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Succession to the Crown Bill: the Commons committee proceedings

By Frank Cranmer, Law & Religion UK

The Succession to the Crown Bill has completed its passage through the Commons. Much of the debate has been about technical matters relating to subsidiary Styles and Titles such as the Lordship of the Isles and the Duchy of Cornwall. However, some of the debate related very much to issues of law and religion.
During the first day in Committee of the whole House Chloe Smith reiterated that the changes proposed in the Bill were limited to removing the bar on marriage to a Roman Catholic. The Bill did not allow a Roman Catholic to accede to the Throne, nor did it touch the basis of the established Church. Because she understood that the Church of Scotland does not define itself as an “established Church” she went no further into Scottish matters – but she assured the House that the Church of Scotland had been consulted.
During the second day, Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con) moved a New Clause to remove the bar on the Sovereign “succeeding to the Crown or … possessing it as a result of that person not joining in communion with the Church of England as by law established”. In essence, what Rees-Mogg proposed was splitting the position of Sovereign and the position of Supreme Governor, so that if the Monarch were a Roman Catholic the next Anglican in line of succession would be Supreme Governor. In addition, the House debated (but did not vote on) his amendments to remove the statement in the Act of Settlement 1700/01 that a child brought up as a Roman Catholic would be deemed “for ever incapable of succeeding to the Crown”.
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