Irish Primate-elect calls for abolition of the Act of Settlement
Quite a few of Cranmer’s communicants have emailed him this story, and he has turned to their blogs to observe the ensuing discussion. Opinion invariably falls into two camps: the outdated anachronism camp, and the constitutional traditionalist camp. Whilst acknowledging the undoubted theological validity of both of these perspectives, Cranmer wishes to highlight the problems and legislative nightmare which would ensue, and thereby enlighten his communicants of the sheer practical impossibility of repealing the Act of Settlement 1701. This may be termed the politically pragmatic camp.
Our forebears made the Protestant Constitution so watertight as to be virtually impossible to undo; indeed, one clause declares that the terms of the Settlement are ‘for ever’. Repeal of this Act would demand the consequent repeal of nine further Acts, including the Bill of Rights (1688), the Coronation Oaths Act (1688), the Crown in Parliament Act (1689), the Act of Union (1707), and the Royal Marriages Act (1772). On top of this, fifteen Commonwealth countries of which the British Monarch is also Head of State would also have to enact similar legislation, committing them to months of legislative scrutiny on the implications of repeal for their own constitutions. Even with minimal opposition (and this should not be taken for granted), the parliamentary time involved over the entire British Commonwealth would be colossal. In the UK alone it has been estimated that it could dominate an entire parliamentary year – around a quarter of a government’s legislative programme.
What government is going to suspend all of its manifesto commitments on such bread-and-butter issues as health or education while it navel-gazes for a whole year on what is considered an issue of such microscopic unimportance to 99% of the British people?
Cranmer prophesies that this Act will not be repealed. Amendment, however, is an entirely different matter altogether…