The Deputy Prime Minister today announced that the government has received final consent from all the Commonwealth realms to press ahead with a landmark bill to end the centuries-old discrimination against women in line to the British throne at the soonest possible opportunity.
This confirmation means that the Government will seek to introduce the Succession to the Crown Bill in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity allowed by the parliamentary timetable.
The legislation will end the principle of male primogeniture, so that men will no longer take precedence over women in line to the throne, and end the bar on anyone in the line of succession marrying a Roman Catholic.
The new rules will apply to any baby born in the line of succession, taking effect after the Prime Minister made the announcement in Perth, Australia, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in October 2011. At that meeting, an agreement was reached with all of the realms that the change should take effect immediately, and would be confirmed in legislation at a later date. This comes at the end of a significant period of work by the Government, the realms and Buckingham Palace.
The legislation is now a step closer as the governments of the realms have confirmed that they will be able to take the necessary measures in their own countries before the UK legislation comes into effect - a crucial step following the Perth agreement in October 2011.
The Deputy Prime Minister said:
This is a historic moment for our country and our Monarchy. People across the realms of the Commonwealth will be celebrating the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child.
We can also all celebrate that whether the baby is a boy or a girl, they will have an equal claim to the throne. It’s a wonderful coincidence that the final confirmation from the other realms arrived on the very day that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their announcement.
The Government will soon introduce the Succession to the Crown Bill which will make our old fashioned rules fit for the 21st Century. It will write down in law what we agreed back in 2011 - that if the Duke and Duchess Cambridge have a baby girl, she can one day be our Queen even if she later has younger brothers.
Notes to editors
The Prime Minister announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, on 28 October 2011 that the realms had agreed in principle to change the laws surrounding succession to the Crown. Since then, the government of New Zealand has been coordinating formal consent from each Realm, with assurances that they will be able to take the necessary measures before the British legislation is commenced. This consent is in the form of a formal letter from each realm.
The 16 Realms of the Commonwealth are: the United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
The consent given by the 15 other realms means that the UK can move forward with legislation. The other realms will take the necessary measures in their own country, and the British legislation will be commenced when that has happened.