Royal Succession: commitment issues

Queensland

The Queensland Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee is done with the bill. It didn’t hold any public hearings on the bill, and we don’t know how many private meetings were held on it either. Not many, I would guess. Anyway, their report is published here and is relatively weighty despite, or perhaps because of, being advisory*. It’s main recommendations are that the bill be passed, that the minister explain how the Acts of Union are still in force in Queensland despite not being in the Imperial Acts Validity Act 1986, that the minister confirm that the Queensland approach will not lead to separate monarchs at the same time across the Commonwealth, and that the minister confirm the bill is constitutionally valid. It now goes to second reading although no date has yet been confirmed for it.

Interesting notes from the report: the Acts of Union are amended by Queensland “in so far as they are part of the law of Queensland” – New Zealand had no provision to amend these, and it doesn’t appear that the government has been consulting with New Zealand as the coordinator of these reforms so there is the possibility of some sort of controversy there, even though it has been explicitly said that the precise means with which the Realms implement these changes is up to them.

Another little tit-bit is that the Opposition in Queensland (with all its seven out of eight-seven seats) has issues about the process being used here, and notes that thanks to the Australia Acts 1986, “any changes made by British law to the succession to the British Crown would not affect the Act of Settlement or the Bill of Rights to the extent that they form part of Australian law.” This is interesting because it again is set up in opposition to Canada’s process which is to assume the UK changes to the succession merely require assent rather than actually changing the law (see below).

The bill, again, is clearly being fast-tracked in Queensland; if the date had been even a week later, the committee could have held some hearings and recommendations 2-5 could have been ironed out before the bill went back to the House.

United Kingdom

The House of Lords is about to hold it’s own committee stage on the bill, and now that the deadline has passed for submitting amendments we can see all the amendments together. All the amendments proposed so far are from Conservative backbench peers, which is rather interesting in and of itself.

In the first strand Lords Cormack and Freeman (two former MPs) are proposing that any marriage to a Catholic can happen only if the Vatican agrees that any children from this marriage can be raised as Anglicans.

The second strand is from Lord Lang of Monkton (another former MP) who is proposing to increase the already fairly arbitrary royal marriage veto number from six to twelve, in line with his speech at second reading. This is seconded by Lords True (former party official involved in research), Lexden (official historian of the Conservative party) and Thomas of Swynnerton (former professor of history).

Some seven strands come from Lord Northbrook (one of the 92 remaining hereditary peers):

  1. Make the succession to the Duchy of Cornwall operate on the same basis as that of the Crown
  2. Change the arbitrary royal marriage veto number to four
  3. Ensure that any Common law power for the Queen to require consent before marriage is abolished
  4. Leave out consequential amendments to the Treason Act 1351
  5. Leave out consequential amendments to the Regency Act 1937

Next come a string of different amendments from persistent troublemaker Lord Trefgarne (hereditary peer, former Tory minister, former chairman of the Engineering Sector Skills Council and also former President of the Institute of Incorporated Engineers) proposing to:

  1. Make gender equality rules come into force for people born after 31st of December 2060 (no, I don’t see the relevance of that date either)
  2. Make gender equality rules retrospective
  3. Remove the retrospective element of allowing people who married Catholics to ascend to the throne
  4. Drafting amendment on retrospective allowing of people who married Catholics to ascend to the throne
  5. Ensure current Catholics by birth are no longer ‘for ever’ incapable of ascending to the throne
  6. Ensure future Catholics by birth are no longer ‘for ever’ incapable of ascending to the throne
  7. Allow Catholics by birth to ascend to the throne (4 amendments)
  8. Ensure the Supreme Governorship in the case of a Catholic monarch passes to a protestant Regent (3 amendments – one seconded by Lord Northbrook)
  9. Make the Queen’s consent for marriage non-justiciable
  10. Ensure the bill comes into force when equivalent provisions are passed in the relevant Commonwealth parliaments
  11. Ensure the bill comes into force only by statutory instrument which has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament

This is a total of 23 amendments to the bill, in perhaps 18 strands (again, my strands may not be the same as others). While this is only one more than the number submitted for the Commons Committee stage, all of these must be debated, whereas the Chairman of Committees in the Commons had the power to select amendments for debate (and chose precisely 3). I doubt any of these amendments will be voted on – the Lords generally waits until report stage for government to submit its own amendments and/or to build up support for its own amendments for as long as possible. Currently, the bill is only allocated one day’s committee stage debate, but more may be required.

EDIT: Two amendments were proposed too late for the Marshalled List: One from Lord True to ensure the line of succession only includes natural born heirs of the monarch and his or her husband or wife, and another from Lord Elton reversing the amendment made in the Commons.

No material changes were made to the bill, although ministers agreed to meet with members of the House to discuss their amendments and it was proposed that at some point in the future a committee should consider the Establishment of the Church of England and the question of whether the monarch cannot be a Catholic.

Canada

Leader of the Government in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton brought up the second reading of C-53 yesterday, and her speech is here. She defends the assenting process being used, and the assertion that the office of the Queen isn’t involved in the changes. There’s also a brief defence of Crown Consent being used on this bill:

However, Her Majesty’s prerogatives and powers are not affected by Bill C-53, as it does not, on its own, touch upon the prerogatives of the Crown. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, on January 31, 2013, the Minister of Justice indicated in the other place that the government has advised the Governor General of the purport of Bill C-53 and has asked him, to the degree to which it may affect the Royal Prerogative by the Crown, to give his consent to the consideration by Parliament of the bill and to Parliament doing therein as it sees fit. His Excellency has so consented.

It’s interesting to compare the Queensland committee’s comments on the Acts of Union not being part of the laws of New Zealand (although the laws of succession are listed in the Imperial Acts Validity Act 1986) above and Senator LeBreton’s assertion that the laws of succession aren’t part of the law in Canada:

As I noted previously, the laws of succession are United Kingdom law; they are not Canadian law and are not part of Canada’s Constitution. Specifically, they are not enumerated in the schedule to our Constitution Act, 1982 as part of the Constitution of Canada.

Though of course, the text of the laws of succession was in the schedule of the Succession to the Throne Act 1937. Lastly, Senator LeBreton mentions that the procedure has been used before:

We have used this approach in the past. Parliament passed the legislation to acknowledge the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1937. Legislation was also enacted in the 1950s to assent to changes to the royal titles.

Of course, the 1953 Royal Styles and Titles Act didn’t use the assenting procedure, and there’s academic and legal opinion that the assenting procedure isn’t valid in a post-1982 Canada – see also what the Queensland Committee said above about the Australia Acts 1986 above.

Not being a lawyer, I won’t try to judge these arguments but I find it interesting to hear them. We have no clue what other senators will yet say; it’s just the government’s speech so far. Still, that’s ten times the amount of time it spent in the Commons already…

*Most (all?) Committee inquiries on bills in Australia don’t amend the bill themselves, instead giving advisory recommendations.
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