of the Bill and the consultation upon it have also been fast-tracked. There has been no prior debate in Parliament, no pre-legislative scrutiny, no White Paper—we are presented with a fait accompli agreed by all the other Commonwealth realms. We are told it has been extensively discussed with those realms, but one cannot help suspecting that such scrutiny will have been confined to consideration of how these changes would fit into their own constitutional laws rather than the merits of the changes themselves.

Now, constitutional arrangements that have provided stability and clarity for three centuries are to be swept away in the blink of an eye. I do not wish to strike a discordant note, but it is hard to avoid the view that parliamentary scrutiny was not really wanted. I have no problem with the introduction of gender equality in the line of succession. It is in keeping with the mood of the times and does not seem to raise long-term problems for the Crown.

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Freedom of religion is in principle a desirable aspiration, but of course this Bill does not provide it, and nor can it. The nub of the matter is that on the one hand it allows the heirs to the Throne for the first time to marry Catholics but on the other hand it leaves untouched the absolute ban on the Throne being occupied by other than a member of the Church of England. The dynamics of the Bill create an inescapable collision course. We may not know precisely what the unforeseen consequences will be or when they will emerge, but we may be sure that sooner or later they will emerge.

As neither a Catholic nor an Anglican myself, I have tried to view objectively the potentially destructive tension that is built into the Bill, but it seems to me that in a hereditary monarchy such as ours, the line of succession should be secure, settled, transparent, wholly predictable and with no room for doubt. The changes introduced by this Bill do not meet that test, and that may well place the stability of the monarchy at risk at some time in the future.

I would like to focus my remarks on two issues: first, the repeal of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which could easily have been updated and modified, and its replacement with an arbitrary designation of the first six persons in the line of succession as requiring the monarch’s consent to their marriages; secondly, the change introduced in Clause 2, which will relax the ban on marriage to Catholics. Confining the requirement of marriage consent to six certainly narrows the field, but it increases the focus upon them. It thus condenses the problem. It jars with the relaxation of the ban on marriage to Catholics in a way that is at best unsettling.

Why six, one wonders? I ask my noble and learned friend what the rationale for this number is. In his opening speech, he mentioned Queen Victoria, who started life at five removes from the Throne. Well, six is one more than five, but that is hardly a considered basis for long-term constitutional change. The Deputy Prime Minister described the decision as being arbitrary but pragmatic. With great respect to him, I suggest that “ill considered” and “wrong” could equally well describe it. I believe that the number is inadequate because it does not bring certainty. There is a tendency to think of the succession in a linear way, with the Crown passing down tidally through the generations, but that is not the way it happens. Initial expectations often go unfulfilled. Henry VIII, for example, was a second son, Charles I was a second son, George V was a second son, and George VI was a second son.

One should instead think of the line in terms of family groupings and with wide age ranges within each. Let us consider in times to come, perhaps many years from now, the example of an heir to the Throne, No. 1 in the club of six. He or she may already be aged around 60 or more given the trend of life expectancy, married to an Anglican, and with three children and a couple of grandchildren. They are all club members. The future looks secure, but life is always fragile—and I did not list the ways in which disaster can befall a family.

The normal assumption seems to be that those in the line of succession could start their lives close to the Crown then move down the line and out of the club of

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six as time goes by. But it could happen the other way. In the example that I have given, the reigning sovereign’s second and only other child could suddenly find themselves back in the club of six and heir to the Throne, but while out of the club he or she had married a Catholic and they had Catholic children, who are therefore debarred.

So the line shoots out to nephews and nieces of the sovereign and their children, who have been living relaxed and normal lives in who-knows-what marital and religious circumstances, with no expectation of being brought back into the club of six in which some of them may have started their lives. We would even end up with a succession by leapfrog, finding Anglican heirs each surrounded by their Catholic families.

Perhaps I exaggerate the risk of this kind of instability, but perhaps not. Six, I suggest, is not enough if we want a settled, stable line of succession of which we can be certain—12 perhaps, but not six. I understand that the number of six was not mentioned in the Perth agreement and ask my noble friend whether the Government might be receptive to an amendment to that effect.

On the issue of religion, we are told that both churches have expressed acceptance of the Bill. The Catholic Church has nothing to lose and everything to gain from it. Anglicans, however, have everything to lose and nothing to gain, so I fear their position says more for their generosity of spirit than for the worldliness of their wisdom.

In fact, the clause covering sovereign’s consent does not mention Catholics, but by specifying no religion it opens the door somewhat furtively to a potential ban in the hands of the reigning monarch on any of the first six in line at any one time from succeeding to the Throne, not because a Catholic spouse might be involved but for whatever reason or whatever religion the monarch chooses. Far from being a restriction, that is quite a substantial extension of their power.

In our constitutional monarchy—the noble Baroness referred to this—the monarch acts on the advice of Ministers, but given the very personal and familial nature of the decisions taken, involving some of but not necessarily all his or her own children, one can readily see how painful these decisions would be for the monarch and how easily controversy and crisis could alight on the head of the sovereign of the day. That is not a recipe for stability, or for happy families.

We know from the Minister’s statement during debate in another place that anyone who has ever “professed” the Catholic faith is barred from ever succeeding to the Throne. That seems to be definitive and to rule out a change to Anglicanism for those royal children who started as Catholics, again raising the possibility of block disqualifications from the succession. In his oral evidence to our committee, however, the Deputy Prime Minister indicated that the Catholic Church’s attitude had changed so that the royal children of a Catholic parent could be brought up solely as Anglicans and thus remain in the line. He told us:

“There is a lot of flexibility”.

The secretary to the Catholic Bishop of Nottingham disagreed. His letter to us told us that,

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“there is still a presumption that the Catholic party in a so-called ‘mixed marriage’ will promise to have their children baptised and brought up as Catholics”.

I know that my noble friend referred to this, but I make no apology for repeating it as it is important. He quoted to us the detailed rules from Canon 1125 of the Code of Canon Law, which are indeed robust. For good measure, he added:

“Should a Catholic spouse of a future sovereign wish to bring up their children as Catholics, a constitutional crisis would surely ensue”,

so having a word with your local bishop might not get the right result.

Frankly, that is no way to contemplate the line of succession to our country’s Crown. The Deputy Prime Minister has cheerfully suggested that negotiations for a dispensation could be opened with the Vatican. I noticed that my noble friend was slightly backing off from that position today. Perhaps one could appeal to the Pope, and I suppose the Pope might say yes, but he might say no. After all, there is not a great deal of support in the Vatican for gender equality or religious freedom.

Anyway, I seem to remember that in 1533 Parliament passed an Act in Restraint of Appeals to Rome, which was part of the process whereby England underwent the Reformation. I would not go so far as to suggest that the consequence of this Bill might be to unpick the Reformation, but to encourage the British Royal Family to appeal to Rome in matters affecting the succession to the British Crown seems rather to cut across the history of the past five centuries.

In conclusion, this is not a well made Bill. It defers to the zeitgeist in matters of gender and religious freedom, at the expense, in the latter case, of stability and certainty. I believe that as a result of it pressure is bound to grow over time to allow our sovereigns to have a free choice of religion. Whether that is right or wrong, that would bring with it a sea of troubles. Church and monarchy in this country have been closely linked since almost as long as these two institutions have existed, long pre-dating the matters that we are tinkering with in the Bill. In each reign, the bonds are renewed and made manifest in the coronation oath and the anointing of the new monarch. This little Bill, hurried through Parliament, could well turn out to be a halfway house. I fear it does a disservice to both church and monarchy and casts an unsettling shadow over the future.

12.16 pm

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I wish to begin by expressing admiration for the attitude that has been taken by the 16 realms towards the appropriate changes to the succession to the Crown. It is almost beyond debate that the gender disqualification should be removed in the 21st century. I do not wish to dwell on the positive aspects of the Bill, which are strong and which I think this House would wish to support, but I would rather wish to draw my noble friend’s attention to the unresolved issue of the religion of the monarch.

