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Cameron delivers Brown’s project on rules of succession, but not all plain sailing

28 October 2011

Press Notice

Commenting on today’s announcement in Perth of the planned changes to the rules of succession, Director of the Constitution Unit Prof Robert Hazell said:

“It has been a longstanding aim of successive British governments to end the discrimination in the laws of succession.  Gordon Brown went to the Commonwealth conference in 2009 with the same objective as David Cameron, but failed.  Since then there has been a lot of work behind the scenes to get the other 15 realms on board.  The tide of goodwill towards the monarchy following the royal wedding in April and the Queen’s diamond jubilee next year provides the perfect window of opportunity to make the change.”

“But it is not all plain sailing” Prof Hazell continued.  “The UK cannot legislate for the other 15 countries.  In Australia the six states claim a separate relationship with the Crown, and it may require their separate consent.  In Canada the federal government will certainly have to gain the consent of the provinces, including Quebec.  In both countries it will revive the republican issue.”

“Questions will also be asked about why the discrimination against Catholics is only to be partially removed.  The prohibition on the Monarch being a Catholic will remain, because the Monarch is Supreme Governor of the Church of England.  Catholics in Britain might be willing to accept that, although their numbers are now broadly equal to Anglicans.  But in the 15 realms Catholics outnumber Anglicans by three to one, and they may be less understanding”.

Notes for Editors

  • The UK is following the example of other European monarchies, most of which have changed their rules of succession already to make them gender neutral.  Sweden changed their law in 1980, Holland in 1983, Norway in 1990, Belgium in 1991, Denmark in 2009 (with a referendum), Luxembourg in 2011.  Only Spain, Monaco and Liechtenstein retain male primogeniture.
  • 11 private member’s bills have been introduced into Parliament to reform the Act of Settlement.  Successive governments have supported the principle of the change, but have said that it required government legislation.  Only the government can negotiate with the other realms.
  • Prof Hazell is available for interview on 0207 679 4971 or please contact our Press Officer Brian Walker on 07802 176347.

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