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Law of Succession

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 10 July 2012

Finally a question not on the House of Lords.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his excellent work. He has been a steadfast campaigner for reform of the law of succession. I can confirm that we will bring forward UK legislation to give effect to changes to the rules of succession once we have secured the consent of the other Commonwealth realms. As he is aware, that work is being co-ordinated by the New Zealand Government, with whom we are working very closely. It is worth noting that the change on gender will apply to a child born after the date of the Perth announcement, namely 28 October 2011, even if the birth happens before the legislation is passed.

I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for that answer, but it is sad that we have waited a year since I met him and offered my ten-minute rule Bill as the vehicle for this change. I realise that the change will be backdated, but it would be greatly embarrassing if a royal child were born before we finally settle the matter. Does he have any plans to go to New Zealand to meet the Prime Minister there to try to get this matter speeded up?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, thankfully the embarrassment would be spared if a child were born after the date at which the Perth decision was made. The rights of that unborn child are properly protected by the procedures. Just like him, I would love to wave a magic wand and dispense with such outdated and anachronistic rules governing whom a person in the line of succession can marry and those on male primogeniture, but we must move as a convoy with the 16 other Commonwealth realms. For one reason or another, that takes a bit of time.

The House appreciates the progress that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Government have made with the Commonwealth Heads of Government, but does he agree that, surely, during this jubilee year when people not only in the UK, but right across the Commonwealth, have shown that they hold our Queen in extremely high regard, nobody could possibly argue that a woman cannot succeed to the throne?

On this if not on other issues we have debated recently, I fervently agree with my hon. Friend. The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man is incomprehensible in this day and age.