Some years ago, shortly after I entered this House, I proposed a Motion that was widely, although not universally, supported, calling for the disestablishment

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of the Church. As we live in a united kingdom, it is rather strange to have two established Churches. My father was Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland and was the Queen’s representative there. She was potentially wearing two hats: one as the head of the Church of Scotland and one as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Lord Trefgarne: Is the Church of Scotland an established Church? I think not.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: Yes, it is an established Church. It seems to me that the time has come to recognise that the essence of Christianity is tolerance and to love thy neighbour as thyself. That cannot be entirely consistent with an exclusive attitude towards other religions. This is not a matter that presses down on our constitution at this time, but it is a matter of growing concern that we observe even in Europe rulings made by Governments about other religions, about what clothes they may wear, what turrets they may have on their places of worship. Those should not be matters for the state, they should be decided by the churches themselves, as long as they do not interfere with the freedom of worship of the individual.

I am happy that a move has been made, with the agreement of 15 other realms of the Commonwealth, to enable the heir to the Throne to marry a Roman Catholic, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Lang said, that reveals problems that will almost certainly arise in future. It is not clear what the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church is to the education of the children of Roman Catholics. In so far as statements have been made by the Church itself, as opposed to those made by the Deputy Prime Minister, it appears that bringing up the children of a Roman Catholic in the Roman Catholic religion is a requirement. I am bound to say that that creates a degree of instability to which the noble Lord, Lord Lang, was right to point.

At this time in our country, we ought to recognise that a Buddhist or a Quaker could succeed to the Throne, but that would not put any kind of threat on the stability of our society. As the noble Lord, Lord Lang said, the history of the monarchy has been linked to the established Church. I am sorry to say that I think that it has been a regrettable history. It has led to persecution of people for their individual faiths. It has led, for example, to our greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, concealing his religion and having to live under cover. It has led, in the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth, to the massacre of Roman Catholics as a matter of system.

The Lord Bishop of Exeter: I fully support the Bill, but if we are going to go into history, it is terribly important to remind ourselves of the reason why the prohibition against a Catholic was brought into English law in the first place. It has its origins in the bull Regnans in Excelsis of Pope Pius V in 1570, which absolved all English Catholics of any responsibility to obey the laws of the English realm, and indeed placed any English Catholic who so obeyed under the possibility, indeed, the likelihood, of excommunication. It was

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that bull that was used as the justification for the rebellion against the Crown in Ireland. That is the historical reason. I am not saying that it necessarily applies to where we are today, but if we are going to revisit history, it is important that we do so accurately and understand why these things entered into our historical experience.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: I understand why they entered into our constitution but to judge people on the basis of their belief, because they have been given permission by the hierarchy of the Church to which they belong to disobey the laws of the state, seems not to connect the individual with the Crown. That led, in so many cases, to execution, cruelty, torture and abysmal behaviour on the part of those who were supporting the established Church—including the monarch herself.

Lord Deben: Did my noble friend notice that the right reverend Prelate said that he did not think that those reasons necessarily applied today? Surely it is unacceptable that anybody should say that those reasons apply in any sense today, given that of the people in church on a Sunday who pray for Her Majesty’s health, more of them are in Catholic churches than in any other denomination.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: I entirely agree with my noble friend. It seems to me that we should not allow our future disposition on the succession to the Crown to be governed by what happened in the 1570s, which to my mind was a period of shame.

Lord Deben: On both sides.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: On both sides—I accept that. I hope that we can accept as a very valuable step in the right direction the provisions of this Bill, which recognise that marriage to a Roman Catholic is acceptable by the heir. The fact that there are so many unresolved questions seems not entirely surprising, bearing in mind that we were seeking to get the agreement of 15 other Commonwealth countries, However, I hope that the discussion will continue and that we will see our country and our democratic Commonwealth fellows move towards recognising that religion is not a requirement of the sovereign and that the sovereign should be an exemplar to all religions. The utterance of the heir to the Throne about regarding himself as a defender of the faiths, in the plural, was an enlightened comment and I hope that we can move in that direction.

12.27 pm

Lord Luce: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former Lord Chamberlain of Her Majesty’s Household and I welcome this Bill. I find it difficult to be quite as gloomy as some of the remarks we have heard so far from noble Lords because essentially, as the Minister said, the heart of this Bill is to remove discrimination against females and against Roman Catholics. This issue has been debated, as we know, over many decades. For the past three or four decades, we have been debating this and support for this removal of discrimination, particularly against females, has been

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widespread in Parliament and in the community. It seems that successive Governments have waited for an event to happen in order to feel the need to introduce measures of this kind, but I welcome them all the same.

The strengths of the monarchy, as we know, include not only the service that the monarch gives to the community, which is its most important strength, but the ability of the monarchy to adapt to new circumstances. This Bill is an indication of just that. Whether we have had enough time to debate these issues is a matter for discussion but I am glad that the Government are dealing with this in a typically British, pragmatic fashion. The Bill is limited in scope, principally because, as we have already heard, 16 realms had to be consulted and had to pass similar measures through their legislative assemblies. That also means that it does not tamper, I am glad to say, with the whole question of the establishment of the Church of England, nor with the question of succession for, for example, hereditary Peers. The commitment goes back to October 2011 and that agreement in Perth. Once all the Parliaments have implemented that, it will be retrospective to that date.

There is one aspect of the Bill that I would like to pursue, partly along the lines of the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lang. It relates to Clause 2, under which marriage to a Roman Catholic will no longer result in a member of the Royal Family losing his or her place in the line of succession. If we look back over the centuries, as we have discussed, discrimination and prejudice against Roman Catholics has a very long history. Looking at the Act of Settlement 1700, the threat to the Throne from Louis XIV of France and the strains in those days with Rome, I find it difficult to envisage today President Hollande posing a similar threat to our Throne. We live in a different age of greater tolerance between the faiths.

Clause 2 does not affect the establishment of the Church of England and the requirement of the monarch as its Supreme Governor to,

“join in communion with the Church of England”,

but, as the noble Lord, Lord Lang, pointed out, for children to retain their place in the line of succession, they must be brought up within the Anglican faith. This has to be reconciled with Canon 1125, where the obligation on the parents is that,

“the catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptised and brought up in the catholic Church”.

Some have used the term “best endeavours” to describe that canon, in that parents should use their best endeavours. I want to pose a question about whether we have sufficient assurance, as it were, that misunderstandings may not arise following the marriage of a member of the Royal Family to a Roman Catholic regarding the position of their children.

We have a precedent to go on: their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who are of a mixed faith marriage but whose children are both brought up in the Anglican faith. We hear that there is more flexibility in the Roman Catholic Church on these issues. If we go back to the Perth agreement in

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October 2011, it was the former most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who said that there needs to be “a clear understanding” that the heir is brought up in the Church of England environment. Alongside that, the Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Nichols, as I think the Minister said, welcomed the proposals and recognised the importance of the role of the Established Church.

Clearly, if the parents are presented with a mixed marriage and are deciding about their children, they will be well aware that a Roman Catholic upbringing for their child would remove their right to be monarch. However, I ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they would consider exploring with the Roman Catholic Church, but perhaps particularly with the Archbishop of Westminster, whether it will clarify further its attitude to this in order to minimise the risk of misunderstanding. I have in mind here a statement along the lines of a reference to the importance of the role of the established church; acknowledging the special circumstances that might arise for the children of a mixed-faith marriage involving the line of succession; referring to the precedent of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent; and accepting that the children of such an interfaith marriage would be likely to be brought up in the Anglican faith. I would like see a clearer statement from the Roman Catholic Church in order to minimise misunderstanding, and I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance that this matter could be explored over the next few weeks.

12.35 pm

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I welcome the Bill. The Church of England, as has been intimated, is, broadly speaking, content with the Bill as drafted. We understand the concerns expressed by some about the fast-tracking of constitutional legislation and would usually share them, but the Government are entitled to point out that these proposals have been worked on over a long period, discussed carefully with the church and, as has been observed, agreed with other realms.

