HC Deb 04 February 1937 vol 319 cc1830-1

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

5.30 p.m.

Earl Winterton

I wish to raise a question on this Clause which is largely one of nomenclature or phraseology. Subsection (1) states that the Privy Council are "empowered and required" to administer these oaths. I would like to know whether these words are taken from the Act of Settlement. I may lay myself open to the risk of being laughed at by some hon. Members opposite when I say it, but as a member of the Privy Council I am rather jealous of its position and prerogatives and, as far as I know, these very emphatic and rather admonitory words have not appeared before in any Act of Parliament. I think it would be happier if the Sub-section were phrased in this way: The Regent shall before he acts in or enters upon his office, take and subscribe before the Privy Council the oaths set out in the Schedule…and it shall be the duty of His Majesty's Privy Council to administer those oaths and to enter them in the Council Books. I think it is important, from a historical point of view, to preserve the prerogatives of the Privy Council. I would remind the Committee that right hon. Gentlemen who are members of the Privy Council are supposed to take precedence of other hon. Gentlemen and that the Privy Council is supposed to have an even longer record of activity than this House or another place. If I am told that these words occur in the Act of Settlement that is another matter; but if this is a new form of phraseology, I think it would be better to use the wording which I have suggested.

5.32 p.m.

The Attorney-General

These words do not appear here for the first time. They were in the Regency Act, 1910, and I fancy they have an even longer history than that, but my Noble Friend will appreciate that I cannot at the moment go any further back than that Act. They are words which have already been approved by Parliament, and I do not think that any implication can be placed upon them such as my Noble Friend apprehends.

Earl Winterton

I am much obliged to my hon. and learned Friend for his reply. I think it is worth while preserving historical continuity in the wording of these enactments.