Commonwealth to discuss changing royal succession: Cameron

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Commonwealth leaders will discuss proposals to change the rules of succession for the British throne when they meet in Australia later this month, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday.

Cameron wrote to the leaders of the 15 other Commonwealth realms which have Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state in September to propose allowing first-born daughters and heirs who marry Catholics to inherit the throne.

There has long been discussion about changing the archaic and discriminatory rules, but the issue has taken on fresh urgency since the marriage of Prince William, the second in line to the throne, to the former Kate Middleton in May.

Proposals to change the law, which must be approved by all the affected realms, will now be discussed at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth, western Australia, from October 28 to 30.

"I have written to the heads of state, the prime ministers of the other realms concerned. We will be having a meeting about this at the Commonwealth heads of government conference," Cameron told the House of Commons.

"It isn't an easy issue to sort -- for many of them there may be issues and worries about starting a parliamentary or other legal process.

"But I'm very clear it's an issue that we ought to get sorted and I'd be delighted to play a part in doing that."

Labour lawmaker Keith Vaz urged the prime minister to act quickly, saying: "Does he not agree that it's better that we resolve this matter before rather than after any future royal children are born?"

A government spokesman repeated the warning that it was a "complex and difficult issue -- it needs careful thought and consideration".

The queen will attend the Commonwealth meeting. A palace spokesman said: "This is a matter for government, in consultation with Commonwealth realms."

The first proposed change would be to scrap the rule which says an elder daughter should take a place in the line of succession behind a younger son, something Cameron told Commonwealth leaders was contrary to gender equality.

He also wants to end the situation whereby heirs who marry Catholics cannot take the throne, arguing: "This rule is a historical anomaly."

Finally, Cameron has proposed amending the rule that any descendants of the 18th century king George II require the monarch's permission to marry, so that it only applies to the first six in line to the throne.

The 15 realms being consulted are 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.

© 2011 AFP

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