The vast majority of people would surely agree that male primogeniture is not appropriate and it is right that this should be changed. The Bill marks a necessary stage in the evolution of the relationship between the monarchy and the people of this country. Such evolution has helped to ensure that the monarchy has been sustained in the affections of the people of this nation. We are all delighted about the impending birth of a child to the Duchess of Cambridge, and it is timely that this change should take place now.

As for male primogeniture, so for the prohibition on marrying a Roman Catholic and remaining in the line of succession to the Throne. The relationship between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, as has been pointed out in your Lordships’ Chamber, has changed drastically, I am pleased to say, since the 15th and 16th centuries, but it is worth noting that there has been a sea change in ecumenical relations between the two churches in recent years, as evidenced by the warmth of the relationship between Pope Benedict and the former most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, a warmth that I would say extends over the realm. For

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example, the Archbishop of Birmingham has recently accepted my invitation to become an honorary canon of Worcester cathedral. This means that the prohibition on an heir to the Throne marrying a Roman Catholic is somewhat out of time.

This change would not undermine or replace the requirement that the sovereign join in communion with the Church of England or threaten the establishment of the Church of England—something, as has already been pointed out, that the Archbishop of Westminster has stated publicly that he values, saying that he fully recognises the importance of the position of the established church in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am most grateful to the right reverend Prelate for giving way. As a member of the Church of Scotland, could he help me with why it necessarily follows that if the sovereign were allowed to be a Catholic, the position of the established church would be undermined? This may not be the happiest of precedents, but James I was both a Catholic and head of the Church of England. Is it beyond the wit of modern men and women to devise a scheme that would allow the sovereign to be a Catholic and the head of the Church of England?

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: Our position would be that it is very important that the monarch, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, should be a member of it. I am not sure that I want to go into that whole area at the moment; rather, I shall confine myself to what the Bill actually does and does not imply.

Her Majesty the Queen takes very seriously her position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and it is important to us that nothing in this legislation threatens that. The established church brings so much to our nation, as Her Majesty herself observed at Lambeth Palace last year. She said:

“we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life. The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.

It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents. But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely. Woven into the fabric of this country, the Church has helped to build a better society—more and more in active co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths”.

I support this Bill wholeheartedly, and I wish the Government well in it.

12.40 pm

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, in rising to intervene in this debate, let me start by saying that a powerful case can be made for the line of descent for the Crown being through the sovereign’s eldest child rather than the eldest son in the first instance. That said, I am not sure that the Government have really considered all the implications of this proposal. For example—the

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Minister referred to this—most hereditary peerages descend through the eldest male heir, where there is one, or sideways if there is not. Against that background, what will happen in respect of the hereditary peerages held by the sovereign other than the Crown itself? For example, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is also the Earl of Chester, the Duke of Cornwall, the Duke of Rothesay, the Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew. What happens to them? They are all hereditary titles. They will also presumably descend with the Crown. Does that mean that they will now go through the female line as the Crown will? I hope my noble friend will be able to explain that.

His Royal Highness Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh holds at least two other hereditary titles: the Barony of Greenwich and the Earldom of Merioneth. These, likewise, are hereditary titles which will presumably one day be inherited by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. What will happen to those titles thereafter if there is a female heir in due course?

If the principle of descent through the first-born child rather than the eldest son is important, then surely the same arguments apply in respect of the hereditary peerage. While a very few peerages—mostly Scottish ones—can and do descend through the female line, most do not, but the principle is the same and ought to be applied to hereditary peerages as to the sovereign. I hope the Minister will be able to explain in more detail why this Bill does not deal with hereditary peerages. I recognise that he touched on this in his opening remarks, but this matter cannot be left unaddressed.

Clause 2 removes disqualification from succeeding to the Crown arising from marriage to a Roman Catholic. Again, I am not persuaded that the Government considered all the implications of this apparently simple change. Is it not the case that when a Protestant marries a Roman Catholic—the noble Lord, Lord Luce, referred to this—the couple are required by Roman Catholic law to bring up their children as Roman Catholics, as has been mentioned already? The pressure upon people in a two-faith marriage to bring up their children as Catholics is pretty strong. I know that from within my own experience. Thus it follows, it would seem to me, that in certain circumstances the heir to the Throne and future Supreme Governor of the Church of England could be a Roman Catholic. Although it is apparently the case that at one point in the Middle Ages a former Archbishop of Canterbury was appointed to the Holy See, that is hardly a suitable precedent.

Clause 3 relates to the sovereign’s consent in respect of certain royal marriages. This provision apparently replaces earlier provisions relating to royal marriages, mostly in the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which is to be repealed. Has any consent required by the 1772 Act ever been refused, and if so, what were the consequences? Under the new arrangement, the consent, if granted, must be confirmed as provided in Clause 3(2). Could the consents required under Clause 3, or more likely refusal of consent, be challenged by, for example, judicial review? Such a consent once granted cannot, I suspect, be so challenged, but perhaps a refusal could be. I hope that my noble friend can offer some guidance on that.

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Finally, Clause 5 relates to the commencement and Short Title. This is an important constitutional measure that changes the law going back many centuries. For such a measure to come into force purely as and when the Lord President may decide is, to say the least, unusual. Nobody is a greater admirer of my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister than I am—most of the time, anyway—but such an important constitutional measure should surely come into force when Parliament decides, not on the whim of a single Minister, no matter how senior. Should the Bill not come into force on Royal Assent? I appreciate that that cannot happen until all the Commonwealth nations have given their formal assent, which includes parliamentary approval in most cases, so perhaps some time ought to be allowed for that, but I do not think it is right that it should simply be decided upon by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister.

I have to confess that I am not overly enamoured by the Bill. It seems that much of it has not been as carefully thought through as it should have been. I referred to the Bill coming into force. I think there ought to be a sunset clause to the Bill so that if some of the Commonwealth nations do not decide within a reasonable period that they wish to be guided by the provisions of the Bill, it ought not to come into force. You surely cannot have a position where some nations have agreed to it and some have not.

I am not opposing the first principles of the Bill, but I believe that a number of its important features need careful consideration and, no doubt, amendment in Committee.

12.47 pm

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I give this Bill my enthusiastic welcome. The issues have been debated frequently, there has been a succession of Private Members’ Bills, one of which I introduced to this House about nine years ago, and nobody can say that the topic is not pretty well understood.

I shall refer briefly to The Future of the Monarchy: The Report of the Fabian Commission, which came out about 10 years ago. It embodied many aspects of the Bill, but went a bit further. It may well be that this is the first time that the Fabian Society has produced a report that has been taken up by a Government other than a Labour Government. I am sure George Bernard Shaw and the Webbs would have been delighted if they had known that this would happen. The Fabian Commission included two Members of this House and a former Clerk of the Parliaments. Indeed, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop gave evidence to it. So there has been a great deal of discussion about this, but we may need to wait perhaps 30 years to know where the impetus for this Bill came from—whether it came from the Conservative Party or the Liberal Democrats—but perhaps that is not important today.

When I introduced my Bill, the main objection to it was that the issue was too all-embracing and too difficult to be the subject of a Private Member’s Bill, and on the basis of that argument, I withdrew it. Since then, 15 other Commonwealth countries have been consulted and this Government have worked very hard to bring the Bill to the present position. I think we should all be delighted that it is now before us.

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The clear point, which has been stated by many Members of this House, is that as a country we are totally opposed to discrimination on grounds of gender or religion. It is wrong that there should be discrimination at the highest level in our country. In the words of the Fabian Society report:

“It should no longer be acceptable for the monarchy to embody what are effectively forms of institutionalised discrimination”.

That is very good. Of course, I fully understand that, given the happy event expected by the Duchess of Cambridge later on this year, it is important that the Bill becomes law before she has a son or a daughter. And there can be no doubt that the Queen herself has clearly demonstrated how ably and effectively a woman can do the job. I believe that history may well judge her to have been our most effective monarch. That is a big statement, but she must certainly be on the shortlist for such an accolade.

