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Royal Succession

Volume 553: debated on Tuesday 20 November 2012

Discussions with the other Commonwealth realms are ongoing, but legislation can be presented only when all the necessary arrangements are in place in all 16 Commonwealth nations.

There will be much rejoicing on the streets of the Kettering constituency if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are blessed with a baby girl and she succeeds to the throne even if she has a baby brother. When does the Deputy Prime Minister expect legislation to be presented to us, and what is the legislative timetable likely to be in those other Commonwealth realms?

I am sure all of us would share the joy of the constituents of Kettering if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a baby girl—or, indeed, a baby boy. If it were a baby girl, the key thing to remember would be that the change to the rule of male primogeniture came into effect from the point of the Perth conference last year, so even if we had not secured all the necessary legislative changes in all the realms, we would none the less be able to proceed on the basis that the outdated rule of male primogeniture no longer prevails. A de facto change has already been introduced pending the legal changes that now need to be made.

It is now more than a year since the Perth agreement, and I appreciate that the Deputy Prime Minister has put a lot of work into this. It is now in the hands of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, however, so will the Deputy Prime Minister consider visiting New Zealand—

Will the Deputy Prime Minister consider visiting New Zealand to try to speed up this process, because it is taking a long time and there is all-party agreement that it should be concluded as soon as possible?

One Member of this House on the other side of the planet is, I think, enough. I do not intend to take a long voyage myself, although I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his kind suggestion. Thankfully, we do not need to travel around the globe to communicate with each other these days. We have other means by which we can liaise with colleagues and friends in the New Zealand Government—and indeed, with the other realms. As I have said before, I am as impatient as the right hon. Gentleman to see the end of the outdated and discriminatory rule of male primogeniture and also the bar on the monarch or the successor to the throne marrying a Roman Catholic. I am as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman is to see those rules updated and modernised. It just takes a bit of time and a little bit of patience to make sure that all the realms are properly aligned, as they need to be to make this change happen.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister—and the Prime Minister of New Zealand—bear in mind that, but for our law of male primogeniture, the German Kaiser would also have become King of England, which would have produced almost as interesting a coalition as the present one?

We always rely on my right hon. Friend for such erudition and grasp of history, which he possesses but unfortunately I do not. I am grateful to him for pointing that historical quirk out to us, but I hope he will agree that that is not reason enough not to modernise the rules of succession and bring them into line with the 21st century.

We can so rely on the right hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir Peter Tapsell), which is one of the reasons why I particularly enjoy calling him.