Catholics could be allowed on the throne

The opposition has asked justice secretary Jack Straw to clarify the law regarding succession to the throne, after reports the Scottish secretary is seeking to reform.

Nick Herbert, shadow justice secretary, has demanded to have clearness on the government’s policy on succession in a letter to Mr Straw.

This comes in the wake of comments from Scottish secretary Jim Murphy in which he said Mr Straw was “putting an awful lot of work” into proposals for an amendment to allow Catholics to become monarch.

Mr Herbert raised concerns that changes to the law are not as straightforward as one may think and require consensus from the whole Commonwealth.

In the letter Mr Herbert said: “Lifting the prohibition on Catholics succeeding to the throne is not straightforward as it raises broader issues relating to the established Church, and would require the approval of all the Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is head of state.

This difficulty has been acknowledged by a ministry of justice official.

“To bring about changes to the law on succession would be a complex undertaking involving amendment or repeal of a number of items of related legislation, as well as requiring the consent of legislatures of member nations of the commonwealth,” he said.

Mr Herbert is angered the government is spending its time trying to change a 300 year law when they are in the throws of economic turmoil.

“At a time of national economic emergency, I believe the public would be amazed if the government was giving any priority at all to amending a three hundred year-old constitutional settlement, particularly when to do so would presumably have no impact until, at the very earliest, the death of the next monarch but one.

“In any case, this is not an issue on which ministers should be flying kites. It is time the government told us what their policy is.”

The Ministry of Justice has said: “The government has always stood firmly against discrimination in all its forms, including against Roman Catholics, and we will continue to do so.

“We are examining this complex area although there are no immediate plans to legislate.”

The last Catholic to sit on the throne was James II who reigned for three years between 1685 and 1688.