In passing, I remind the House of the Queen’s visit to Ireland a couple of years ago. By any standards, her visit was a breathtaking success and further improved our good relationship with Ireland. Although we do not talk about it very much now, in Ireland they still talk about the success and importance of that visit, and how well the Queen handled all the issues that arose.

Another matter that has been referred to in a number of speeches, including in the Minister’s, is the effect of the principle in this Bill on the nobility. I know that newspapers have written about it quite enthusiastically and have interviewed a number of Members of this House. It is clearly not for this Bill, and others may judge how to take it further on a future occasion.

Dealing with gender discrimination in the Bill is absolutely straightforward; nobody has argued with that proposition. The same clearly cannot be said of religion. Indeed, most speeches so far have been concerned with the difficulties caused by the reference to Catholicism in the Bill. Let me therefore tiptoe into areas of controversy.

It is clear that the obvious difficulty is the position of the head of state as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. I am not persuaded that that could not be brought to an end without the Church of England being disestablished. I do not understand why our monarch has to be the Supreme Governor. Surely the Church of England could be the Established Church without that happening? If the head of state were no longer to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, many of the difficulties described in the Bill would disappear immediately. That would be a much more sensible position. Obviously, the alternative would be to disestablish the Church of England entirely, but I am not arguing for that. I am simply saying that the position of the head of state as Supreme Governor should be questioned. I am not sure that it does the church any good, and it would certainly make the Bill much more straightforward.

I have absolutely no intention of dealing with that matter at later stages of the Bill. The most important thing is for the Bill to become law as soon as possible, but it is only reasonable that a Second Reading debate gives us an opportunity to float issues. This I have done.

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I would like there to be a position in which the monarch herself or himself could in future be a Catholic, or of no faith, if he or she wished. That would be a better outcome than the present one. In any case, although we are talking about the Church of England—I am not an expert on all religions—we are also talking about the Queen as the sovereign in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All sorts of difficulties arise other than the Queen being Supreme Governor of the Church of England. That is an additional argument for making the change that I have suggested.

These are clearly issues for the future. Today, I repeat my warm and enthusiastic welcome for the Bill, and wish it a speedy passage into law.

12.53 pm

Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I declare an interest as father and stepfather of five admirable females, each of whom tends to treat me graciously as a kind of loyal subject.

The Bill is timely. It seeks to ensure the stability and the acceptable continuity of the realm. I happen to be, like a number of other Members of your Lordships’ House, the first member of my family ever born in the United Kingdom. My father could have gone to the United Kingdom, the United States of America or possibly elsewhere. He was born in 1904, and from an early age was a fervent Anglophile. Part of what brought him here, as he told me many times, was the sense of historical continuity given by the Crown. The Bill and the negotiations that have preceded it are a mark of the willingness of the Crown to embrace modern values and diversity in society, particularly relating to the role of women.

I will raise four points with my noble friend the Minister, of which he has had advance notice. I acknowledge the part played in these by a brilliant and unusual constitutional lawyer called Graham McBain, who has written copiously and persuasively about this subject and about redundant statutes. Although I will not be moving amendments at later stages of the Bill, as it would be inappropriate on this Bill, these are anomalies which the Government should consider.

The first relates to the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. The Government have remembered in the Bill to amend the Regency Act 1937 so that a person who fails to obtain the consent of the Queen to their marriage cannot be regent. This is reasonable. The Regency Act also prevents a Catholic from being regent by reference to the Act of Settlement 1700. However, the Bill provides that the Act of Settlement is now subject to the Bill. The result is quite simple: a Catholic can now be regent.

Except that it is not quite so simple, because the Government appear to have forgotten another Act of Parliament: the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. It, too, prevents a Catholic from being regent. By not repealing the 1829 Act, we will have one Act that allows a Catholic to be regent, and one that does not. I do not know if anyone will brief me to apply for judicial review if we ever have a Catholic regent, but it seems that this is the sort of issue that ought to be tidied up.

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Lord Deben: As I understand it, the regent is not Supreme Governor of the Church of England, which rather suggests that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was right to suggest that there ought to be some simple side-stepping of this to get over the whole problem. Would my noble friend not agree?

Lord Carlile of Berriew: I respectfully agree with my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, on this point.

My second point, which I was going to make in greater detail but will not, has already been made by my noble friend Lord Lang about consent to marriage and whether six is an adequate number. I would have taken the opposite view—that six is too large a number—on an entirely different point of principle. However, we should be able to debate this issue and determine it in relation to this Bill. It is a right in modern times for a man and a woman to marry whom they wish. Indeed, according to my rather dog-eared copy, the European Convention on Human Rights did not design that right but it makes clear that that right exists, not just in the United Kingdom but throughout the countries of the Council of Europe.

To prevent people from marrying whom they wish is quite an intervention in their human rights. To extend it to as many as six people is to extend it too far. I say to my noble friend Lord Lang that we live in a different era from the one in which Queen Victoria became the monarch. I have my doubts as to whether what happened then could happen now, or whether it is in the realms of reality given the welcome size of our modern Royal Family.

Thirdly, I suspect that the Government may have forgotten another law. Even before the Royal Marriages Act 1772, the sovereign had a right, and exercised it, not under statute but under the common law, to prevent marriages of other members of the Royal Family—for example, to prevent a dowager Queen from remarrying. It is possible that that right still applies and that, under the common law, the sovereign could enforce his or her consent in the case of the marriages of brothers, sisters, cousins et cetera. Therefore, I respectfully suggest to my noble friend the Minister that any anomaly in the common law should be abolished in this Bill so that we do not have another unforeseen problem.

My fourth point arises mainly from the fact that I was brought up in east Lancashire in the county palatine, where at every dinner I would be shocked if I did not hear the loyal toast made to the Queen, the Duke of Lancaster. Of course, that is a sovereign’s title, but there are other titles which the sovereign’s eldest child inherits, which already have been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. I would have drawn particular attention to the Duchy of Cornwall and, as someone who represented a constituency in mid-Wales, the earldom of Merionethshire, which is regarded with great value in that beautiful, if hard to access, part of rural Wales.

If His Royal Highness Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge have a girl, she will, thanks to the Bill, be able to become Queen. However, she cannot as of right become Duchess of Cornwall or

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Countess of Merionethshire. That seems to me to be an anomaly. I understand why the Government do not want to get involved in this Bill and in the hereditary peerage at large—that is a private grief enjoyed by a number of my noble friends in this House into which I would not wish to interfere. But surely we could engage in titles that belong to the heir to the Throne. In that, I support my noble friend Lord Trefgarne.

I raise these issues because, as I was thinking about it, I realised that we are unlikely to return to this subject for a few hundred years. That may be a blink in the evolution of your Lordships’ House—I would add “thank heavens” from my personal position rather than from my political position—but if it is to be a few hundred years before we return to this subject, should we not deal with it now? Should we not take into account these and other difficulties that might arise, sort them out and iron them out?

Finally, I am sure that your Lordships’ House would wish to join me in offering our warmest good wishes for the challenges of parenthood for the royal couple.

1.02 pm

Lord Janvrin: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate. I, too, must declare an interest as a former member of the Queen’s Household, and I should add, if it needs adding, that what I say represents my own views alone. I share the general view that any constitutional change needs to be approached with great caution and infinite care. Laws and conventions shaped by centuries of history should not be idly adjusted according to fashion or passing trend. Much hard thought needs to be given to digging deep into the longer term or the indirect effects of doing things differently.

It is essential to ensure that what may seem to be the benefits of constitutional change are not in fact outweighed by unforeseen, unintended or undesirable consequences. This is certainly the case with such a central element of our constitution as the laws of succession to the Crown. The issues around change in this area are perhaps compounded by the fact that the Queen is Queen not only of this country but of 15 other realms. Changing the rules is not a matter for us alone. If such a change is to work, 16 realms need to be signed up. This makes it a complicated matter and one not to be undertaken lightly. I can understand why Governments in the past may have left this issue firmly in the “too difficult” tray over many years.

