Archer's Bill to reform succession passes first hurdle

Jeffrey Archer, the best-selling author and Tory peer, last night appeared set to change the law on the succession to the throne, with a minor piece of writing in the statute book that could outlast his most famous novels.

Lord Archer (right) saw his Bill to give equal rights to women in the accession to the Crown pass its first hurdle, by being nodded through the House of Lords. It now stands a strong chance of becoming law next year.

He is believed to have the backing of senior Labour peers, who will give it a fair wind in the House of Lords.

It is expected to gain a second reading in the autumn and go through its final stages in the Lords, raising the prospect that it could go through the Commons early in the New Year.

"I think public opinion has shown very clearly this is no more than common sense as this Bill would not take effect until the first born of Prince William.

"I think most people would think it would be a fanciful to suggest that in 2060 women were not as capable of being monarch as men."

The rules of primogeniture, under which the eldest son inherits all his parents' property have been raised in connection with the possibility that Prince Charles might renounce his claim to the throne, to marry Camilla Parker Bowles.

The next in line by age should be the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, who has gained popularity for her charitable and international work, after her own divorce.

Primogeniture would rule her out from inheriting the crown, which would pass to Prince William, the eldest of the Prince's two children, and Prince Harry, before the succession passed to Prince Charles's brothers, the Duke of York and Prince Edward.

Lord Archer's Bill will not have retrospective powers, and will not help the Royal Family to resolve the constitutional crisis, if the Prince of Wales does seek to remarry.

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