Thursday November 26,2009
By Macer Hall and Richard Palmer
GORDON Brown risked a new row with Buckingham Palace last night by pledging to press ahead with a massive overhaul of the monarchy.
The Prime Minister described the 300-year-old rules governing succession to the throne as “outdated”.
And he signalled his intention to discuss radical reform with Commonwealth heads of government at a summit in Trinidad and Tobago this weekend. He is determined to scrap the ban on heirs to the Crown marrying Roman Catholics and the lack of equal rights for women.
Critics accused the Prime Minister of trying to divert attention from his Government’s dire popularity.
Mr Brown attacked the Act of Settlement – the 1701 statute governing royal succession – during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.
He told MPs: “The Act of Settlement is outdated, and I think most people recognise the need for change.”
However, royal officials insisted the Palace was not involved in Mr Brown’s plans, saying they were “a British Government initiative”.
The Tories last night savaged Mr Brown, with Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve saying: “With the country stuck in recession, our troops engaged in Afghanistan and our prisons in crisis, the Government should have more pressing matters to deal with.”
But Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris urged the Prime Minister to press ahead.
He said: “All Gordon Brown has to do is to consult Commonwealth heads of government so that we can get rid of this discriminatory symbol at the heart of our constitution.”
Downing Street officials attempted to defuse the row last night by insisting the succession issue was not on the “main agenda” for the Commonwealth summit.
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