Although I come from this starting point of caution, I would like to express my support for this Bill and its introduction at this time. It will strengthen the monarchy and strengthen one of our fundamental national values—a sense of fairness. It does so in a careful and evolutionary way that takes account of social change and modern realities without prejudicing some other important parts of our constitutional framework. I can understand that the Bill has necessarily had to be kept simple to be acceptable to the Governments of 16 independent realms. I take this opportunity to commend the work of the New Zealand Government, who I understand have taken the lead in negotiating this text across the realms.

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Let me comment briefly on three elements of the Bill. Central is the change to the existing system of male preference primogeniture; male heirs take precedence in the line of succession over their female siblings, regardless of relative ages. In this day and age, I do not think that most people would consider this to be fair. If in the future within the line of succession a younger son were to take precedence over an older daughter, it would seem to be at least controversial and at worst discriminatory, out of date and out of touch. To make this change now, therefore, strengthens the monarchy because it avoids any risk of such deep controversy.

However, there are of course consequences that need to be worked through. As many noble Lords have already mentioned, there are the rules governing royal titles and the much wider question of succession to hereditary peerages. I do not think that there is a problem with the Duchy of Lancaster, which remains with the sovereign whether male or female. As to the Duchy of Cornwall, I draw attention to the fact that the financial aspects of the duchy and parity were foreseen and are covered in the Sovereign Grant Act 2011.

On succession to hereditary peerages, the Government have stated that changing the rules governing succession to hereditary titles would be more complicated to implement fairly, which is probably an understatement but prudent. I think most people will understand that it is reasonable to ring-fence issues of royal succession from these difficult wider issues.

Clause 2 has been the subject of much of this debate. There is a balance to be struck between reducing discrimination against Roman Catholicism while at the same time upholding the position of the Church of England as the established church. On reflection, I support this change, and I declare an interest as a member of the Church of England and that my wife is Catholic. The law against the heir to the Throne marrying a Catholic has looked ever more anomalous in our increasingly multifaith society, as there is no such ban on him or her marrying someone from any other faith. Clause 2 removes this ancient bar, which might be seen at best as a historical curiosity and at worst as specific discrimination.

However, I would argue that there is a much more positive reason for welcoming this change. The legislation as it stands limits, in perhaps a significant way, the choice of a lifelong partner, husband or wife, for the heir to the Throne, who is destined to take on the onerous responsibilities of being the monarch of our country. Removing this limitation might make it just a little easier for him or her to find that ideal partner and a source of lifetime love and support in his or her difficult calling. That is in all our interests, and it is why I believe that, despite the difficulties that we have heard about today, this change strengthens the institution of monarchy and makes the world a little fairer.

This raises the question of whether the children of an Anglican-Catholic mixed marriage would be raised within the Anglican faith. I have listened with great interest to the most interesting contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Lang, on this. It is my understanding that over the years the Catholic Church has become more flexible on this issue. However, I draw attention to what my noble friend Lord Luce said: we need to

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look at whether ways can be found to ensure greater certainty that an heir to the Throne does not have to choose between the Throne and his or her faith. I am strengthened in the belief that this can be done because, as my noble friend said, there is already a precedent within the Royal Family of the children of an Anglican-Catholic marriage being brought up in the Anglican faith.

The third element of the Bill, the repealing of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, seems to be an obvious rationalisation, and I think is widely supported. Most of the discussion has focused on whether the sovereign’s permission to marry should be required at all and, if so, why it should be the first six in the line of succession. I have heard the arguments that no one should be prevented from marrying in this way, but my reading of the Bill is that failure to obtain permission simply means that the person and the person’s descendants are no longer in the line of succession, not that they cannot marry at all. I would argue that the retention of this element of permission is recognition that the choice of partner by someone who may become our sovereign is not simply a private choice; there are wider consequences for the Royal Family and for the country. To have that seeking of permission is what I would describe as something of a pause button, and it may not be out of place. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about whether six is the right number of people who must seek that permission.

In conclusion, I look forward to supporting this Bill. It is an example of evolutionary and incremental constitutional change, and I welcome it. One of the great strengths of the monarchy is its ability to change and adapt and be part of the society in which it operates. The Bill strengthens the monarchy, an institution that continues to make a huge contribution to our national life.

1.13 pm

Lord Lexden: Walter Bagehot wrote in 1867 that,

“one-half of the human race cares … fifty times more for a marriage than a ministry”.

So it came as no surprise at all when this coalition ministry decided that the immensely popular marriage of the second in line to the Throne should be followed by fundamental reforms of the monarchy, which had been under discussion for some years—indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Luce, reminded us, for decades. The reforms overturn some of the principles on which our monarchy has rested, for the most part securely, since the Reformation nearly five centuries ago, principles strengthened and extended under the 1689 settlement. The changes are therefore of profound importance.

The coalition ministry is to be congratulated on securing for them the full support of the 15 other Commonwealth countries of which Her Majesty the Queen is head of state. However, little has been heard of the progress that the 15 are making in implementing these fundamental changes. Those who have been following events in the 15 do not report consistent vigour and diligence. Despite progress made in Canada, to which my noble and learned friend the Minister alluded at the outset, doubts have been expressed about whether the necessary assent will in fact be

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forthcoming from all of them. The Government’s most laudable aim is that the new era in the world’s greatest monarchy, which is now foreshadowed, should begin simultaneously in all 16 realms. It would be useful to hear from my noble and learned friend today when the point of common action envisaged by the Government is likely to be reached.

The merits of the reforms are well known and I shall not dwell upon them. An immense amount of preparatory work has clearly been done. Even so, the Government seem so far to have given insufficient consideration to some of the most significant and wholly predictable consequences that these major constitutional changes will have. The most obvious and predictable of them all involve the Roman Catholic Church. Other noble Lords have alluded to this issue but, in view of its importance, I would like to return to it, following meekly in the wake of my fellow member of the Constitution Committee, my noble friend Lord Lang.

No one who marries a Roman Catholic in future will be excluded from the line of succession, but no one who is a Roman Catholic can wear the Crown. Immediately, people ask the obvious question: if a marriage to a Roman Catholic is contracted in the direct line of succession or close to it, in what faith will the children of that marriage be brought up? Confronted with this question by your Lordships’ Select Committee on the Constitution last month, Mr Clegg was totally untroubled, saying:

“The Catholic Church itself has not had a doctrine for many years obliging people who are of a mixed religious denomination to educate their children as Catholics … There is a lot of flexibility and the Catholic Church has been very clear about that”.

Mr Clegg is married to a Roman Catholic and might have been expected to have been absolutely accurate in his comments. In fact, as this debate has made clear, he was both right and wrong: right that the Roman Catholic Church is capable of exercising flexibility, but wrong that it has shed its doctrine on mixed marriages. As the Reverend Andrew Cole, to whom my noble friend Lord Lang, alluded, private secretary to the Bishop of Nottingham and Catholic chaplain to the University of Nottingham, stated in a letter to the chairman of the Constitution Committee, provoked by Mr Clegg’s remarks, there remains,

“a presumption that the Catholic party in a so-called ‘mixed marriage’ will promise to have their children baptised and brought up as Catholics”.

A blithely untroubled optimist such as Mr Clegg may happily assume that the requirement will be set aside in regard to the children of a mixed marriage in the line of succession to the Throne. In this crucial matter, helpful and reassuring comments have been made by the present Archbishop of Westminster. But Mr Clegg, the Archbishop and others speak only for themselves.

The greatest institution in our country—its 1,000 year-old monarchy—requires certainty to ensure its security and stability in the ages to come.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: I am very grateful to my noble friend for giving way. I, too, was on the Constitution Committee when we deliberated this Bill. Could he tell us whether what he describes as the

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constraints on the children of Catholics being bought up—and the Catholic Church’s perspective on that—would be different if the monarch was married to a Muslim, as is currently permissible? Muslim children are, likewise, expected to be brought up in mixed marriages as Muslims. So the anomaly exists in the case of other faiths, but perhaps not in the case of Catholics.

