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Succession to the Crown Act 2013

Volume 752: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2014

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 will be brought into effect.

My Lords, the Succession to the Crown Act will be commenced when each Commonwealth realm has taken all steps necessary to give the changes effect in its jurisdiction.

I thank my noble and learned friend, who is the master of the intricacies of this legislation. Can he reaffirm that it is absolutely essential that this modernising constitutional change is implemented—and implemented fully—in all 16 realms of which Her Majesty is head of state to ensure that the Crown descends in exactly the same way in all of them. Does my noble and learned friend have any reason to anticipate that any of the realms might ultimately default on their obligations under the Perth agreement?

My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend that it is important that all 16 realms agree. Indeed, the intention is that when they all have put in place the necessary legislation there will be a simultaneous order to give effect in each of the realms. I make it clear that all realms that took the view that legislation is required have passed the requisite legislation, with the exception of Australia. As I informed your Lordships’ House at Third Reading, the Council of Australian Governments agreed that respective states would legislate first, requesting that the Commonwealth legislation be brought forward by the Canberra Government. To date, three states have enacted legislation; two have introduced legislation; and South Australia has yet to introduce legislation because it is in the middle of an election campaign.

My Lords, although the new succession arrangements are to be welcomed, does the Minister not believe that it is wholly inconsistent not to similarly reform all hereditary titles so they are gender equal?

My Lords, this issue was raised during our debates. It was indicated that numerous issues would arise with regard to hereditary titles which did specifically arise with regard to the succession to the Crown—and indeed I think my noble friend Lord Lucas has a Private Member’s Bill which has had one day in Committee, where there was an opportunity to debate that issue.

My Lords, with the birth of Prince George some of the urgency has gone out of the need to implement Section 1 of the Act. Does my noble and learned friend agree that it is still important, and indeed urgent, to bring Section 2 into force to start to implement the dismantling of the discrimination against Roman Catholics that has been embedded in our constitution and therefore in those of Her Majesty’s other realms for well over 300 years?

My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. He is right to say that the birth of Prince George has taken away the immediacy of that particular matter, but he is also right to point out that the Act also allows someone in the line of succession to become sovereign to marry a Roman Catholic. It also removes the requirement of the heirs of George II to seek Her Majesty’s approval before they can marry—it will now be confined to first six in line to the throne.

My Lords, it is for exactly those reasons that the Opposition very much welcomed the Bill. If I understand it, it is only Australia for which we now wait. We just hope that before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge get to Australia, it may have done the necessary. Although their first born is a son, were they to have a brace that come further, the order of succession may still be important for those subsequent children. Can the noble and learned Lord perhaps use his good endeavours to see this speedily enacted?

My Lords, it is fair to say that all the state premiers in Australia have indicated their support for this measure, and that the Commonwealth Government of Australia stand ready to put in place the necessary legislation once each of the states has enacted its legislation.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that this Bill, which was always a sensitive measure, becomes more sensitive with every day that passes without agreement? When the Bill passed through this House it was emphasised to us that the Bill was urgent and unamendable because all the other realms had agreed to all the principles underlying it—all the more reason, therefore, to urge my noble and learned friend to ensure that representations are made to ensure the speediest outcome in those realms that have not yet completed the process.

My Lords, as I indicated, there is only one realm that has still to legislate. Some realms took the view that, under their own laws, legislation was not required. I have indicated the position in Australia and have no reason to believe that anything other than good endeavours are being used to get the necessary legislation in place.