Ending discrimination in the laws on succession to the throne

News Release
27 March 2009
MacShane Support Moves to Allow Catholics to Join Royal Family and Princesses to Have Same Rights as Men
Rotherham MP Denis MacShane has welcomed the Parliamentary and Government efforts to change the anachronistic laws which forbid members of the Royal family being Catholics and which privilege princes over their sisters when it comes to being the monarch.
Speaking in the Commons, MacShane praised the Lib-Dem MP, Evan Harris, whose private members’ bill proposes changes in the constitutional law on succession which since the 17th century has banned Catholics from marrying heirs to the throne as well as passing over the daughters of monarchs in favour on their sons.
MacShane noted that Gordon Brown had began to take the measure seriously once the bill was in front of Parliament which showed that Parliament, far from being the poodle of many clich├ęs, could force the Government into action.
Ultimately we should aim for a written constitution for the United Kingdom so that we can have a fully constitutional monarchy in line with modern republican monarchies such as we see in the Nordic nations, the Netherlands and Spain.
The anti-women MPs who voted over 300 years ago to privilege princes over princesses now need to be forgotten. The Queens of England and Britain from the first Elizabeth to the present Queen via Queen Victoria have always been splendid monarchs in contrast to many of the very dodgy and dubious men imposed as kings on the nation by these archaic laws. Labour has to keep up the rhythm of reform on all fronts and now is the time to propose a new written constitution for Britain setting out the rights and obligations of everyone. We need to move from being subjects to being citizens with equal constitutional rights for all from the monarch to the most humble citizens in the land,” he said.

Below Exchange in the Commons 27th March.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way so early. Before he develops his arguments, may I offer him my congratulations? By introducing this Bill, he has moved the Government. It is said that Parliament is a poodle and achieves nothing, but we have one of our most senior and illustrious Secretaries of State, the Secretary of State for Justice, in his place on a Friday morning, and we have also had the Deputy Leader of the House making massive concessions on the “Today” programme this morning. I therefore congratulate the hon. Gentleman on putting this issue before the House and the nation, and I wish him well with his Bill.
Dr. Harris: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support on this and on other important matters, and I recognise his contribution to fundamental issues of human rights and freedoms. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to welcome real progress from the Government on this issue. I look forward to hearing the Government’s view to determine whether real progress has been made, because the measure of that will be whether we see action in this term. Some 12 years ago, the Labour party’s manifesto said that the Labour Government would end unjustified discrimination wherever it existed, and I strongly supported that. I do not doubt the sincerity of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Justice—I am pleased that he is in his place this morning—or the Minister. However, those words and the sincerity behind them are not in the end sufficient when dealing with such discrimination. We need legislation. That is what we are here for, and that is the true power of Parliament.