Lord Cormack (Conservative) suggested Amendment 2, which looked to insert a clause explicitly stating that the heir to the throne or anyone in direct line of succession should be brought up in the Anglican faith.
Whilst confirming his support for the removal of the disqualification arising from marriage to a Roman Catholic contained in the bill, he suggested that ‘there has to be a provision whereby children of that union are brought up as Anglicans’. He continued: ‘I do not oppose the bill, but I want it to be as foolproof as possible. I want it to anticipate, in so far as legislation possibly can. I want it to be a constitutional measure that will stand the test of time and of whatever circumstances might, in so far as we can possibly foresee, occur.’
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (Liberal Democrat) spoke of his hope that the question of the disqualification on a Roman Catholic becoming the sovereign could be revisited in the future. In the case of this amendment, he said: ‘It is my suggestion that the principle that we should adopt is that the discrimination involved in providing that the sovereign must be an Anglican should be restricted to the absolute minimum. That is why, on principle, I oppose the amendment.’
Lord Fellowes (Crossbench) welcomed ‘this... constructive and helpful probing amendment which makes explicit which is at present implicit in the bill’, but recognised its potential to make further negotiations with Commonwealth countries necessary. He concluded: ‘As such, it sends the right message, even if withdrawn.’
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Labour) challenged the argument that ‘allowing Catholic marriage would somehow endanger the Protestant succession.’ She confirmed that the opposition would not support the amendment as the bill already went far enough: ‘As it will remain the case that no Catholic may succeed, or indeed anyone who is not in communion with the Church of England, the noble Lord need not have concerns on that basis.’
Responding on behalf of the government, Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Liberal Democrat) welcomed the discussion, but questioned the fact that the amendment would apply ‘to children born of mixed Catholic/Protestant marriages only, not for example to a mixed Protestant/Muslim marriage.’
He confirmed the government’s opposition stating: ‘ I believe it would be unsatisfactory on the one hand to repeal a piece of discriminatory legislation only to replace it with a new stricture that would apply only to those entering into mixed Catholic/Protestant marriages.’
Amendment 2 was withdrawn without a vote.
The House went on to discuss amendments relating to the issue of which royal marriages require the consent of the sovereign and the particular question of succession to the Duchy of Cornwall.
The Succession to the Crown Bill will now move to third reading, the final chance to amend any part of the bill. It is scheduled to take place on 22 April.
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 report stage?
Report stage gives all members of the Lords further opportunity to examine and make changes, known as amendments, to a bill.
Report stage usually starts 14 days after committee stage. It can be spread over several days (but usually fewer days than at committee stage).
Before report stage starts, all member's amendments are recorded and published. The day before a report stage debate the amendments are placed in order - a marshalled list.
During report stage detailed line by line examination of the bill continues. Any member of the Lords can take part and votes can take place.
After report stage the bill is reprinted to include all the agreed amendments.
The bill then moves to third reading for the final chance for the Lords to discuss and amend the bill.