Sunday, 28 April 2019

Oath of allegiance, or Pledge of Office in the Senedd.

This Blog has long called for  a change  in of pledging allegiance to the people of Wales, in the Welsh Assemvly  rather than to the Queen of England ,
So i fully support Plaid Cymru AM  Bethan Sayed in her attempt to make a change
Under the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866 members of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliment  followthe precedute in  both Houses of Parliament are required to take an Oath of Allegiance upon taking their seat in Parliament,[11]after a general election, or by-election, and after the death of the monarch. Until the oath or affirmation is taken, an MP may not receive a salary, take their seat, speak in debates or vote. The usual wording of the oath is:
I... swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.
Members who object to swearing the oath are permitted to make a solemn affirmation under the terms of the Oaths Act 1978:
I... do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.
There's one UK legislature missing from the above and I will refer to that later. 
Bethan Sayed said her priority was her constituents, and an alternative oath would make them "feel respected".
South Wales West AM Ms Sayed, who is a republican,says  she believes that option should be given to politicians in the Senedd.
"I think in a democracy that we're living in, the people of Wales are the most important in all of our deliberations around politics," she said.
"We are elected by them, we serve them, we are answerable to them and we meet with them and have discussions with them, and make them the most important thing about our work as an assembly member.
"So, I think it is vital that we are given that option, so the people of Wales can feel respected and honoured by us as assembly members.
"It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a firm republican, and I have spoken out on these issues in the past.
"But I think this more to more do with freedom of speech and a freedom of opinion
Other politicians make a bizarre  case  against changes that could dilute the power given to AMs by the Queen as head of state.
 Conservative member Nick Ramsay said he would not want to see any changes that "rock the boat" and see a dilution of the power within Wales that assembly members want to exercise.
"At the end of the day, it's the Queen, it's the head of state, who gives power to the assembly," the AM for Monmouth said.
"She signs off all our laws so I think taking that oath is very important.
"That said, I do understand that this is a very strong issue for some members, including Bethan Sayed, and that can be looked at."
However there is a precedent in the Northern Ireland  Assembly where politicians have been allowed to take a pledge of office that does not involve swearing allegiance to the Queen.
 There is no requirement for members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to take an oath of allegiance, or any other oath, nor is there any form of voluntary oath prescribed for those who may wish to swear one. However, members are required to sign the Assembly's roll of membership, designate their identity as "Nationalist", "Unionist" or "Other", and take a Pledge of Office. Ministers can be removed from office if the responsibilities of the pledge are not met. Members pledge:

  1. to discharge in good faith all the duties of office;
  2. commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means;
  3. to serve all the people of Northern Ireland equally, and to act in accordance with the general obligations on government to promote equality and prevent discrimination;
    1. to promote the interests of the whole community represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly towards the goal of a shared future;
    2. to participate fully in the Executive Committee, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council;
    3. to observe the joint nature of the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister;
    4. to uphold the rule of law based as it is on the fundamental principles of fairness, impartiality and democratic accountability, including support for policing and the courts;
  4. to participate with colleagues in the preparation of a programme for government;
  5. to operate within the framework of that programme when agreed within the Executive Committee and endorsed by the Assembly;
  6. to support, and to act in accordance with, all decisions of the Executive Committee and Assembly;
  7. to comply with the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
Of course the reason for this is clear as at least one party (Sinn Féin) refuses to take the seats in the House of Commons partly because of the forced Oath of Allegiance and would do so in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
It is a case (although for other reasons} that body is not sitting , I doubt  that  not swearing an oath of allegiance  see a dilution of the power in that legislature.
Indeed i probably would differ with Bethan Sayed and that we should no  have our AMs  pledge allegiance to the people of Wales, and follow the Northern Ireland  example.
As a secularist Oaths still seem to have religious  context even if you affirmed and after all such oaths are meaningless as you probably would not be able to accuse an AM of breaking it and removing them.

1 comment:

Gav said...

Several years ago a friend of mine was being sworn in as a magistrate, somewhere in the home counties. It was a mass swearing, so to speak, and the officiating clerk who may have been having a bad day asked them all to repeat after him or her: " … I will be faithful ... to Her Majesty ..., her airs and graces, according to law … ", which of course they duly did. What difference it might have made nobody knows, or cares.