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Cameron drops plans to reform Act of Settlement

By on Monday, 5 July 2010

David Cameron has abandoned plans to reform the laws of succession. Critics of reform say it would lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England and undermine the monarchy (PA photo)

David Cameron has abandoned plans to reform the laws of succession. Critics of reform say it would lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England and undermine the monarchy (PA photo)

David Cameron has dropped plans to repeal the 1701 Act of Settlement which forbids Catholics or anyone married to a Catholic from becoming monarch.

Negotiations to reform the Act began last year when Gordon Brown entered into talks with Buckingham Palace and the leaders of 15 Commonwealth countries whose approvals any amendment would require.

But Nick Clegg signalled this week that the talks had ended and that the coalition had no intention to push the reform ahead.

Mark Harper, the Tory minister for political and constitutional reform, told MPs in a written statement: “There are no current plans to amend the laws on succession.”

The decision may dismay Lib Dem MPs such as Lorely Burt, former equality spokeswoman, who has campaigned vigorously in the past to repeal the Act.

But several senior Church figures, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, have said they do not think it is a major issue for most Catholics.

Some Catholics also oppose any amendment that would contribute to the disestablishment of the Church of England.

Lord Rees-Mogg, writing in the Times, said “anything that weakens the Church of England weakens Christianity in England”.

Mr Brown said last year that the reform would also remove the principle of primogeniture and open up the succession to women.

He said: “I think in the 21st century people do expect discrimination to be removed and they do expect us to be looking at these issues.”

A few days earlier Lib Dem MP Evan Harris had tried to introduce a Private Members’ Bill to abolish what he described as an “outrageous discrimination against Roman Catholics”.

But his proposal foundered after the then Justice Secretary Jack Straw said a Private Members’ Bill was “not the appropriate vehicle” for reform.

The Act, passed in 1701, was intended to prevent the return of Stuart Catholics to the throne. It ruled that the King or Queen must swear to maintain the Church of England.

  • Peterrkingsley

    One must surely wonder why a modern monarchy in a democratic United Kingdom wants to cling on to out-dated discrimitory laws. When all are now rightly included in our society not withstanding colour, sexual orientation etc. sure it is time that we also fully include Roman Catholics!

  • Jsteggles28

    I became a Catholic on my baptism in 1929 and I could not care less who or what succeeds to the throne. Perhaps 60 years ago I may have cared but the matter is now irrelevant.

  • Anthony Fernandez

    I am a born and baptised catholic who succeeds the throne, as long as he or she is in the right frame of mind

  • Daniel Hayes

    So the head of the Church of England should be allowed to be anything but an Anglican?

  • Daniel Hayes

    The Act ought to be reformed to allow Monarchs and heirs to the throne to be allowed to marry Catholics. However, it is imminently sensible that, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, HM should be Anglican. This is not a unique discrimination against Catholics, nor should it be.

    It should be recognised, moreover, that many proponents of this Bill are no friends of the Catholic Church or indeed any Christian denomination.
    This form of 'equality legislation' is of the same variety which has put pressure on the Church to allow for religious ceremonies in the marriage of homosexuals and in the ordination of women. Furthermore, the MP quoted above (Evan Harris) is known by some as 'Doctor Death' for his near fanatical advocacy of euthanasia and abortion on demmand.

    Would you have Christianity in England weakened (which is the view of many native Catholics) in the pursuit of abstract and irrelevant equality?

  • Matty

    It's a disgrace that anti-Catholicism is embedded in British legislation like this. Whether or not you or I will be King of England is not the issue; the principle is repugnant. Lord Rees-Mogg's statement is a good indicator of how skewed is the establishment's view of the role of the Church of England.

  • David Lindsay

    The Act of Settlement is good for us. It reminds us that we are different, and it does us the courtesy of taking our beliefs seriously by identifying them as a real challenge.

    I question the viability of a Catholic community which devotes any great energy to the question of ascending the throne while the born sleep in cardboard boxes on the streets and the pre-born are ripped from their mothers' wombs to be discarded as surgical waste. Far from being a term of abuse, the word “Papist” is in fact the name under which the English Martyrs gave their lives, and expresses the cause for which they did so, making it a badge of honour, to be worn with pride.

    The Protestant tradition is a fact of this country's history and culture. No good purpose would be served by denying it its constitutional recognition. And we must never countenance alliance with those, such as Harris, who wish to remove Christianity as the basis of our State. Parties, such as his or the SNP, that wish to abolish Catholic schools need not imagine that noisily seeking to repeal the Act of Settlement somehow makes their position any better.

    As for male primogeniture, it, too, sends an important signal: that the male line matters means that fathers matter, and that they have to face up to their responsibilities, with every assistance (including censure where necessary) from the wider society, including when it acts politically as the State.

    On matters such as this, we should listen to the voice of Recusancy, currently in the Commons (and it has been largely “reformed” – what an appropriate word! – out of the Lords) the voice of the gloriously anti-war Edward Leigh more than anyone. He has no time for this proposal, and rightly sees the whole thing as an excuse to bring the question of the monarchy to the floor of other Parliaments, particularly in Australia.

    There is only one circumstance under which these changes could begin to be justified, namely that any Realm or Territory may leave the family defined by our shared monarch unless they were given effect, though not otherwise. Which is considering doing so?

  • Alangaunt

    Subjugation to Rome is repugnant.
    We English left Rome because it took every opportunity to take our money and our lives away from us, we were all in agreement with Henry VIII. In a 21st century society is any form of religious indoctrination good for the world?

  • Badger Catholic

    King Aethelbert of Kent, ora pro nobis!

  • Carolingien

    That's actually completely incorrect, Catholicism was immensely popular in England at the time of the Reformation – it was King Henry's personal disputes which caused the split

  • Chris


  • P Welsh

    I think this issue should be quite straightforward for catholics and I can’t see why some of our faith have a problem with it? The Act of Settlement, simply put, is instituionalised sectariansim, plain and simple, the sooner it goes the better. I personally don’t like being seen as a second class ‘subject’ in my own country, and I think there’s an arguement that, if sectarianism exists on the UK’s statute books, then this acceptable view of catholics may be all pervasive across all sectors of state employment, civil service etc.

  • stevedaytona

    Get back to me when Anglicans are eligible to be elected Pope.

    (speaking as an Atheist).

  • J Baird

    It is essential that this act is repealed , there is an element is society that are bigoted and sectarian , this affects day to day life of people in there homes and work places , how can this bigotry end if we live in a country where the elected desision makers allow a law to exist which blatently descriminates against any group within its bountries over another group.The the crown and the act are a route focus religious bigots ,  it is there cornerstone . If sectarianism is to be tackled seriously then there must be a change in this law and a clear message sent from parliment that there is no room for any form of religious descrimination in this country.

  • Anonymous

    This act is the only thing that has enabled the Windsors to continue to usurp the throne. Get rid of it and Elizabeth will be behind approximately 2000 other people in order of succession. I cannot understand why Rome ever accepted the Hanoverian line when it was so anti catholic and discriminatory. GOD SAVE THE KING OVER THE WATER  

  • owen

    would you think it a good idea to have some one church of England as pope & head of the Roman Catholic church ? of course not dont be silly. God bless the Queen & God bless God bless the Pope.