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Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 05:10 GMT
Catholic monarchy ban 'to continue'
Catholics have been barred from the throne for 300 years

Ministers are "mystified" by reports they are planning to change a 300-year-old law to allow Catholics to ascend the throne, Downing Street has said.

There is no basis in fact for this. The position has not changed
Downing Street spokesman
The 1701 Act of Settlement prohibits any Catholic from becoming King or Queen, or marrying the heir to the throne.

A spokesman denied a report that the government was ready to back a move in the House of Lords to amend the Act.

Former Solicitor General and Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, and former Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, have said they will present a bill in the new session of Parliament.

Lord Forsyth said: "Lord Fraser and I will be introducing a bill in the House of Lords to amend the Act of Settlement so that it ends the anomaly whereby it is perfectly legal for the monarch to marry a Buddhist, a Hindu or even a Moonie, but not a Roman Catholic.

"In view of the briefings that have been given, we look to the government to indicate they would support it."

'Complicated to alter'

But a Downing Street spokesman said: "As far as we are concerned, there is no basis in fact for this. The position has not changed."

Tony Blair, in response to an inquiry, recently explained that changing the law would be hugely complicated involving changes to nine different pieces of legislation.

The PM, whose wife Cherie is a Roman Catholic, added: "The central point of the Act of Settlement is that the Established Church in England is the Church of England, of which the Sovereign is Supreme Governor.

"Therefore the Act does not prevent members of the Royal Family from becoming or marrying Roman Catholics, but does remove them from the line of succession."

Since then, the government has set out a heavy legislative programme for 28 bills in the Queen's Speech, leaving far too little parliamentary time in the current session to carry through such an ambitious measure.

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See also:
07 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Move to end royal Catholic ban
29 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Blair rules out 'anti-Catholic' law reform
08 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
MP calls for end to royal Catholic ban
18 Nov 99 |  Scotland
MSPs back Catholic throne bar repeal
17 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Queen's Speech: At a glance
Links to other UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.