Lord Lexden: I thank my noble friend. This is a great matter. It is not possible for a child of a monarch to be eligible to take the position of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England if the monarch is a Catholic. That is why the issue arises in this connection and not in relation to other faiths.

I suggest a firm, binding and permanent declaration is needed from the Roman Catholic Church, recognising the unfettered right of a monarch, and of his or her heirs, to bring up their children as members of the Church of England for as long as the bar on a Roman Catholic monarch is retained.

I turn to a second set of utterly predictable consequences which the Government seemed singularly disinclined to address when the Bill was in the other place. They arise from the Bill’s first provision that succession to the Crown shall not depend on gender. The monarchy enfolds a number of historic titles to which deep respect as well as great importance is attached. Here I follow my noble friend Lord Trefgarne and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. The historic titles are central features of our nation’s heritage: the Duchies of Cornwall, Lancaster and Normandy; the Scottish titles of Rothesay, Carrick, Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland; and the title of Lord of Mann, under which the monarch is proprietor of the Isle of Man.

In its report on the Bill, the Constitution Committee highlighted the issue of succession to the Duchy of Cornwall. It stated:

“When the Duke of Cornwall succeeds to the throne, the Duchy automatically transfers to the new heir. At present, however, the Duchy can only be held by a male”.

As Mr Ben Wallace, who contributed so powerfully to the debates on the Bill in the other place made clear, the Duchy of Lancaster descends in the male line if there is a male child of a monarch to whom it can pass. Great properties and wealth are attached to both duchies. Both were originally established, I understand, in the Middle Ages under charters granted in Parliament.

As is well known, Scotland provides much more readily for female succession. Can all the monarchy’s titles in the peerage of Scotland be held by a woman with the principle of male primogeniture abrogated, along with the revenues that may be attached to them? What about the historic title, Lord of Mann? The people of the Channel Islands will want to know whether there are any implications of change for the Duchy of Normandy. So far the Government have shown themselves largely indifferent to these vital questions. In the closing stages of debate on this Bill in the other place, Mr Tom Brake, Deputy Leader of the House, said:

“Titles are a matter for the monarch. Because we are restricting the scope of the Bill, we can move forward”.—[Official Report, Commons, 28/1/13; col. 730.]

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I suggest that we cannot move forward on that basis. The great titles in question are matters for Parliament and the nation as well as for the Crown. Authoritative advice is surely needed on the full implications that Clause 1 of the Bill will have for these historic monarchical titles. The country is not short of learned peerage lawyers; should they not now be consulted? For in all this is there not a clear principle to be identified and upheld: that any woman who is first heir to, and then succeeds to, the Throne as Queen of our country under the terms of this legislation must possess and enjoy all the titles, dignities and honours that would be invested in a King? Otherwise, true gender equality will not be achieved.

The third and final consequence of this legislation on which I would like to touch differs from the other two in that it has not so far been evaded or left in a vague condition by the Government. Here again, I follow my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. As soon as the Government made clear their intention to set aside the principle of male primogeniture in the royal succession, they were at once asked whether this hallowed principle would also be endangered in respect of hereditary peerages. They replied that this was an entirely separate issue, which they had no plans to address. That at once raises the spectre of acute disagreement at the centre of the Royal Family itself. It would be wholly unsurprising if, in the years to come, Lady Louise Windsor, the first-born child of the Earl of Wessex, did not view with perfect equanimity the prospect of the succession of her younger brother to the earldom when the principle of male primogeniture had been set aside in the main line of royal succession. The wider ramifications are already obvious. This legislation has given determined ladies of blue blood and their male supporters the opportunity to secure greater publicity than ever before for the incompatibility between the principle of the equality of the sexes and the rules of succession attached to the overwhelming majority of hereditary peerages.

The Government cannot dispose of the matter merely by saying they have no plans to address it. The campaign for change which is now well under way will have been heartened by Mr Clegg, who said during his speech on Second Reading in another place:

“Personally, I am sympathetic to that reform”.—[Official Report, Commons, 22/1/13; col. 212.]

Elements of this legislation could introduce serious instability in the monarchy. The very existence of this legislation has already introduced it in the hereditary peerage.

I am not arguing against the principal aims of this legislation, which have such widespread political and public support. However, because of the far-reaching nature of the changes that it will make to our monarchy, the legislation needs to satisfy two clear questions: will it stand the test of time; and will it strengthen the institution that stands at the very centre of our national life? Unless both questions are satisfactorily answered, the Government will risk the charge that they have sacrificed tradition to modernisation instead of reconciling them sensibly and sensitively.

1.25 pm

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I wholeheartedly welcome every aspect of the Bill. My peerages currently descend

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on the same pattern as the monarchy. My grandmother, who held the titles, was a campaigner for gender equality, as was my mother, who held the titles after her, and, indeed, my father, so it is not surprising that I think that it is wonderful to have lived the past 60 years in a period of such change and progress. We clearly have some way to go yet and I do not think we have yet realised what the full consequences of gender equality will be, but we have made great progress. It is wonderful to be standing here at last contemplating the change to the succession of the Crown, which means that our head of state will now enjoy the same gender equality that the rest of us expect in the course of our ordinary lives.

It is important to focus also on the tidying up that follows this crucial change. Generally, it is never good enough to think that we have got 80% of the way on gender equality and we should be satisfied with that. The Church of England will be aware of how difficult it is to tidy up some of the difficult corners of this matter. None the less, we must do it because until the symbolism of male dominance is gone we will not have granted gender equality.

Several of my noble friends have touched on the subject of the hereditary peerage. I have a Bill on this subject sitting in the Printed Papers Office. It will not be debated in this Session but I hope that we will get around to it in the next. This is a difficult area, as several noble Lords have mentioned, not least because one is dealing with a succession of expectations. This Bill is well timed for the monarchy because we know exactly what the expectations are, but you cannot spread that over 1,000 plus hereditary peerages, let alone the baronetage, which probably ought to be wound up in it too. There are also in many cases, but, sadly, not mine, substantial properties tied up with titles. One does not want to do something which means that those diverge any more than we want the hereditary titles to diverge from the monarchy.

I suspected that we would reform this House a couple of years after 1999. I have been proved very wrong on that and perhaps the present system will see me out, but eventually we will get around to it. Even if hereditary Peers have no place in this House as of right, it is still a considerable thing to be called “Lord” or “Sir” because so many people now have these titles through their own virtue. For that matter, I imagine that it is a great thing to be called a duke, too. It is useful. It opens doors. On one occasion my wife rang The Ivy to see whether there was a table. She used her maiden name of Rubinstein and they said no, so she got her assistant to ring up five minutes later and ask whether Lord Lucas might have a table. The answer was yes, so titles, even those which are unearned, are not without consequence in this world. They are part of the historical pattern of the nation. As someone who enjoys having a title but also appreciates that in others, I think it is a nice part of the fabric of the nation which should not be largely restricted to men. This is a reform which we should seek to make. The imperfection in the Bill, in that it does not deal with the royal hereditary titles, gives me hope that the Government may find the motivation to support my Bill, or something like it, in the next Session.

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1.29 pm

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am pleased to be able to participate in this Second Reading debate because it is an important Bill. I support all its clauses, which I shall consider, but I am afraid, as many other noble Lords have said, the Bill needs to go a bit further. I am pleased that the Government have allowed us proper scrutiny, with Report and Third Reading in addition to Committee, if we need it.

I should first say that whatever we discuss in the longer term, as my noble friend Lady Hayter said, the Queen has a fine record in what she has done and does, but that should not prevent us from having a full discussion about the role of the monarch and the established church. In addition to the contents of the three main clauses, I have concerns about the requirement to seek approval of certain legislation from the Queen or the Prince of Wales if it affects their private interests. I have a problem with why they should get that consideration but other people with private interests do not. It is reported—because one never officially hears about these things—that the Queen actually blocked a Bill some years ago that would have required Parliament to vote before the Government declared war. That is a serious issue; the Bill is one of the few that clearly needs the Queen’s approval, and that is appropriate.

