Succession to the Crown Bill: Lords concludes committee stage

01 March 2013

The Succession to the Crown Bill completed committee stage, line by line scrutiny of the bill, in the Lords yesterday (Thursday 28 February)

Members began with discussions on Amendment 3, which proposed that succession to the Duchy of Cornwall should not depend on gender, suggested by Lord Northbrook (Conservative).

He explained:  ‘If His Royal Highness and the Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter, she may, thanks to the bill, be able to become queen. However, she cannot as of right become Duchess of Cornwall or Countess of Merioneth. That seems to be an anomaly, particularly with the prime minister's focus on equality.’

Lord Lloyd of Berwick (Crossbench) supported the amendment, drawing on personal experience ‘of what the Duchy of Cornwall is and how it works’ gained during his time as Attorney-General to the Prince of Wales. He concluded: ‘It seems to me that to enable the heir to the throne to become Duke of Cornwall if female is the logical extension of the provisions of this bill.’ 

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Labour) agreed the issue is significant, but questioned whether it was relevant to the rules of succession: ‘While it may be an important issue, it is not about the constitution of this country and therefore not really appropriate to what is an important and, in our view, welcome change in our laws of succession. That is what this bill is really about.’

Responding on behalf of the government, Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Liberal Democrat) welcomed the discussion but argued that the rules surrounding the inheritance of the Duchy are a historical anomaly. He said: With the Duchy of Cornwall we therefore have an unusual and interesting piece of English history that does not conform to the standard rules of descent for hereditary titles. However, it is exactly that: a piece of English history and not an issue that is of direct relevance to the succession to the Crown – as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, indicated – nor to the other realms of the Commonwealth.’

He continued: ‘...it is not the government’s intention to deal in this legislation with UK-specific matters. This amendment very much falls into this category.’

Amendment 3 was withdrawn without going to a vote.

The House went on to discuss amendments relating to the removal of disqualification arising from marriage to a Roman Catholic and the issue of which royal marriages require the consent of the sovereign.

The Succession to the Crown Bill will now move to report stage, a chance for further detailed scrutiny. A date is yet to be scheduled.

Succession to the Crown Bill summary

The bill makes three key changes to laws governing who can be next in line to the throne by:

  • removing the first born son preference and allowing an older daughter over a younger brother to become a monarch
  • allowing anyone who marries a Roman Catholic to remain in line
  • limiting the requirement that all descendants of George II must obtain the monarch’s permission to marry to the six people nearest in line to the crown. If the monarch's approval is not given then the married couple and their descendants lose their place in the line of succession.

Previous stages of the Succession to the Crown Bill

What is committee stage?

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the bill takes place during committee stage, starting from the front of the bill and working to the end. Any member of the Lords can take part.

It usually starts no later than two weeks after the second reading and can last for one to eight days or more.

The day before committee stage starts, amendments (changes) are published in a marshalled list - in which all the amendments are placed in order.

During committee stage every clause of the bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit, or guillotine, on discussion of amendments. 

Further information

 Image: PA/Mike Moore

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