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Ancient royal marriage law ‘should be changed’

Gordon Brown was under mounting pressure yesterday to end the ban on Roman
Catholics marrying into the Royal Family after one of his key constitutional
advisers called for the law to be changed.

Lord Lester, the Liberal
Democrat peer drafted in by the Prime Minister to advise on constitutional
issues, told The Daily Telegraph that the centuries-old ban was “an injustice”
that should now go.

The outspoken comments from the respected peer came
after it emerged that Peter Phillips, the Queen’s eldest grandson and 10th in
line to the throne, might have to surrender his place in the succession. Mr
Phillips, 29, the son of the Princess Royal, is now engaged to Autumn Kelly, 31,
a Canadian management consultant who was baptised a Catholic. The fact was not
mentioned in the Buckingham Palace announcement of the engagement last
week.

But in a never-repealed provision of the 1701 Act of Settlement,
which enshrined the Protestant ascendancy, British monarchs and their heirs are
forbidden to become or even marry Catholics.

The legislation means that
either Mr Phillips must give up his place in the line of succession or Miss
Kelly must formally renounce the faith into which she was baptised.

Full
story at the Daily Telegraph.

Is it an anachronism?

A
spokesman for Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister: “The First Minister has
called over a period of many years for the discrimination in the Act of
Settlement to be repealed. Discrimination has no place in a 21st century
democracy, and he will continue to urge the Westminster government to take the
necessary action to remove this blot from the UK’s constitutional
arrangements.”

The Rev David Phillips, general secretary of the Church
Society: “Britain is not, as some imagine, a secular state. In the political
arena, in law and education there is still a strong Christian influence and
active role. Over two thirds of people count themselves as Christian and the
majority identify with the Church of England. It is perfectly reasonable
therefore that the monarch should be asked to identify personally with the
Christian faith. With the 1701 Act of Settlement a deliberate decision was taken
that England, and separately Scotland, should be Protestant. This position has
served Britain well for over 300 years.”

• Full story at the Daily Telegraph.

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