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Royal succession law faces political challenge

Updated: 2011-01-19 08:00

By Tim Castle (China Daily)

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British legislator makes call for gender equality

LONDON - A 300-year-old British law that would discriminate against any daughter born to Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton in the succession to the throne will face a parliamentary challenge.

Male royal heirs have prior claim to the British crown over their older sisters under the 1701 Act of Settlement, which also bars the monarch from marrying a Catholic.

Lawmaker Keith Vaz, from the opposition Labour Party, will use a special parliamentary procedure to seek backing for legislation to remove the distinction between the sexes in determining the royal succession.

"With the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, we have a once in a generation opportunity to change the law," said Vaz.

"Prince William looks like a very modern prince. If he has a daughter first, it is only right that she become queen of England," he added.

The couple are due to marry in London's Westminster Abbey on April 29.

Prince William, 28, is the eldest son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. As such, William is second-in-line to the crown held by his grandmother Queen Elizabeth.

Vaz needs government backing to have any chance of success in amending the succession law.

The former Labour government had promised to reform the ancient legislation, but had made little progress before it was ousted from power in last May's national election.

The incoming coalition government has shown scant enthusiasm for change, not least because to do so requires the agreement of 15 independent British Commonwealth countries which share Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign.

Last week Justice Minister Tom McNally said the government had no plans to amend the Act of Settlement, but said discussions among Commonwealth countries about the issue were continuing under the chairmanship of New Zealand.


(China Daily 01/19/2011 page10)


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