Joint Committee on Human Rights says Act of Settlement breaches European Convention on Human Rights
It is known because it is plain, clear, defined, self-evident, overt, disclosed, admitted, undisguised, unconcealed and unashamedly pronounced.
The Head of State is the Monarch, and the Monarch is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England may not be a Roman Catholic or married to one. That is the Constitution of the United Kingdom.
Yet this cross-party parliamentary committee on human rights has said that the laws barring members of the Royal Family from marrying Roman Catholics is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. They also say the laws of male primogeniture in which male heirs take precedence may also be in breach of the Convention.
And so they have urged the Government to adopt proposals put forward by Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris (supported by some Roman Catholic MPs and a few meddlesome priests) to remove religious discrimination against Roman Catholics in relation to royal marriages and discrimination against women in relation to the succession.
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons last year that ‘most people recognise the need for change’ in the regime put in place by the 1701 Act of Settlement. However, he said no change could be made without the agreement of the other Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is head of state.
No progress on reform is understood to have been made at the Commonwealth heads of government summit in Trinidad last November.
According to the all-party committee, discrimination against Roman Catholics in the laws of marriage is ‘contrary’ to Article 14 of the ECHR, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, in conjunction with Article 12, which provides a right for men and women to marry. The committee states that it was also ‘arguably contrary’ to the freedom of religion of Roman Catholics protected by Article 9.
In relation to male primogeniture in the law of inheritance, the committee said it was ‘in our view arguably contrary’ to Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 Protocol 1.113.
In its report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights suggested: ‘On the basis of human rights principles, we recommend that the Government agree to the amendments tabled by Dr Harris on these issues.’
What they fail to realise (if, indeed they understand anything of theo-politics at all), is that those who campaign to end the ban on a Roman Catholic monarchy by focusing on the Act of Settlement are on an ineffectual wild goose chase. That Act was passed by the old English parliament, which ceased to exist in 1707. The Act was also arguably incompetent, since the English parliament could not unilaterally decide on the British Regal Union of 1603-1707. The Scottish parliament recognised this fact, and deliberately countered the Act of Settlement with a Scottish settlement Act - the Act of Security of 1704.
The Act of Settlement 1701 was superseded by the Treaty of Union 1707, which, in Article 2, also prohibits Roman Catholics ascending the Throne of the United Kingdom. The Treaty of Union 1707 is the founding charter of the United Kingdom. Tamper with this, and the Union is imperilled.
It has been observed that Scottish unionist politicians do not want this truth out. They fear making Scots aware that the United Kingdom is the creature of a treaty between two equal parliaments: a living, legal document, capable of amendment and adjustment to contemporary needs.
These are the unspoken ‘constitutional ripples’ so feared by Donald Dewar. This is why successive prime ministers of the United Kingdom and unionist Scottish secretaries of state have no intention of ending the ban on the Monarch either being a Roman Catholic or married to one, and why they are quite happy to let historically-ignorant and politically-ill-informed people like Dr Evan Harris continue harping on about the Act of Settlement 1701.