Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister) moved the second reading of Bill No. 1, respecting alteration in the law touching the succession to the throne.
He said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this
bill is to secure the assent of the parliament of Canada to the alteration in the law touching the succession to the throne set forth in the act of parliament of the United Kingdom intituled, His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act, 1936. The United Kingdom Act is printed as schedule two to the bill, which is now before the house.
It may perhaps serve to limit discussion and to make clear exactly what is intended by the provisions of His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act if I read, to the house what was said at Westminster by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the second reading of the bill, and also what was said in the House of Lords by the Lord Privy Seal, who was in charge of the measure in the House of Lords.
As hon. members will recall, the abdication bill was introduced in the commons at Westminster on December 10 and received its first reading on that day. The second reading took place on the morning of December
11. Speaking on the second reading, the Right Hon. Stanley Baldwin said:
The provisions of this bill require very few words of explanation from me at this stage. It is a matter which of course concerns the dominions and their constitutions just as it concerns us. As the house will see, four dominions-Canada. Australia. New Zealand and South Africa-have desired to be associated with this bill. As regards the Irish Free State, I received a message from Mr. de Valera yesterday telling me that he proposed to call his parliament together to-day to pass legislation dealing with the situation in the Irish Free State. The legal and constitutional position is somewhat complex, and any points with regard to that which anyone desires to raise would more properly be dealt with at a later stage.
The bill gives effect to his majesty's abdication, and provides that His Royal Highness the Duke of York shall succeed to the throne in the same way and with the same results as if the previous reign had ended in the ordinary course. It is necessary to have an act of parliament because the succession to the throne is governed by the Act of Settlement, which makes no provision for an abdication or for a succession consequent upon an abdication. It is also necessary expressly to amend that act by eliminating his majesty and his issue and descendants from the succession. This is affected by subsections (1) and (2) of clause 1.
Subsection (3) deals with the Royal Marriage Act, of 1772. This act provides, in effect, that
Succession to the Throne-Mr. Mackenzie King
no descendants of George II, other than the issue of princesses married into foreign families, shall be capable of contracting a marriage without the consent of the king, with the proviso that where that consent is refused in the case of such a descendant above the age of 25, he may give notice to the Privy Council, and the marriage may take place after twelve months unless within that period both Houses of Parliament have expressly declared their disapproval of the marriage. The act was passed merely to provide a measure of control over the marriages of those who might succeed to the throne or whose descendants might succeed. It would be clearly wrong that the provisions of the act should apply to his majesty and his descendants, who, on the passing of this act, will cease to have any right in the succession.
Those were Mr. Baldwin's words on the second reading. Viscount Halifax, Lord Privy Seal, spoke as follows in the House of Lords on the second reading:
The bill itself is a plain and simple and short one. Your lordships will observe that in the second paragraph of the preamble the bill records the consent of the Dominion of Canada and the assent of the Commonwealth or Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa to it. The preamble is drawn in rather complicated form consequent upon the statutory form of the Statute of Westminster, and the preamble represents the result of protracted consultations with the governments of the dominions, and as it stands, carries the full agreement of all the dominions that are mentioned in it.
Clause 1 gives effect to his majesty's declaration of abdication and makes the necessary provision to that end. I might perhaps particularly call your lordships' attention to the words in subsection (1), "and there shall be a demise of the crown." Tile purpose of those words is to make it clear that the passing of the crown by other than death does in fact constitute a demise of the crown in order that what I may call the machinery of the state shall continue without interruption.
I believe that up till a certain date in our history that was not so-various remedial measures to avoid such interruption have from time to time been passed, and these remedial measures have always talked about demise. Therefore it is important to secure the remedial effect of those measures for the continuation without interruption of the matters to which they referred by employing that phrase in this bill.
Subsection 2 makes it plain that the necessary alteration of the Act of Settlement follows the surrender by his majesty, on his behalf and of his descendants, in the succession to the crown, and, lastly that that having been done and his descendants being thereby excluded from the line of succession, subsection 3 makes it plain- as indeed would be no doubt considered appropriate-that the Royal Marriages Act no longer applies to any such issue.
I might supplement what is set forth in these two statements by adding that the title to the crown was vested by the Act of Settlement of 1701 in the heirs of the body of Sophia, Elec-tress of Hanover and granddaughter of James
I. This provision involved the crown descending, with certain exceptions, as if it were real property, under the law of inheritance of the United Kingdom before 1926, when this branch of the property law was altered. Power remained in the king inparliament to alter the succession. Until 1931 this power to alter the succession was vested solely in the parliament of the United Kingdom. In that year formal recognition was given to the fact that the succession to the throne was a matter of direct and deep concern to all the members of the British commonwealth of nations. That recognition is set forth in the Statute of Westminster, both in section 4, which was read repeatedly yesterday, and in the preamble. Let me re-read section 4 of the Statute of Westminster:
(4) No act of parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this act shall extend or be deemed to extend to a dominion as part of the law of that dominion unless it is expressly declared in that act that that dominion has requested and consented to, the enactment thereof. '
As the parliament of the United Kingdom could niot, under the terms of the Statute of Westminster, pass an abdication act which would extend or be deemed to extend to Canada unless the dominion had requested such legislation in advance and consented thereto, steps were taken in the most expeditious and appropriate manner to convey that request and consent and to secure their expression in the United Kingdom Act. Steps are now being taken to secure the assent of the parliament of Canada necessary to the alteration in the law touching the succession to the throne.
I need not repeat what was said yesterday with respect to the manner in which this dominion signified the request and consent of Canada to the enactment of the abdication act. I wish, however, to answer, if I may, a point which was raised by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) on a previous day, when he inquired whether it was not a fact, if the action of the government on December 10 was constitutional, that further legislation was unnecessary.
My reply to that question is, certainly not. The action of December 10 was designed to secure immediate legal effect to the change. The present legislation is designed to carry out the constitutional convention expressed in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster. Let me read the constitutional convention as it appears there. Of course the preamble, as hon. members know, is not an operative part of the statute; nevertheless
Succession to the Throne-Mr. Mackenzie King
whatever appears in the preamble is of special significance in relation to the purposes of this statute itself. The constitutional convention is set forth as follows:
And whereas, it is meet and proper to set nut by way of preamble to this act, that, inasmuch as the crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British commonwealth of nations, and as they are united by a common allegiance to the crown, it would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all the members of the commonwealth in relation to one another that any alteration in the law touching the succession to the throne or the royal style and titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the parliaments of all the dominions as ot the parliament of the United Kingdom.
The act which has been passed by the British government does alter the law touching the succession to the throne, and it is for that reason we are now asking the assent to its provisions of the parliament of Canada.