However, as regards the role of the monarch and a constitutional monarchy, I have always had worries about why so many members of the Royal Family, 12 of them, get free travel around the country—usually in a helicopter because we are told that it is needed for security and they have to get to the next fete opening more quickly. From what I remember from when I was a kid, the King, the Queen Mother and their two daughters when they grew up were the only ones who performed any serious royal duties. I am sure that they had their travel paid for, but is it right that the taxpayer should fund all this? I make the comparison with dear Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who announced her retirement and abdication last week and is regularly seen going around Amsterdam on a bicycle, whereas our lot, depending on their status, have either five or three motorcycle escorts. I can understand why the security people recommend that because it means more jobs for them, but is it all necessary, or is it hyped up a bit?

I turn to the succession issue in Clause 1. This is clearly a good thing. I am not going to get involved in the debate about the succession to peerages, although some of my cousins were splashed across the Sunday Times last weekend—that is fine. I do not know whether the succession of a peerage goes along with succession of property; I am no expert. However, the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, mentioned the question about the Duchy of Cornwall and whether a female heir would become the Duchess of Cornwall and the Princess of Wales. The Duchy of Cornwall is a bit of a money-spinner because its annual accounts for 2011-12 show a total income of £26.5 million, of which £18.3 million is surplus, distributable to His Royal Highness. That 70% profit in any other business would normally attract a very large amount of tax, unless one was on a tax fiddle—which I am sure does not apply in this

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case. However, it is questionable why anyone in the Royal Family should have this benefit when other landowners do not. There is a strong argument for merging the duchy with the Crown Estates and ensuring that the money allocated to the monarch for public duties also covers the eldest child. The only other organisation that I can think of that makes such hefty profits is the Macquarie Bank, which we mentioned in a debate in your Lordships’ House last week. There is time to look at issues such as that and perhaps make proposals in the long term.

In terms of the succession, I hope that gender does not matter, but there has been the resignation of the Pope this week. It made me think of the story of the female Pope, if it is true, back in 800 AD. She was found out only when she had a baby that fell from underneath her surplice or cassock, or whatever it is called. Ever since then, there has apparently been a medical method of checking whether the Pope is a man or woman. I do not think that they have found any women since then. I do not even know if the story is true, but in Tudor times it was normal to have a Minister present when the Queen had a baby, just to check that it was in the proper line of succession. It may well be, if we are that keen to make sure that one inherits after the other in the proper succession, that the modern equivalent would be a DNA test on the heir to the throne before they succeed. As a noble Lord said earlier, we need certainty, and that would certainly confirm the lineage of the prospective heir to the Throne.

As to whether the monarch can marry a Roman Catholic, I have listened carefully to the debate and I really cannot see what difference the religion of the head of state makes. We can consider the latest surveys of the proportion of people who go to which church and so on, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, reminded us, there are two established churches in this country—the Welsh have been sensible and do not have one, as far as I know. It is quite possible to separate the head of the Church of England from the monarch. An election could be interesting if the church decided to do that, and I suppose that the alternative is the Catholic way of going into a huddle and then producing a smoke signal when you have chosen someone. However, it does not make any difference to the monarch or the churches whether they are separate.

Then there is the question of whether the monarch can divorce. What would happen? Would they have to give themselves permission to divorce and remarry? It is an interesting question and I am sure that the Minister will be able to give me an answer. It is pretty odd that the whole edifice of the monarch and the constitution relies on who they are permitted to marry. What happens if the heir becomes King or Queen and then decides to get married? I suppose that he or she would have to take the advice of the Prime Minister of the day in considering whether the future bride or bridegroom was suitable and, presumably, came from the right background and religion, and was not someone who was not approved of. We are getting into difficult territory here. I would not dream of moving an amendment and dividing the House on such a matter at this stage, but I hope that we can debate this issue a bit longer and harder.

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What are the roles and responsibilities of the monarch? What is their ability to interfere informally or formally with government? We are well aware of the infamous spidery handwriting of the letters that Prince Charles is alleged to have written. That is not the right way for the Prince of Wales to learn how to be a monarch who does not interfere in the day-to-day decisions of the Government. We must sort out the difference between private and public responsibilities. Who owns what? Who owns all those palaces and pictures? Is it the monarch as a private individual, or is it the state, with the monarch there for the duration of his or her reign?

In conclusion, the changes I have talked about are necessary to bring the monarchy and the constitution into the 21st century. They could all happen and it would not be the end of the world or of this country. I look forward to further debates on the issue.

1.40 pm

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I suppose that I should declare an interest as a member of the Church of England who is married to a Catholic. Perhaps I should also declare that my eldest child is a girl who was followed by two boys. She announced that she would follow closely the proceedings in your Lordships’ House—to the slight consternation of her two younger brothers.

As has been explained, we live in a country where two powers are merged in the Crown: the head of state and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Queen is not the head of the Church of Scotland but appoints the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. My worry is that the long-term effect of the Bill could be the disestablishment of the Church of England.

While many in the House will support the right of the first born to inherit, the Bill has constitutional consequences. We in this country have a long and distinguished history of having female sovereigns. Some titles in your Lordships’ House already pass through the female line. However, the Bill goes much further. While it prevents a person of the Roman Catholic faith acceding to the throne, it allows the heir to the throne to marry a Catholic.

The first issue one must address is: why rush this through Parliament? The Select Committee report pointed out that the retrospective element of the provision obviates the need for fast-tracking. The Minister in another place defended fast-tracking as a pragmatic solution, but, as my noble friend Lord Trefgarne pointed out, even after the passage of the Bill, it will not come into force until, under Clause 5, an award is made by the Lord President of the Council. Why does the Deputy Prime Minister want to retain this power? I presume it is because of possible delays in Commonwealth Parliaments. Should not the Bill come into force only after the countries involved have all passed their retrospective legislation? What happens if one Commonwealth country does not pass the legislation? Do we go ahead without its consent? If that is the case, it should be set out clearly in the Bill why that should or should not come about. I am confused about how the Bill will affect the Channel Islands and the Isle of

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Man. I hope that the Minister will say whether they are included. I am afraid that I am not good enough at looking at Bills to discover whether they are.

As I said, the Bill will allow the heir to the Throne to marry a Catholic but not to maintain the succession if they bring up the child as a Catholic. The problem is that we know that, should the heir to the Throne marry a Catholic, they would be required under the Catholic Church’s canon law to promise to try to bring up their children in the Catholic faith. That is absolutely clear from talking to any member of that faith. Should that happen, it will cause upset and distress to all those involved. Should the heir to the Throne wish the child to be brought up a Catholic, either we will have to disestablish the church or the child will lose the right to succeed. I am sure that noble Lords can imagine the outcry there would be in this country if the then Archbishop of Canterbury tried to stop the heir to the Throne succeeding because he or she was of the wrong religion. It simply would not make sense in modern Britain—in particular as, under current law, if they were Jewish, Hindu or Muslim, they would be allowed to succeed, because the Act refers only to the Roman Catholic Church. That does not make any sense.

I have always pressed for other faiths to be represented in this House. It is sad that they are not. Our debate would have been enlightened by having a Catholic bishop or even a cardinal speaking in your Lordships’ House. I have always thought it a matter of regret that the Catholic Church in this country has always turned down the offer of being represented in your Lordships’ House. Of course, the Church of Scotland is not represented here, nor the Church of Wales, which was disestablished in 1920—and there has been no established Church in Northern Ireland since 1871. It is also possible that a future monarch might be of a different faith altogether.

I turn to the clause stating that the monarch must still approve the marriages of the first six in the line of succession. The only justification offered by the Minister in another place was that it was not an arcane provision but a pragmatic one. She never explained why it was necessary or desirable—or indeed pragmatic. I wonder how many noble Lords have noticed that when Ministers use the word “pragmatic”, it is often because they cannot think of any other justification for what they are saying. It has become government Newspeak. The only argument offered by the Minister in another place was that the same rules apply in Norway, Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands. This was an interesting introduction of EU—or rather European, because Norway is not a member of the EU—convention into English law affecting the monarchy.

When I first looked at the Bill, I was against it. I thought that it was unnecessary. However, I have changed my mind. I worry about the disestablishment of the church because I see the Bill as a failed opportunity for Parliament to properly debate the merits of the established church in this country—particularly in the light of when the Bill will be enacted. If we do not debate the issue, it will surface when we least expect it. It will be a ticking time bomb for the future. That would be detrimental not only to the church in this country but also possibly to the monarchy in future.

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1.46 pm

Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, 325 years ago, the streets were full of a tumult of people celebrating the fact that the previous day, William and Mary had jointly accepted the Throne of England and committed to supporting the Protestant religion as a right of the people. I do not come today to say that I disagree with the principles that the Bill seeks to establish. However, as we have heard this morning, it needs an awful lot of tidying up on many issues. I have serious doubts about whether we in this House have the legitimacy to give a decision. I believe that we would be acting illegally and in contravention of our oath on joining the House if we were to consent by a vote to this legislation.

My reasoning is that I believe very strongly that we have been caught out—as I always feared that one day we would, although no other such Bill has come before us—by the fact that we are being given a delegation of the prerogative of the Crown, which puts the burden on us to decide whether this is in breach of the coronation oath. I submit that it is, and therefore that any noble Lord who votes for the Bill now should walk through the Lobby and out of the front door and should never return, because we will all have automatically disqualified ourselves under our oath of allegiance to support the monarch in the discharge of their obligations under the coronation oath.

Over the past couple of weeks, I asked various notable constitutionalists and legal minds around the House for their reaction to this idea. I find it significant that only one of the six is in the House today. I got a very interesting bunch of answers. Two Members of the Privy Council said almost exactly the same thing: “Good gracious, old boy, what a question. We have never been asked that. Nobody has ever given us any advice on it, so I suppose it must be all right”. That is not a good enough basis on which to proceed with a Bill such as this.

I went to two notable constitutional academics. One of them was my whip, my noble friend Lady Perry. She said: “You’ve got it quite wrong, old boy. It’s absolutely not like this. The Act of Settlement is the only thing that we need worry about, and we can alter it any time we want. We need have no concern about what is in the Declaration of Rights”. The second academic told me: “She’s completely wrong. It’s all about the Declaration of Rights and not about the Act of Settlement at all”.

On further reflection, and having taken further advice, I decided that they were both wrong—and I will show why in a moment. I sat down to work out what would be the reasons why we would receive a delegation of the royal prerogative. At this point, another noble Lord I put it to said: “Yes, you are definitely going down the path of treason”. I do not wish to commit treason, but the situation at the moment with the Bill is that if we are to proceed, we need to know what we are doing in the context of the delegation of the prerogative. I can think of only four reasons why we might have it, and this is where I am treasonous. The first, I believe, is that Her Majesty might very well have decided that this was an issue of such public concern and interest that it should not fall to any member of the Royal Family to give an opinion on it

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themselves. They are too closely involved. They would rely on the wisdom of Parliament to guide the interest of the people as a whole by giving its opinion on it. That would be fine. That is not in any way exceptional.

Lord Elton: I have stood at the Dispatch Box and signalled the ceding of the royal prerogative on more than one occasion. It actually happens quite often; it is just that people do not notice.

Lord James of Blackheath: I am grateful for that intervention. The fact that that would apply in this case should be read into the record of Hansardbefore we are asked to vote. It should come from the Leader of the House. We need that on authority.

There are other reasons why this might be. It might be that the Majesty of the Crown is concerned that this is already seen to be in breach of the coronation oath and it is wondering whether it can avoid that problem by having us give an assent that overrides that breach of the coronation oath.

The third possibility is that the Majesty of the Crown simply does not like this at all and is relying on our good sense and common sense to throw it out. The fourth possibility is that the Majesty of the Crown really does not mind and thinks that it should leave it up to us to decide. We need clarification about the reasons why we have the delegation of the prerogative in this case.

In all of that, I have been making the assumption that we are talking here about the coronation oath. But since I asked my questions, I have found that there is another oath that preceded the coronation oath, which applied to every monarch in the 20th century. It is only 54 words long and I would like to read it to the House. This was signed on the morning that Her Majesty returned from Kenya. She was rushed to Clarence House in order to sign a proclamation oath so that officials could get on with what was now overdue—to get the royal proclamation of the new monarch before darkness set in in London. It states:

“I, Elizabeth do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law”.

That is 54 words. I wish noble Lords would tell me which part of the Bill does not shred that oath.

As I said, 325 years ago, William and Mary accepted the throne. The circumstances under which they did so have a direct bearing on where we are today. It is a vexed question for me. Are we concerned with the Act of Supremacy or the Declaration of Rights? I am convinced that it is the Declaration of Rights. Every aspect that is supported by that oath is provided for in the Declaration of Rights, not the Act of Supremacy. Therefore, we need to be sure that we are setting out to amend the right bit of legislation and the right Act. I think that we have the wrong one.

William arrived at Brixham on 5 November, 1688. He set off with his own personal army of 13,500 to London. We call it the glorious bloodless revolution, but it was not. Some 104 people were killed just getting past Reading alone. It was not a bloodless revolution at all. When he arrived here, he was welcomed by the Lords and rulers of the day. James was still in

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the country. He wanted to go. William wanted James to go as well, but unfortunately the Bishop of Rochester could not get the plot. They sent James to stay with him because it was the nearest place that he could get a boat to go to France. The Bishop of Rochester seemed to think that he was the jailer to James and kept bringing him back every time he went down to the boat. Eventually, the House of Lords had to send some gentlemen down to have dinner with the bishop sufficiently to get him intoxicated so that he would not notice when James slipped out to get the boat, which he did. After that, they were able to proceed with the final negotiations with William and Mary for the throne. They put the Marquess of—

Lord Lang of Monkton: I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. I think he is mistaken. I think he is building a house of cards. Even the members of the convention on the Declaration of Rights did not believe that it was legally binding. That is why they brought forward in 1689 the Crown and Parliament Recognition Act. That shows that Parliament did not consider itself bound by the Bill of Rights, which in the first instance had enshrined the Declaration of Rights. It placed it on an unimpeachable legal footing. There can be no doubt that all the matters that were covered by the Declaration of Rights were subsequently properly enshrined first in the Bill of Rights and then in the Crown and Parliament Recognition Act 1689.

Lord James of Blackheath: I am grateful for all helpful contributions.

The Bill of Rights was read to William and Mary by Mr Joe Browne, who was then the Clerk of the Parliaments, or rather he should have been reading it to them but he had sent his footman down with a sicky in the morning to say that he was feeling too unwell and could not turn up. He subsequently said that it was because he felt an irritation at the back of his neck where an axe would come. Similarly, the Archbishop of Canterbury declined to come, and proceedings were handled by the Bishop of London.

On the day in question, when it had been read through, William stood up and said:

“This is certainly the greatest proof of trust that you have in us that can be given which is the thing that makest us value it the more and we thankfully accept what you have offered”.

At that point, the Marquess of Halifax knelt down and gave the crown to him. Thereafter, the sackbuts and cornets of Parliament went out with armed guards to take the Declaration of Rights around the city, where the proclamation was read in four places and the next day was announced as a public holiday.

It seems that we are seriously confused as to which bit of the past constitutional history of this country we are trying to alter and what our rights are in so doing. None of the constitutional papers or others that have been given to us even begins to approach definitive advice on that.

I return to my initial point. I believe that we are not doing as we are required to do, which is to support the Crown in the decisions that they have to make, if we pass something that may still be a breach of that oath that was signed by Her Majesty on her proclamation day back in 1962.

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Noble Lords: 1952!

Lord James of Blackheath: 1952, sorry. We have a very serious question now as to the legitimacy of the action that we are taking in this House. I am sorry if that causes disruption and dispute but I really believe that we have a problem here that has not been adequately addressed. It is not reasonable that we should not have better, stricter and further guidance from the Privy Council, the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Constitution Committee to give us a very clear way forward.